Up in the clouds

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WHO Wants To Be A Millionaire time.

The £4,000 question.

Which of the following daft fools from Camden’s Labour Party turned greenest at a charity parachute jump yesterday?
1. Councillor Tulip Siddiq
2. Councillor Awale Olad
3. Councillor Thomas Neumark
4. Mayor of Camden Jonathan Simpson.

Ask the audience. They say Tulip.

Phone a friend. Theo guesses Neumark.

50/50.It’s not the Mayor.
……so it was Awale. Awale.

The young Labour councillor is usually a walking continent of cocksure bravado. You should have seen how overexcited he got when he employed a team of Alastair Campbell related ringers to beat the Camden New Journal football team a while back. They were lucky. LUCKY. And yet he still bangs on about it like they won the Champions League.

Yet as part of the foursome who raised a pretty damn amazing £4,000 for the New Journal’s Christmas hamper appeal, it was Awale who clanked most with nerves yesterday morning. He’ll argue otherwise, but I saw him turn green.

Poor lad (he rightfully still hasn’t forgiven me for misspelling his name during the Kentish Town by-election). You could sense his unease as the big leap grew closer, a worrier in contrast to his three pals. With carefree abandon, Tulip, the comic and JS seemed like they were queuing up to buy stamps in a post office beforehand, that there was nothing unusual about lining up to sign insurance forms warning that loved ones couldn’t sue the parachute school in the event of death.

These three watched videos of the first hurtle out of the plane, a skyhigh rush at 13,000 feet above an airfield near Peterborough they were moments from experiencing themselves, as if they were repeats of Friends they had seen ten times before. The one when Chandler is in a box. It’s always the one where Chandler’s in a box in the living room.

Amazing, considering only Jonathan had done it before.

In a pre-jump briefing that scared the life out of me and just reminded me that this was a challenge I could never undertake, I spied Awale biting his nails. His teeth almost chattering. He laughed it off when I pointed this out to him, but I knew. He knew.

If it was me, I’d have been more frightened by the briefing itself. It was a blur of orders which I could only follow like a foggy tourist asking for directions to the British Museum on Euston Road. The sort who listen to everything you say nod their heads, turn on their heels and then march off towards Camden Town.

I just remember the jump chief saying: Are you happy with that? a lot, hardly waiting for an answer before showing off another life-saving buckle. The Mayor was told off for tweeting during the runthrough and then.. uh-oh.. one of the instructors told them they had to wear goggles to stop them going “Jap-eyed” on the way down. These PC Labour councillors sat there looking at each other, not knowing how to tell a man who was teaching them how not to die in the sky might considering swapping a few words in his tutorial. Something a little less race-related.

There were clips and harnesses to think out and before anybody said anything Mr Parachute turned to Tulip and said: Your bum will look big in a jumpsuit. Again, not the time to get angry here with the hosts.

In no time, they were capped in rocketman helmets and in the sky. Pinpricks in the sky mushroomed into flying politicians. It was over in a breeze.

But what of Awale? Last down, he landed flat on his chest when you are meant to land on the cushion of your backside. He tried to revive some of that old smiling bravado.  Yeh, he said, it wans’t a big deal, bit boring if anything.
Oh really Awale? As his head crashed into his hands at a pitstop at Peterborough services on the way back, it looked like he’d had a bigger spin that he’d described.

Of greater importance, many, many Christmases will be brighter than expected for people in Camden because of these jumps through the clouds. A record fund to send hampers to those most deserving looks likely now. A lot of thanks are due.