So I think I will be writing about the 80s. My wafer thin premise will be a series of mix tapes. I think the first mix tape will be for the years 1980 to 1982. I was seven in 1980 and not really paying attention to pop music, but even so I can still remember a few songs that cut through my preteen haze and lodged in my brain. Anyway, I won’t be writing just about music, I’ll be including movies and TV and autobiography. You know, the usual rubbish.
This post is probably a good example because it is about roller skating. Of course roller skating is not unconnected with the first song on the mix tape Wired for Sound. I’m not sure why I wanted a pair of roller skates so badly, but they were obviously cool and I now wonder if the Cliff song had something to do with it. After conducting an examination of my charmingly labelled first photo album I think the timing seems about right.
At the back of this photo album I have for some reason written out a list that explains what all of the photos are of. I’m sort of surprised that I had enough foresight to do this. I never have foresight. Actually that’s not true, I have it I’m just too lazy to put my foresight into action. Anyway, let’s not dwell on my failures let’s celebrate a success.
I think that I took this photo to show the birthday presents I received in 1982 when I turned nine.
The presents would be: three toy soldiers, a pop up book about robots, a book of magic tricks by Paul Daniels, and a pair of incredibly cool roller skates. Aren’t those skates beautiful? I can remember going to get them with my mother. We went to a shop on Willis Street in that funny little complex where the Christian bookshop and Korean restaurant are now. Many years later that shop would change hands and begin selling gargoyles (funny how some retail spaces seem to attract doomed business ideas).
Once I had the skates I of course faced the problem of learning how to actually skate. At that time we lived in a house on a very steep hill so skating at home was never going to work. Firstly, I am a bit of wimp when it comes to high speed, hard ground, and my body. Secondly, I had already been badly traumatised by trying to be cool. Someone convinced me to stand on a skateboard. Unfortunately I was at the top of my friend’s driveway. I stood on the skateboard and went straight down the driveway across the road, hit the gutter at the far end, pitched over a fence and disappeared down a steep bushy bank. It took me about six seconds to complete this stunt, and my friends were quite impressed. By the time I had pulled all the foliage off me and clambered back to the street I vowed never to try and skateboard again.
To overcome my lack of safe skating opportunities my mother dutifully drove me out to Paraparaumu Beach where they had an outdoor roller skating rink, but I was so shy that I couldn’t bring myself to go out into the big concrete pit with all of the other kids hurtling about and feebly putter from one end to the other. All those kids seemed like they knew what they were doing and I was going to end up looking like a dork in black and yellow boots.
What I needed was flat concrete, and no audience.
Undeterred I took my roller skates down to Gran’s place on my next holiday. Her house was surrounded by long flat concrete paths and I spent many exhilarating evenings firing myself up and down the paths. I even learned how to do 360 degree spins. It must have been summer because I remember being out until well after nine and it still being light. God it was fun. I must have left a hundred yellow marks from the wheels on those paths, but I suppose they washed off. Of course that was it. I never took my new found skills and confidence out onto the roller rink or skate park. I still had a crippling fear of looking like a dork. In fact I think it took me until I was 30 to not mind looking like a dork.
Turns out I didn’t know how lucky I was when I got my boot skates. Cathy tells me that she had strap on skates that you buckled over your regular shoes when she was a kid and she desperately wanted boot skates. On the other hand she went to an indoor roller rink with lights and music with her friends so she probably had a better skating experience than me. Mine is kind of a lonely memory, and has none of the stereotypes of 80s skating. When you search “80s skating” on Google you mostly get lists of songs that people loved to skate to, or comments about the gear people wore which doesn’t have much to do with a nine-year old kid zooming around his Gran’s Mosgiel house in his jeans and a T-shirt.
Perhaps when you think of 80s skating you’re supposed to think of something like the clip below (which appears to be an episode of Chips dubbed into Spanish). Maybe that’s where I went wrong as a kid. I was supposed to be thinking of women in bikinis gyrating around on roller skates, and instead I was thinking of Cliff. Explains a lot really.