The next day involved more activity and unexpected thrills that had me buzzing for hours.
Today all the rain clouds have blown away and bright sun pours through the blinds waking us up. Downstairs the table is heaped with breakfast fuel for a 20 mile cycle with Wigs and his dad. My belly seems to have used up all the food in it overnight and feels empty. I guzzle the carbs in front of me and put my gear on (including two pairs of padded cycling shorts as an anti-pain experiment). The route takes us through picturesque streets to a disused railway track and the River Dee.
I’m in a playful mood and practise hopping my front tyre on and off bumps which nearly ends in disaster when I land my wheel in a bank of nettles. I have a good wobble before recovering back onto the cycle path, laughing loudly at myself. I then give no handed cycling a go. At first just a few seconds followed by intermittent attempts at a few more. Then I straighten my back, sit up tall and suddenly after over 30 years of looking enviously at cyclists looking so free, not holding on… out of nowhere, it clicks! For over a minute I stay no handed and even go round a corner whilst doing it. It’s an amazing feeling – the same one I had as a kid learning to cycle when my Dad finally let go of the seat and I stayed up right, carrying on with glee like I’d just discovered anti-gravity. I can’t stop smiling.
We wind our way through the streets back to the house, have lunch and grab our skate gear to meet up with Rob (Wigs’ skate friend from school). After some super laid back conversation and manic attention from his dogs Paddy and Bella we head to a nearby skate park where Wigs and Rob look completely at home and relaxed, gracefully floating around the ramp on tiny wheels like they’re on magic carpets, pulling tricks, flipping boards under their feet and nodding heads to west coast hip hop. I desperately try to capture moments with my camera realising that sports photography is a painful and blurry world of many missed moments by the lens.
Then Wigs shouts “Come on!” and it’s my turn.
He’s been promising to teach me how to pump a skate board for as long as we’ve been together and today is the day. On with the pads and helmet! I hold on to his arms place my feet over the trucks and he draws me one way across the flat of the ramp and back again so I get used to it. Next I try a few pushes and make it a foot up one side of the ramp before rolling back and slowing to a stop. I go again. Each time I get a bit further and I’m told to think of myself as a pendulum, pushing energy through the board by quickly crouching at the bottom of the ramp, unweighting and straightening my legs on the way up and squatting back down at the top to generate momentum on the descent. I bob up and down like a crazed meerkat and build up speed quickly, gradually reducing my grip on Wigs who’s sprinting furiously forwards and backwards as my human hand rail. I can feel how sensitive the board is to balance changes and there’s no water to land in if I get it wrong (unlike surfing), just solid concrete. It’s nerve wracking and adrenalin surges into my stomach.
On my last run, my muscles are tired but I want to make it great. I pump the board hard and almost get to the top of the ramp and then out of the blue Wigs lets go… I want to yell “Aaaargghh!!” But I stay focussed and think about remaining balanced and am amazed that the wheels keep rolling, I don’t fall off and I manage to pump a few more times left and right before stopping . I’m thrilled, ecstatic! Wigs is delighted at how far I got on my first try on a skate ramp, remarking on how it took them many more attempts. He adds, “I don’t think we would’ve got away with holding on to each other though.” I chuckle heartily at the thought of adolescent boys holding hands whilst learning to skateboard (it would be the opposite of Tony Hawk cool). But I’m not them I’m me! I’m 40 and I just learned to pump a 5ft skate ramp.