The spiral ascent commenced as we climb between the narrowing cavities of the Cathedral walls, I lead the way, that was an order from ‘Big Yin’ so that he could ensure that I did not end up head over heals like a slinky down the stairwell if I misjudge my footsteps. At the same time it also put me in the right position to enable him to pretty much drag me up through the cavity walls one step at a time. Unlike the last stairwell, this time there was no handrail!! The only way I could possibly do this without ending up spread eagle at the bottom of the staircase was to clamber up the stairs with my hands and feet. ‘Big Yin’s’ firm grasp of my t-shirt dragging me upwards provided the much needed assistance to defy gravity. With the number of stairs behind us now multiplying and ‘Big Yin’ constantly reminding me that we were still not even a quarter of the way up, I was more determined than ever that I was going to get my panoramic photo of London come what may!
It would seem that I was somewhat oblivious to the time we spent ascending up towards the Stone Gallery as I thought about what it must have been like for the fire-watchers of the St Paul’s watch. These were the men who fought to put out the incendiaries (or fire bombs) if they fell on the roof of the Cathedral during the Blitz of London in the Second World War. I wondered what it must have felt like for these men, climbing these very stairs and knowing that the whole of London was ablaze. Suddenly my thoughts were interrupted by a door. We had reached the ‘Stone Gallery’ where during those two nights indeed an incendiary bomb had fallen threatening the survival of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
The views of London from the Stone Gallery were spectacular. As I walked around the outside of the dome picking out the landmarks with the camera, my imagination painted a vivid image of what the Blitz must have looked like. Whilst I stood taking in the views and allowing my imagination to wander, I also became more and more aware of the agonising pain in my legs that up until now I hadn’t noticed. The climb was taking its toll!
As the words of Winston Churchill rang in my ears, “If you’re going through hell, keep going”, and.”We shall never surrender! “. Until we had reached the top, then down was not an option. With great respect to my ‘Big Yin’ he agreed that if it was what I wanted, then no matter what, he would help me to get to the top.