Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Cornish Nasty

You don't need an awful lot of rope to hang a man, really you don't.

A 6 foot man doesn't even need 6 feet of rope to be dispatched through the trapdoor.
What you do need, however, is a clinical understanding of the hanging process. Short drop, standard drop, long drop, knot placement, body weight etc. It all counts toward the perfect hanging.
Underestimate anything and you can seriously hurt somebody, which nobody wants. Who wants to be left hanging around?
Overestimate and the head just comes clean off. This, conversely, is deemed too brutal. Just a neck snap or slow strangulation is required.

I used to know a bearded brute of a scaffolder, a Cornishman called Mick. Years of drinking had filed away the sharpness from his features and his facial growth and pony-tailed hair was as wild as his ways. He looked your archetypal West Countryman though he was too large to fit into a Shrimper, a tin mine or indeed any other Cornish cliches. The open air and the boozing coupled with the times spent hanging from his scaffold with 13 foot tubing rubbing against him had sand-blasted the exposed skin left on his face to a burnished red that Schwarzkopf would've surely sold in a bottle for £15 a go. Cider Glow, or some similarly over-priced, multi-used name for red.

Like the many ships that had floundered on his native coast Mick was a wreck. He'd walked the planks on a daily basis with work and he had decided that enough was enough and it was time to drop.

Mick recounted the story to me over a tea break in the shell of a Co-Op building we were refurbishing on Newport Pagnell High Street. 30 feet up the scaffold that Mick had built we were eating sandwiches, smoking roll-ups, enjoying our rest and having a right laugh.

"I tried to kill myself once," Mick recounted with a gloomy air of finality that suggested he would've been more successful if he'd have been in this frame of mind at the time.

"Oh right," I replied, "how dya get on?" I knew I was being a cheeky young sod but loved the danger of poking the Grizzly Bear with a honeyed stick.

"Nah, didn't work out how I expected."

The Bear had licked the honey and disregarded the stick. I poked a little harder.

"What happened then, Mick? You have a change of heart, mate? Realise that life IS worth living?"

"Nah, the frigging scaffold I built in my front room brought the whole ceiling down when I jumped. The rope was too long and I hadn't tightened the base plates enough."

"Sounds a death trap, Mick."

Irony had yet to land in Launceston and Mick just nodded in agreement and munched on his cheese roll.

I knew irony had landed in Newport Pagnell, however.

I was suspended 30 feet in the air on scaffold built by a suicide risk who had proven to be no good at building scaffold.

You really wouldn't need any rope from this height.

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