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Something Like Lovely
By Kregg P. J. Jorgenson
Posted October 15, 2007


Some travel writers will go to any lengths to get their story, while a dumb few will occasionally opt for altitude instead.

We would be parachuting over Holland and we’d have to hurry to beat a nasty squall that was coming in over the North Sea. 

I was the last of the military style jumpers in line out of the aircraft and when the jumpmaster slapped me on the back and yelled ‘GO!’ I leapt clear of the aircraft, brought my feet and knees together, tucked in my chin, and held onto my lunch-box size reserve chute in front of me.

Next I began my four-second opening count sequence, beginning with ‘one thousand one’ as I had been taught to do in preparation for the drop. The umbilical cord-like static line that was still attached to the airplane pulled open my main chute just after ‘one-thousand four.’ There was an audible pop and I was jerked skyward as the British military round parachute deployed.

“Lovely,’ was the first thing one British Army paratrooper said he always exclaimed when his parachute opened and he realized he wouldn’t fall several thousand feet at 200 miles per hour into the ground.

“Lovely?” I asked.

“I’m trying to stop swearing,” he admitted. “One time on a jump strong winds like these came in and were cursing at the bumps and bruises we were taking on landing only to find a group of shocked school children and teachers staring at us dumbfounded from the viewing stands.”

            “Stunned the bloody hell out of the wee wankers!” said another Para.

            “The little lovelies,” said the first soldier correcting the second soldier.


            “I can tell you several of our officers were offended at our language as well.”

            “And you got in trouble?”

            “A whole lovely lot of it!”

            “And that’s when you began substituting whatever for the word lovely?” I said as the Brit smiled and nodded.

            “Covers a multitude of sins, doesn’t it? ‘Lovely Me! You’re full of lovely, Son-of-a-lovely! Up your lovely! You’ve got to be lovely kidding me?’ And so on, doesn’t it?”

            I agreed it did. With a stable parachute I quickly went through my visual checks to make certain I had a round canopy, the apex was open, and there were no problems with the parachute’s modification panels. Once done with the equipment checklist, I scanned the sky around me looking for the other jumpers while I reached for my steering toggles to control my glide and descent.

To my immediate concern the jumper who went out of the airplane ahead of me was having trouble with his parachute. His parachute lines—the risers—were twisted behind his neck and it would take a few moments for him to bicycle kick out of the tangle before he could regain control of his chute.

            I was flying right towards him so I pulled hard on my right steering toggle and slowly turned away to avoid a dangerous mid-air collision.

‘Lovely,” I said to myself as the British Army parachute turned in a slow, lazy motion that took me safely out over the fertile farmlands below.

1,500 feet beneath me lay a sea of green farm fields lined with the cold, dark and murky canals that separated the drop zone from the farmland. The surrounding North Sea was gray-black and roiling as the storm was moving towards us in the distance.

            Because I was the last jumper out of the plane and had steered away to avoid a mid-air collision I now had further to go to get back to the drop zone only there wouldn’t be enough time. I was still well over the farmland on the other side of the canal as I watched the ground hurriedly coming up to greet me.

            I could see the airfield’s windsock rippling in the high winds telling me which way I’d need to face when I made my approach to land. 500 feet before I was to land I turned back into the wind to slow my descent. Not that it did much good as the wind was moving me along at a good clip. It would have to be a backward running parachute landing fall, provided I cleared the canal below me, didn’t get stuck in the mud and tangled up in my parachute and drown in the harness.

            The Jumpmaster had warned us to avoid water landings just as he had warned the soldiers not to land on the Autobahn when they were parachuting in Germany. “You don’t want to drown nor do you wish to be a hood ornament for a BMW.’’

            I was clear of any highways but I was being pushed by the winds towards the canal.

‘Lovely,” I said again.

            Stealing looks to the ground racing below me under my left arm I realized I wouldn’t clear the canal. With few options left I pulled on my right steering toggle, turned back and ran with the wind and immediately picked up speed. I would clear the canal. Making another quick adjustment, still close to the waterway, I turned back to face the wind to prepare for my landing. It would be a hard hit and I knew it.

            “Lovely,” I whispered, gritting my teeth as I slammed into the landing zone with all of the style and finesse of a bag of dropped ham. The fall knocked the wind out of me and for a few brief painful seconds I was sucking air as I rolled over onto my knees trying to stand. I needed to quickly get to my feet and race around my canopy to collapse it. However, the wind had another idea.

A sudden gust filled the canopy just as I got to my feet. The inflated chute lifted me up and off of the ground, slammed me face first into the landing zone and bounced and dragged me for a good forty yards before I managed to reel in one of the risers to collapse the chute, temporarily.

Another strong gust sent me bouncing on my knees and chin for another ten yards before I was able to grab another riser, yank on it until I finally came to a less than graceful stop, spitting grass and debris.

From the Dutch sleigh ride I had grass stalks coming out of seemingly every opening in my body. I felt as though Genghis Khan’s fattest and most experienced horse cavalry had tromped on me.

“You okay? You get your story?” one of the Brits asked while I managed a weak smile, grunted and gave a shaky thumbs-up.

“Lovely,” I said. 


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