Thrills and spills, huffs and puffs
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.