When she was small she had a battle in her mind with a climbing frame.

It was dome-shaped and sat proudly on the edge of the school field nearest to the juniors’ playground; it was too big for the infants. From the centre, at the top, a pole descended to the ground, and at a point about half way down, four more poles, this time horizontal, fanned out to the edges, quartering the internal space of the globe. There was nothing else connecting or supporting the poles except the central one, and the external structure of the frame.

So it presented a challenge. To get to the centre she, or anyone else, had to traverse one of those horizontal bars without falling off. She remembered them as being quite high, almost too high from the ground to jump up and grab to swing from. Another popular challenge was to sit on one of the bars, both legs over the same side, hands gripping loosely and to throw yourself off, spinning all the way under and back up to the top. So many of the other kids did this every play-time. She wanted quite badly to join all her friends spinning on the climbing frame. But every day as she watched the smiling, looping children and heard the laughing and rhyming songs, her courage would sink into the field beneath her feet, and she would watch from the side, maybe from one of the more secure poles on the outside of the frame.

At night, though, in bed it was different. At night she was always at the heart of the climbing frame with the others, spinning and singing like everyone else. Her courage wouldn’t fail, her resolve was strong, and in this certain knowledge, with the very real feeling of joy and success in her heart, she knew she could do it. Knew she would do it. There was no danger of being hurt if you fell. Only pride and ego could be damaged by getting it wrong, and every break time her friends’ faces told her it was a risk worth taking.  She could do it. She would do it. She would love it!

In the busy reality of the next day, though, her fear of failure would recapture her and again she would watch in quiet, still, hopeless hope. Sometimes her nocturnal determination would even see her plan late night visits to practice unseen, so she could arrive at school one day confident of her ability to take her place up there without embarrassment. But of course that was impossible. She was only eight.

In the end she never did join her friends looping and spinning and laughing around those bars, but she remembered her mental battle with that climbing frame for the rest of her life.


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