I don't know about you, but I tend to start the new year quite gently. Once I've discarded my resolutions - which takes about three days and usually involves red wine - I approach January, February and March with an impressive lack of ambition. You've just got to get through those months, don't you? In my view, they exist to be tolerated and survived. The Spring months of April and May, with their longer, sunny days, normally see my mojo restored. I start making telephone calls, sending emails and even having full conversations with my family. But for me, the start of the year is essentially an awake form of hibernation. Yes, my eyes are open, yes I'm dressed in mens' clothes, but beyond that, not a great deal is happening. However, this year is different. Because I'm participating in Channel 4's winter sports entertainment show The Jump.
In early January, whilst the rest of the country was decommissioning Christmas trees, bringing back unwanted wooly sweaters to John Lewis and noisily recycling all of their Prosecco bottles, I was in Austria, learning how to ski jump. And not just ski jump: parallel slalom, giant slalom, skeleton, snow cross, the Airbag, and many other truly terrible things. C4's The Jump Is Worse Than Brexit and Trump Combined. So why am I doing this? How could I sign up for a show so notoriously hazardous? A cursory internet search of The Jump offers up a litany of celebrity-related injuries. Dislocated shoulders, torn ligaments and, of course, broken bones. You're welcome.
I remember the day I was invited to appear on the show. It was like being invited to meet the US President, then remembering the US President is Donald J Trump. However, my initial instincts about the show were actually quite positive. I've always perceived The Jump as premium television fayre. Great people have done it in the past - national treasures like Sir Steve Redgrave, Rebecca Adlington, Mike Tindall and yes, Joey Essex. The gig is clear: you spend weeks with the best skiing experts on the planet, who painstakingly teach you a variety of winter sports. You get fit, you learn many new things, you make new friends and because it's Austria, you'll be eating your own body weight in Apfelstrudel and Wiener Schnitzel. What's not to like?
Here's what's not to like: the burden of knowing you may come home in plaster. The threat of injury really takes the sheen off the invitation. I'm a married father of two. I have responsibilities; my health is something others rely on, not just myself. So I spent almost a fortnight pacing around, brooding on whether I should do this show. The more I researched the programme, the gloomier I got. I'm not an adrenaline junkie. I get nervous eating a sandwich indoors at Pret if I've told the cashier I was taking away.
And I'm just not a thrill-seeker. The only time I have allowed my body to sail through the air is in the comfort of a Ryanair 737. As a child, I didn't ice skate, rollerblade, skateboard - any of those things that involve relinquishing control of the body to the forces of momentum or gravity. I have always loved to be on the ground. I'm not a mid-air kind of guy. I love the floor - pavements, grass, mud, sand - I'm all about being stood on things. Now, in fairness, I should say that I have previously been skiing. But in an entirely leisurely way, with a strong emphasis on the Apres-Ski. How to make it back down the mountain after three or four glasses of mulled wine is the closest thing to jeopardy I have ever encountered. And here's the thing: Channel 4's The Jump is only jeopardy - that's the whole show. And as someone with neither an athletic CV nor any previous appetite for physical risk, this is definitely not the show for me. And that's exactly why I'm doing it.
After spending a long time courting opinion - everyone told me not to do it - I decided to do it. I learned that you can't risk-assess an experience like this. And you can't intellectually process what you are about to do. You just do it. And that's what I've discovered since I got to Austria. You have to think less and do more. Not thinking is a great coping mechanism when you are about to slide down a steep, polished stainless steel ramp on a pair of skis. There is no mental way to legislate for it. You have to just let go and hope for the best. And that's good for someone like me, who tends to overthink everything. To paraphrase Woody Allen, the brain is probably the most overrated organ.
So having left my brain in my Innsbruck hotel room, I've taken my body on a series of adventures that I would never have dreamed of doing prior to this. At times, I've never known fear like it. At other times, I've never known such elation. But either way, I'm living. I'm out of my comfort zone. I'm being tested. I've laughed, I've cried. And I've lost count of the blisters. But strangely, it's working for me. I might have to get used to this whole danger thing. It might actually be the best way to live your life. That's if I get home in one piece...Suggest a correction