I've just started reading a book I've had on my shelves for ages, I've had it that long I can only guess where it came from, probably one of the local charity shops in the village. The one where one of the volunteer's is a retired librarian, and they seem to get better, less mangled books. So.... there I am sipping my illicit coffee in my favourite cup, with the conservatory doors thrown open and the sunshine (what's that? sunshine in Manchester?) streaming in, when I came across this passage and just had to read it out aloud to my long-suffering husband who was playing solitaire against his lying cheating lap-top. The lap-top it's alive...I swear! It continually tells him he can 'go', when he definitely can't. Anyway I'm reading out this passage from my book and quite literally I'm laughing that much that my legs are flying in the air, my feet are drumming the laminate planks and tears are streaming down my cheeks! To set the scene - Peter the protagonist is a writer who's come up against a dreaded block, so, living in New York he decides to go for a skate...like you do. He dons all his equipment, strapping on matte black safety gear: helmet, elbow pads, wrist protectors with Velcro fasteners and plastic reinforcers, mittens and knee pads with black plastic cups over the joints themselves. I should explain he's been ten years before this, working in London and has recently moved to New York with his wife. He's even been to a blading school at Chelsea Piers NYC! Where he found himself the only adult male amongst large middle-aged ladies and small children, so back to self-tutoring. The scene is set:-
'There is one physical barrier that seriously blights my blading enjoyment. It is the West Side Highway, the eight lane stream of traffic that I am forced to cross to get to the river walk. Although there is a pedestrian crossing, the flashing green man has been wrongly adjusted by the Traffic Department. For intermediate bladers like myself, he provides an inadequately fleeting window of opportunity in which to blade across, and the impatient traffic sits on the line revving up for their green, like racing cars waiting for a chequered starting-flag to fall. Nor i it unknown for them to jump the lights. I find that under the close scrutiny of eight rows of New York drivers, my blading deteriorates significantly. I wobble nervously and falter like a beginner. Once I reach the other side I feel triumphant, liberated. Until the time approaches to cross again, as it always does.
But today, today is my last crossing of the West Side Highway. Today I have almost reached the other side when unaccountably, my left skate jams and I fall heavily - just as the lights turn in favour of a grid of trucks. The Mack truck nearest me releases its brakes with a menacing pneumatic wheeze, kicks into gear and advances. I look up desperately, but my perspective is too low to allow me to see the driver, too low to fix him with pleading eyes. The truck looms dangerously and then emits a vast, throaty, customized hoot. My whole body resonates, right to the fillings in my molars. I scuttle desperately to the kerb, a spidery, Gothic figure in my matte black safety outfit and the goat's hooves of my black skates. I felt that I must look like one of those Calcutta pavement cripples, cosmetically enhanced by callous relatives for more proficient begging. I haul myself up over the concrete lip to safety, where I sit, feeling the laughter of the driver wash over me. Fast, proficient skaters, the ones I have been trying to emulate, blade gracefully past me.
"Bad blades, man. You OK?" yells one cheerily, as he whisks past shirtless, and without any safety gear, casually ramping some substantial obstacle.'