Thrills and spills, huffs and puffs

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KURO­SAWA

When you reach a cer­tain age (like me), I won­der if learn­ing new skills is in­ad­vis­able. By this I mean sporty pur­suits and those out­doorsy prac­tices that re­quire the wear­ing of padded cos­tumes and bouncy footwear and con­vinc­ing on­look­ers that (un­like me) you have a sense of bal­ance.

Thanks to an un­treated bout of glan­du­lar fever in my teens (I re­call be­ing given an aspirin and made to lie down a lot), my mid­dle ear has a mind of its own and seems in­tent on al­low­ing me to fall over at in­op­por­tune mo­ments.

My par­ents were not the least bit ne­glect­ful (vague, yes, but not un­car­ing) and no one re­alised I had ac­quired dodgy bal­ance un­til I rose from my in­valid’s couch and hopped on my bike, only to fall off.

Sud­denly, I couldn’t ride. I wob­bled like a mad thing, much to ev­ery­one’s amuse­ment, and so I gave up, declar­ing cy­cling to be much over­rated par­tic­u­larly when com­pared to, say, stay­ing in­doors and watch­ing Bo­nanza.

I could al­ways ride a horse, thanks to said an­i­mal pro­vid­ing a cen­tre of grav­ity, and to my ded­i­ca­tion to pony club back in deep­est, green­est Sur­rey, but there is lit­tle call for dres­sage in my neck of the (Syd­ney) woods, which leaves me with walk­ing.

I do not, it has to be ad­mit­ted, per­am­bu­late in a straight line, thanks to that un­re­li­able ear con­di­tion.

This doesn’t mat­ter much un­til you are trav­el­ling and sud­denly your com­pan­ions in­sist on trekking (and skirt­ing nar­row ledges) or, more re­cently, skiing.

I am un­ac­quainted with snows­ports and was ter­ri­fied at the idea of slip­ping but I have had a hand in­jury for months so was de­clared un­fit, which left me with to­bog­gan­ing.

Time ran out and it didn’t get off the ground, as it were, and I sus­pect this was much to the de­light of all.

I tobogganed madly back in West Hum­ble, much to Mother’s hor­ror.

She be­rated Dad quite fiercely for set­tling us at the bot­tom of Box Hill with no hint of a back fence as ev­ery time she turned around some fool (or daugh­ter) or another would come hurtling down the slope and fly across the sting­ing net­tles and land at her feet.

I can re­mem­ber even now how much fun it was — the crazed sense of lib­er­a­tion, even when forced to wear a home­made hel­met (a tea cosy of a thing with earflaps), and the de­li­cious sense of terror that I would land in Mother’s best roses to a thorny re­cep­tion, on many scary lev­els.

I would like to travel with a to­bog­gan, ac­tu­ally, so that all the mad cy­clists and trekkers of my ac­quain­tance would stop be­ing so smug about their con­quests.

Can you imag­ine to­bog­gan­ing the hilly streets of San Fran­cisco or down rail­way sta­tion ramps in great me­trop­o­lises?

Last time I looked online there was no sign of spe­cial cloth­ing for this pur­suit although I did see an abom­inable snow­man cos­tume (in­flat­able, with pump supplied), which took my fancy.

Such an ap­pari­tion would surely stop those puffed-up friends dead in their tracks.

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