Sunday 25 November 2012


In my dreams, I skate and glide, I perform effortless curves, banking around corners, my feet just a couple of inches above the ground, I'm graceful, I could fly, and I never fall.

Which bemuses me, because I never was great at that sort of thing. Roller skates. Elizabeth Simpson had roller skates when I was about 7. And a key. And I was so impressed as she skated up the concrete driveway. Skates seemed like the ultimate liberator. As good as, no, better even than having a real bicycle. And Elizabeth, bless her generous little heart, offered to teach me, so I sat on the kitchen doorstep, and we did the skate key and straps thing, over my 'Start-Rite' sandals, and the bees of summer zigzagged by on their quest for pollen, and I stood, and my left foot went one way, and my right foot shot out, and I sat back with a crash, and banged my head on the glossy deep-red painted door. And I bit my lip and tried not to cry.

On the next try, Elizabeth clung to me carefully as I unfolded my unreliable limbs, and I gripped her in a fearsome clinch.

Now, bear in mind we were seven. Damn. If we were fifteen, that clinch would have seen steam coming out of my ears. But at seven? Nah.  So, I let go and tried a tentative step, one hand on the house wall. Yes! it works!
"You're doing it!" she cried, all excited, " just let go!"
At the end of the house, the driveway sloped.

And gravity sucked my legs.
And I accelerated, flailing arms, trying desperately to..
And I'm not sure what happened next. Maybe the skates crossed. Maybe my legs shot out, forward, backward, sideways.  Either way, the next I remember is lying in a bloody heap of pain.
Took a while to get those skates off. Sniffling but trying not to cry in front of a girl. Humiliated.  She could move on those skates as if born to them, and me? I can barely stand.
My knees were a swelling mess of blood and gravel, as were my hands, elbows and forehead.
I stoically told her I was okay, but it was time for me to go home for tea, and she accepted my excuse. "You can come back tomorrow for another go!" she yelled as I limped off up the road, to sanctuary.

But I didn't. The next day, I went to play with Barbara Wallace. She had a pedal-car.