We were caught, as if sheep to be shorn. Behind us they continued to join the queue, forcing us further down the funnel. Up ahead there lay the promised relief of the release chute. But I was not fooled. I could hear the screams. A small boy - albeit not too small, why only a few minutes earlier he'd been joyously measuring himself against the 120cm minimum height restriction, his head just skimming the line - was shaking. His father whispered urgently and loudly in his ear. You can do it, son. You can do it. He sobbed wetly and I willed him brave. Could I do it though? Could I remove any loose items, buckle myself into that wretched contraption, and be hauled up 18 storeys high? No sweat, I would have once said. I'm mad for a theme park ride, I might have added. But fear always underlies any thrill and, after four were killed at Dreamworld last October while their loved ones watched on, my fear broke free of the chain I usually tether it to. It broke free and roared its terrible roar and gnashed its terrible teeth and, rather than rising to the challenge, I cowered in its shadow and shrunk from its touch.
And so it was that this summer, waiting in that gruesome holding pen, on a family trip to Rainbow's End, I found myself not even remotely desirous of dancing one more time with my own death. I really don't want to do this, I announced to no one in particular. Don't knock it until you've tried it, said my daughter. You have to face your fears, said my son. And I cursed every ridiculous, empty platitude I'd ever pressed upon them. It's the anticipation, said a kindly man in front of me. It's never as bad as you expect. His belly teetered amply over the top of his belt and I was briefly distracted by a new terror, would his weight disturb our precarious balance? No, as it turned out. No, a podgy man would not be the death of me. And no, I would not die suspended high in the air above State Highway 1.
Statistically, of course, I know it is highly unlikely I will die by rickety roller coaster or flimsy Ferris wheel, but lately I find myself wondering more frequently than I have since childhood what shape my death might take, and I wonder if, rather than being specific to theme park rides or even a growing sense of my own mortality, my fear is actually a reflection of the precarious world in which we find ourselves. Of Trump and Brexit. Of climate change and Putin. Since reading that a group of atomic scientists, the keepers of the Doomsday Clock, have moved the symbolic countdown to potential global catastrophe 30 seconds nearer to midnight, the closest it's been since the 1950s, I cannot rid my mind of that spectral tick-tock.
A man called Martin wrote to me a little while ago with a request. He asked if I would write an article about how I see my children's and my grandchildren's future in New Zealand. A New Zealand, he said, that thanks to climate change could be unrecognisable. Have you ever tried to picture it, he asked. What the landscape will be like? Will there be no snow? Stronger winds? Malaria in the north? Martin campaigns for the wide-scale planting of trees and I told him I was impressed by his work, and then I sort of fobbed him off. Because the truth is, I don't think I can bear to imagine what he speaks of, a world where water is in short supply and famines and floods and fires are a constant. It's too scary.
And so instead I carry on. Joking with friends about how if everything goes to hell in a handcart we can see out the end on their farm. Living as best, as lightly, as I can. Wondering whether washing, writing, eating, love-making, ironing, reading, cooking, protesting, dusting, laughing, walking, meditating, shopping, really cut the mustard.