My heart is racing, my breath ragged and my stomach threatening to send back the burger I ate for lunch. But as the safety harness I’m wearing is released and I lower my shaking legs to the ground there’s only one question on my mind: when can I experience it again?
My name is Antonia and I am a 44-year-old rollercoaster addict. I am hooked on rides that command queues of over an hour yet are over in seconds; that hurl me upside down, haemorrhage my bank balance and have spurious science-fiction names. In less than two years I have been to England’s twin temples of hair-raising attractions – Alton Towers in Staffordshire and Thorpe Park in Surrey – six times, battering my senses until I drive home in a stunned but satisfied stupor.
In mid-life, this is unusual, as Toby Young pointed out in The Spectator recently, writing that, after a trip to Alton Towers with his 14-year-old son, he realised he no longer enjoyed ‘the floating sensation you get in your stomach when you’re descending a steep incline and your internal organs are suddenly weightless’. He concluded: ‘At 59, I’m too old.’
But I’m just getting started. I have my children to blame, of course. In 2021 my daughter, Rosie, then ten, was invited to Alton Towers with a friend. Before that, a Brighton Pier merry-go-round was the pinnacle of her funfair exposure – but by the end of the day, her terror had turned to pride that she’d managed Oblivion, a ride that drops vertically into a hole. ‘It was brilliant,’ she whispered on her return, lest her already envious younger brother Felix overhear.