Sunday, 24 November 2013

My History of Skates

Let me tell you a little bit about roller skates – I love them!

Back in the 1980s our local sports centre held a regular roller disco. I loved going. I used to hire those old metal strap on skates and drag them around the hall, loving the swooping and zooming yet enviously watching the kids with the coloured hi-top skates and even more impressive, the solid black hockey skates. Oh how I loved the big chunky hockey skates.

On those crappy strap on skates I learnt to skate quite well. I could do cross-overs round the bends and backward skating with one leg. I could do turn stops although my favourite stop was barge right in and through.
I couldn’t do jumps or anything more technical like that. Partly because I hadn’t developed the skills and partly because you dare not lift your feet off the ground for too long in strap on skates or the stupid things would fall off.
It didn’t take much to convince my mum that I really wanted skates for my birthday. Why would it, she was a roller skater! Must be where I get my roller roots from. See picture... and she had performed on skates as a youngster herself! Go mum, who would have thought? Anyone spot her?



She made me try out Ice skating for a while. I could do it, but I just hated being cold. Plus falling over on ice skates slightly terrifies me. Falling on rollers was ok.

I got my first skates, when I was about ten. They were dark blue with neon yellow flames down the sides.  Remember, before you rib me forever, I did not pick them. However, I do wonder, perhaps those flame enhanced skates where the beginning of my need for speed.
On those Hi-top boots I rolled everywhere. To the sports centre, (back in the days when nobody cared about inside/outside wheels) to my friends, to the shops (yes inside too) and round and round the back alley where all us estate kids would hang out.

Then one day I just stopped. Maybe going to the High school with roller high tops just was not cool. Maybe my feet grew out of them. More likely I wrecked them. Whatever the reason, I cant recall. The flame propelled roller skates just disappeared out of my life and I never thought about them again.

I had a go at in-liners once, many moons ago, when they had not long been out. The technique reminded me of ice skating but in the outdoors. I found them a bit weird but then they were two sizes too big for me. Go to Brighton and people with in-liners swoop by you all the time on the promenade.

I have admired the crazy four roller skaters that went round and round in a very tight circle at a Cirque de Solei show. Lifting people and objects onto their continually spinning bodies. Sticking out legs. Showing off. generally being dangerous and skilled, risky and thrilling. A spinning kaleidoscope of rock-on people and roller wheels. I loved them.

But sadly gradually over the vast amount of years I have been on this mortal coil, my love of rolling skating was ignored.

Then two years ago BF and I decided to go to the South coast for our anniversary week. We had been together four years, been living together forever and decided we would have a lovely little July – August holiday in and around Brighton. We agreed not to do presents in advance. On our anniversary we spent the day, walking around Worthing spoiling ourselves and looking for that perfect gift for each other. BF is an incredibly helpful shopper. He is good fun, wild with money and encourage you to buy anything you happen to touch, like, love or coo over.

We encouraged each other to try things on (I tried on a fabulous raw silk bright blue jacket but for fucks sake it was £300) and we checked and double checked with each other if that was ‘the gift’. Maybe the open availability of options and spending spree attitude did it. We just couldn’t find it. The elusive perfect gift for our perfect day was not forth coming.

Then we spotted a Jewellers called Presleys!!! Well!! Being the big soppy tattooed Elvis fan that I am, it was a sign, we had to go in!
Within seconds we were cooing over a beautiful silver ring, with my favourite stone, BFs favourite stone and a cute everlasting circle design. I loved it. We loved  it. We asked to view it out of the case. The shop lady happily obliged and removed it, placing it on a black velvet showing tray. It looked so pretty.

We realised there we were, mooing at each other, seriously considering buying this ring and getting engaged! It was a really beautiful and heartfelt moment. For a while.

Sadly the ring did not fit. Nor could we have it sized up. We discussed a few options but it became clear, it was not meant to be. Eventually we retired to a nearby pub and giggled off how unusual and unexpected a turn the day had taken. Everything was ok. We were not disappointed. We were really quite elated and most definitely in love. The day we nearly got engaged and...

We had lunch, we wandered around some more until we made our way to the promenade front. We spotted a skater shop. Incredible boards and scooters in the windows. We decided to go in for a look.  As soon as arrived I noticed a wall of roller skates and there, pride of place, in the middle was a pair of brand new pair of chunky ice hockey skates. No wheels just big black plastic-ness of hardcore floor owner. I was ten again.

Oh how I cooed over those skates in that shop. I excitedly told BF how much I had envied the kids with these when I had been little. He made me try them on. Even up to this stage I had no intention of buying skates for my anniversary! I tried the big clunky things on. I’m stomping round the shop on the bear wheel braces. Laughing with BF and reminiscing. It was then that the shop owner changed my life forever, with the statement:
“You know we ‘ave ten kinds of coloured wheels for those skates!”

Well I was a flurry of over excited idiotic squealing and clapping. I went into a frenzy of indecision before finally and rather obviously for me, settling on a pair of bright blue glittery wheels.

Quick as a flash I was leaving the shop with BF proudly holding a £170 of skates for me.

“Happy anniversary babes!”

We scampered across the road and I laced up. My god they were so heavy! I gingerly took my first few swoops along the perfectly smooth straight and long seafront paths. BF eagerly watching with bated breath and his camera phone at the ready. I went up and down until my confidence grew, remembered a turn spin way of stopping and tried it a couple of times accompanied by some screeching and arm flailing. But I did not fall. I skated back to BF on the bench and plonked myself, pleased as punch right next to him.

“You can actually skate!”

Well der...he thought he would be having fun watching me stack it all afternoon! Cheeky sod.

When we came back to Scotland we began taking my skates and BFs bike to the cycle path. I had to warm up first or I would get terrible cramp in the front of my calves from the sheer weight of the skates. But then we would cycle and skate together. If I got tired I would just hang onto the back of the bike and get a pully. We looked silly, we looked like olduns playing at being younguns but we didnt care, we were having fun and we laughed so very much.

Thankfully BF in his nerdy “safety first” dad kind of way, had purchased me a set of protective gear for my head, elbows, wrists and knees. Thankfully indeed!

I had been skating on and off for a few weeks and was getting more comfortable at a fair speed (in a straight line) along the long sweepy cycle path. We stopped one day, taking a left off the cycle path and settling on a bench opposite a very busy children’s play park. There had to be at least three families there and about ten kids. I took off my wrist shields and helmet and we had a snack. When we left I had the most monumental fall I’ve ever had to date, on my skates. Right in front of these kids and families. Like a flailing yelping idiot! So funny.

When I got up BF had gone ahead to see if the junction back onto the path was clear. I began rolling slowly then very very quickly down the hill. He gave me the nod, I had to go right, and practically a hair pin bend!! Oh no. I was leaning to the left, hard, and I screeched round the corner too tight. I lift my right foot but my left stopped moving and I jerked into the air. High, I did what is known in gymnastic turns as a triple perpendicular pike twist. I went round a few times in the air, my feet barely but just scraping along the floor. My eyes saw the ground, hands smacked down first, then my shoulder, then my body. I recall holding my head tight at some point, as I rolled over one last time. As I stopped the air was quiet and still. I jumped up quickly, brushing myself down in defiance, embarrassment rising to my face. The silence was deafening.

As I looked over to the play park I could see parents nodding smugly and looking at their children,
“And that children is why you wear protective clothing.”

I raced off with a shrill “Come on!” to BF. Various areas of me rosy and throbbing from shame and pain.
Fucking hilarious though. I don’t know how BF managed not to laugh out loud and possibly hold up score cards...

Turned out after six weeks of a dull stiff throbbing shoulder, one morning in bed I moved, it twanged. Ouchy! I went to the docs, got a referral to the physio, got referred for acupuncture.
I had damaged the nerve roots! Its was bloody annoying. But absolute bliss when it was finally fixed. So I know how dangerous roller skating can be for adults. We have so much further to fall!!! Its pays to be safe and aware.

Looking back though, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I learnt a lot that day. About the goodness of protective clothing, about my over eager enthusiasm vs my actually technical ability. About the wound dressing kindness of BF and how easily jeans can embed into skin.
Most of all its really funny story to relive with BF.

Recently my friends set up a local Roller Derby team – Dolly Doonhamers. So of course I joined.

I now have a weekly excuse to skate (sometimes twice a week depending on life). Delighted! And not just skate, but barge around overtaking significant others!
Camaraderie!
Laughs!
Skills!
Girl power!
Chicks Rule!
We are all at different stages, but that is what makes it great. Everyone helping each other. Everyone getting so much out of it. Proud of my mates for getting it set up. Proud to be part of the crazy hardcore world of roller derby dolls! We have some wicked times ahead.

So in a funny way, all that roller skating and all that passion. No matter how distracted you get from it.
It all comes around in the end.
In fact if life is one continuing ever spinning circle cycle of life, then surely rolling through it, is the best way to do it?
When I have my skates on, I just want to Rock and Roll.

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