Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I Have The Knees Of A Fainting Woman


While I have no doubt that being subjected to a full 24 hours of chimp-peeling G-Force action c/o some NASA spaceflight simulation suite would be kind of scary, and crossing the Niagara Falls straddling a tripwire with a rocket-propelled miniature unicycle strapped to your genitals might bring you out in a sweat, no earthly terror can compare (in the Shit Your Pants Right Off Your Body stakes) with the stairway to peril they call...La Pagode De Chanteloup.


Not bad handiwork for a 18th Century French ponce, say I.

But why, may you ask, should a 130 foot tall pretend pagoda be at all scary?

Here's why.

The ground floor is a piece of cake to negotiate (not in the literal sense, of course, as this would constitute architectural suicide): you just walk right in and marvel at the nibbled stonework supporting the entire structure before you risk life and limb by climbing up the bastard in your vĂȘtements touristique et ridiculeuse.

Ascending the spiral stairway to the next tier, it's almost like being inside an English cathedral in that everything feels very sturdy and even if the spirits of the perverted dead were to appear, the arrowslit windows are impossible to hurl yourself through. Unlike in England, however, there is no uniformed Red Cross volunteer on hand. And no sign saying WHAT ARE YOU? STUPID???

By the second tier, the reassuring metal handrail spiralling alongside the stairs has been replaced by a piddly wooden bannister which, being exposed to the elements, is more rotten than a Slipknot lyric out-take. Clumsy fat bastards and acrophobics beware: if you fall to your left, you will die. Thankfully, my Kirk Douglas visualisation techniques paid off at this stage and I proceeded with all the gung-ho gusto of a man in middle-eastern skimpies with a peculiar dimple in his chin actively consenting to being filmed.

By the time you get to the third and fourth tiers, it feels like being inside the world's most rickety garden shed perched on top of a flagpole during the sort of gale that rips leaves from the trees before ripping the trees from the ground. There's very little solid stonework to hang on to as you make your way upwards, and the arrowslit windows have given way to flimsy wooden shutters perforated with holes made by blind bats, bees and formation squads of gnats. Clumsy fat bastards and acrophobics beware: if you fall to your left or your right, you will die. This is where I lost Kirk Douglas and got Tony Curtis in a bath of camel’s milk with Laurence Olivier.

The fourth tier was as far as I made it the last time I was here in 1995. I'm not bad with heights on the whole — I have, to my considerable credit, survived The London Eye and the clifftop walk round East Prawle in Devon — but there’s something so tangibly insubstantial about this weird old pagoda I'm surprised it isn't frequented by trainee doctors keen to bone up on stomach anatomy without having to chop anyone up. This time round, I got to the 5th tier and had to lie down. Further up, I’m told the final step emerges from between four puny pillars onto a two foot balcony but at this stage I had no desire to check for myself whether or not this was true — I merely wanted to live.

It’s holiday experiences like this that can make or break a man and although my later adventures were peppered with genuine near-death experiences such as nearly fracturing my entire hand on the dodgems, being dashed against a barnacle-covered rock by a huge surprise wave and negotiating a bowl of steaming soupe de poissons in which the chef who cooked it had probably drowned, La Pagode stands out as the Knee Buckler And Scrotum Shriveller Incarnate.

Terror! Pure terror, I tell you!

22 comments:

freddie said...

Oh, dear. I don't think I would have made it as far as you. I do have a thing about heights.

Strangely, I don't mind flying. I think my problem with certain heights is that I know they are just high enough to maim instead of kill.

Welcome back!

Kiersten said...

Oh, the piece of cake line had me smiling.

So glad you're back, Whirl. And so glad the pagoda didn't get you this time around.

Whirlochre said...

just high enough to maim instead of kill.

I know what you mean, Freddie. Thinking about it, this place is almost a theme park for either sort of suffering.

writtenwyrdd said...

You have such a funny way of describing things. Love it! I particularly loved, "it feels like being inside the world's most rickety garden shed perched on top of a flagpole during the sort of gale that rips leaves from the trees before ripping the trees from the ground."

Whirlochre said...

WW — believe it or not, I underpurpled this one.

pjd said...

hang on... are those lyrics to the "wait a minute mr. postman" song on your comments page?

The more I read of your writing, the more I like it. I still don't understand great piles of it, but I like it just the same.

Kiersten said...

So, my question is, what is that poor, fainting woman doing without her knees? And why did you take them? Here I thought you were a kindly soul. Apparently not.

Whirlochre said...

PJD — well done for recognising those sensational Carpenters lyrics. When I first began this blog, I ran with the first line of the song, imagining the comments window to be a fat letterbox. You've inspired me to customise this Blogger feature more often — like now.

Kiersten — I'm hoping to assemble a zombie that won't bite my head off the moment I animate it. Next stop — the eyes of a shy museum curator...

McKoala said...

There's something weirdly uncool about me. Something strange, a little secret entirely at odds with my black-clad, mildly experimental past.

I like the Carpenters.

Mess with their lyrics and I'll send you back to the Pagoda of Peril.

Robin S. said...

Please don't ever leave again without a Blackberry or something.

Kiersten said...

Well, I'm feistier than I look, so stay away from my delicate and petite hands.

Whatever do you want a timid zombie for?

Whirlochre said...

The Carpenters certainly had something melodic and uplifting about them that is sadly lacking from the musical arsenal of all too many other artists — like Iggy Pop. Now Iggy has a well established fan base, I know, and I'm not about to suggest he's been in any way unsuccessful, but I can't help thinking he might have done a lot better for himself in terms of mainstream popularity had he recorded (say) Close To You. Or released a cheery Christmas record or two. Either way, Iggy would make a spectacular zombie and if I ever get my Corpse Animation certificate, I'm definitely waiting around for him. And all three Bee Gees.

Twiggy Iggy and the Gibbs With Ribs...

Kiersten said...

Umm, I hate to be demanding...(Actually, I love being demanding. All I do all day is answer other people's demands. My turn.) But I think you owe us like ten new posts.

Seriously, we missed you. A lot.

Whirlochre said...

Kiersten

Are you sure you're not the overlord of some evil asteroid, intent on world domination? It's a lapel thing.

At the moment, I'm juggling with the demands of work, school holidays and Journey To The Centre Of The WIP, so I'm not sure how the blog will pan out for the next few weeks — though having said that, Aug-Oct is normally a productive time for me so anything could happen.

Kiersten said...

Oh sure, pull the "I have a life" excuse. Hmph.

McKoala said...

Re. Iggy: 'I am a passenger' was weirdly catchy in a dancing on the spot with your head down kind of a way. While wearing black.

Whirlochre said...

Hey McK — don't tell me you were once one of those hardcore Iggy fans who wore holes in the dancefloor with their crania. Ah, gone are the days of those fabulous spiral troughs crammed with Doc Martens bobbing up and down in them like cocaine-fuelled meerkats. And as for Touch Me I'm Sick by Mudhoney, if I remember correctly, the bouncers had to lower ropes to fish us out...

JaneyV said...

Well the Pagoda From Hell has certainly left me feeling nauseous. I have no problem with heights per se but I have a huge fear of falling. I can climb most things but the coming back down or moving around while I'm up there turns me in to a gelatinous fraidy scaredy cat who cries like baby with a boo-boo.

I must go drink tea now and kiss the solid earth in thanksgiving.

Good to have you back!

Kiersten said...

Well, dear sir, how is the editing going?

Whirlochre said...

It's all got too much like doing homework so I've ditched the scalpel and gone back to using a hose pipe. That, I can spin like a lasso as it spurts — a better sensory input than nicking your fingers on a piddly blade.

Bernita said...

Sounds like what is legally sometimes referred to as
"an attractive nuisance."

Whirlochre said...

Hey, B — I thought Madonna had patented that term.