Wednesday 17 September 2014

Rolling from Barcelona to London

I've just spent 6 brilliant days with my brother in Barcelona. Three months ago he and his friend, Joan, opened a skate shop there.

By the time he was sixteen, my brother was already a fearless aggressive in line skater, the type who grinds hand rails and jumps off roofs. I would follow him around, wishing I was as brave. Instead I'd end up with bruises on my shins from jumping at curbs instead of on them. 

That was a long time ago though and it had been years since I last skated.

As soon as I landed, my brother lent me a pair of skates and was a very considerate guide on my first trip to his shop. 

On day 2 I successfully completed the journey alone, arriving at his shop with a big grin on my face. Only trouble was, the groovy pink skates hurt my ankles. My brother, thrilled I was skating, let me test out another pair. Those gave me blisters. 
"I guess I'll have to miss the night skate then," I said. The night skate began at ten and went all through the city. 

Joan,  one of the most encouraging and upbeat person I've ever met, wouldn't even consider it. He ordered me to get some Compeed plasters and test a third pair of skates. I felt a twinge of pain from the previous blisters, but then my brother added four flashing wheels to my skates, and the pain was replaced with child-like excitement!

That night, skating through Barcelona, I fell in love with those skates. I fell in love with skating.  
"I'll give you them if you use them," my brother said.
I thought of London. I thought of wet streets, cobblestones and lots of pedestrians.
"I'll skate to work," I said, the beer encouraging me to believe it. "I can do this..."
I dreamt of the journey to my part-time job from North London to West London. I'd run it before in an hour and a half. I visualised skating the same route in my mind. I tried to remember the terrain. Could I do it?
My flight back coincided with rush hour on the tube. I was jostled in between sweating, sullen commuters all wishing they were somewhere else. I thought of my skates in my bag and felt that tug of nervous excitement in my stomach. I had to skate from work tomorrow, before the fear persuaded me not to.
Today I skated back from work.
I slowly weaved in between the pedestrians, feeling a control in my legs I'd rediscovered in Barcelona. The roads were smoother than I'd anticipated and soon I was gliding confidently towards home. There were a few hairy moments: braking on slopes, traffic crossings (also on a slopes), blind bumps, cobble stones... but mostly, it felt liberating!
I didn't beat my tube time. At an hour exactly, I was ten minutes out, but at least I wasn't pushed and squashed between sticky armpits. I felt healthy, strong and happy!

I've always been a bit of a grass is greener person, and I often think of Barcelona with dreamy nostalgia. It's a better quality of life, I think, imagining everyone outdoors in the sunshine. 

But today, skating towards Regent's Park, I felt, well, that maybe it's just about making different lifestyle choices and having the courage to follow those choices through. It's what you make of where you live... that, and having people in your life, who won't let you be a chicken, who push you to do things you know, deep down, you can do.


Felicity Hayes-McCoy said...

Love this piece but love your attitude to life even more. And I have to see those flashing wheels sometime!

Emily Benet said...

Thanks Felicity! :) Life is a work in progress, isn't it?