R is for rollercoaster
It's one of the less pleasant bits of being a grown-up. At some stage you know you are going to be bullied by a child into tasting real fear. There are those for whom being thrown around a twisty-turny mass of metal and wood at 60mph and catapulted through the air in a series of stomach-burning plunges is fun. But they are usually children. Or on day release.
Then there are the rest of us. For us the word rollercoaster inspires terror. Yet, the day will come when you have to take the plunge – and Gt Yarmouth has the perfect entry level. Far more sedate than others, don't you know.
Gt Yarmouth's Pleasure Beach rollercoaster is the only remaining wooden one of its kind in the UK (one of only eight in the world) and one of only two remaining where a brakeman is required to ride with the train, to control its speed - as there are NO BRAKES on the track! Gulp! The rollercoaster (also known as the Scenic Railway) was built at the park in 1932 and can take 2,500 passengers an hour – many of them going round more than once!
Being British, of course, you can just shut your eyes, hang on for grim death and hope your breakfast stays with you. Imagine what it's like for us flatland Norfolk people, where many of us get a nosebleed even contemplating going up a flight of stairs and feel a race of adrenaline when we finally pluck up the courage to overtake a tractor.
There is help at hand for 'coasterphobics' from America with the world's first stress management course – the land of 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' now gives us Rollercoaster Karma.
'To ride a rollercoaster successfully, people have to turn over their emotions to the machine,' explains Michael Otto, head of the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy programme at Massachusetts General Hospital and associate professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. He is also a man who takes rollercoasters seriously. 'Rollercoasters play on speed, illusion of danger, fear of heights and lack of control – but they’re really safe.'
You might have symptoms including sweaty palms, nausea and heart palpitations but just remember Mr Otto’s wise words: 'They’re really safe'. Okay?
'A lot of people want to confront their fears because it means they will enjoy a holiday more. They can participate instead of feeling left out.'
So what are Dr Otto's tips?
- Keep reminding yourself that sensations of speed, tight turns and sudden drops are programmed thrills and not actual danger.
- Let yourself enjoy the thrills – this means letting your heart pound and your palms sweat, and getting dizzy with excitement.
- Keep your eyes open – it really is much less scary that way.
Okay then, you're all set… off to Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach with you!