How to remember a birthday…


Aged 29.9, I made a promise to myself that every birthday from this point forward had to involve a new activity.


When I turned 30 I got a tattoo and went Go Ape, hill walking and mountain biking with friends.


For my 31st, we went quad biking.


And for my 32nd birthday this Saturday, I organised a skateboarding lesson at Transgression Skatepark.


We arrived at the park (third floor, Ocean Terminal) to be met by a bunch of teenagers who seemed to be hanging around reception.


“Erm, we’re here for the skateboarding lesson”, I muttered nervously, hoping the fifteen year old guy who’d received my transmission wasn’t actually going to be instructing us.


He was.


“Right, first you need to choose your skateboard…” he grinned, “do you want to take the pink one?”


I took the green one.


As my friend Scott, who’d foolishly volunteered to do the skateboarding too, got geared up super quickly. I awkwardly fumbled with my helmet, knee and elbow pads… to the extent that I eventually had Fifteenyearoldguy actually helping me tie them on. This was going to be a long hour.


Once we were kitted out, Fifteenyearoldguy took us out into the “park”. I’d imagined there would be a beginners’ area/lesson space… a bit like the “baby slope” when you’re learning to ski.


But there wasn’t and in fact our training area was just a flat stretch of the room which was essentially the junction that bikers, boarders and bladers used to cross from one ramp to another.


On more than one occasion, I found myself having to lean out of the way as a BMX bike came flying past and since these kids clearly saw me as someone’s dawky parent standing in their way, at best their indifferent glances shot straight through me and at worst, groups of aloof ten year olds would gather at the end of my line and glare at this strange woman who was clearly never born to ride. As Ali pointed out I did get my own back by ever so gently gliding into them when they refused to get out the way, I doubt I took off any toes, but when someone is coming towards you and they’re not even going very fast, I honestly don’t think it was too much to ask to step aside for the lady.


So was I any good? No, not really, though I did get better. I came off the skateboard several times, on each occasion… pretty hard. Fortunately all these birthday meals had, had a highly beneficial impact for shock absorption and despite a few bruises, the rest of me survived pretty well. I am hopelessly self-conscious and if there’s one thing you really need for these “adrenalin” sports it’s a thick skin and an attitude that makes you get back on the board again and again. I did this, but not before flashing my entertaining disco-face effect as the colour went from white to red every time I wobbled on the board and fell off; it was always pride that took a bashing far more than anything else.


Were the boys any better? Scott graduated to a half pipe pretty quickly and mastered some impressive moves before landing quite painfully on one side. Fifteenyearoldguy was fairly casual about Scott’s injury until he too fell pretty badly and limped back to reception for the sympathy he couldn’t find in his students. We didn’t see him again until the end of our session.


In the meantime, I managed a little more boarding, impressively going very slowly up and down our “beginner stretch”, unaided… Bearing in mind that pre the manjuries, Fifteenyearoldguy had actually tried towing me up and down the flat section in the hope I would gain confidence. Solo trips were a clear improvement for me.


Would I do it again? Yes. Ideally at a quieter time… but I’d love to have another go. Was it humiliating? Hmmm… a little, but as I’ve blogged before…. many of my thirty-something friends (and some of my twenty-something friends) moan about getting older. This is fine … but given that we spent our teenage years frantically scrambling away from childhood, our twenties working out what the hell we wanted to do in life (OK some of us are still there), can’t we now use this decade to really enjoy the play? This is particularly important to me because I have more disposable income now.  We couldn’t afford ski trips when we were younger and when my parents separated, family life was about survival, getting used to new places.


I’m 32 and that’s another birthday over, but lets get one thing straight people, I’m not done with my youth and am looking forward to the adventures that come with the next birthday!