Apparently there are lots of signs of a misspent youth – an ability to blow perfect smoke rings, previously unexpected skills in beer mat flicking, knowing all the words to Grease.
I may or may not have skills in these areas but one thing I can do is roller skate backwards. I can do this quite well. Well enough to irritate my family anyway who are used to me being the tail-end Charlie of any mildly competitive activity that we undertake. I can spin too and do interesting figure of eight shapes with my feet.
These hidden talents are the result of a couple of long hot summers in the early 80s that I spent on roller-skates. This was the time of Fame and headbands, of Wired for Sound and Sony Walkmans. Everyone was at it and in the absence of any screen-based distractions, there were plenty of spare hours to practise. So every night after homework, I would meet up with my best friend and we’d skate until we could do it. Living in rural Lincolnshire, she was my closest friend geographically too and sometimes I would skate the two miles over to her house so we could practise on her streets rather than mine.
When we got good then there was the roller disco at the Drill Hall in Lincoln to attend. In dim lights with loud music we would all skate round, anticlockwise, at great speed spotting handsome boys in the melee. There was even a ramp in the middle of the room where the really brave ( and sexy) boys would do tricks.
This has never left me and I am keen for my children to learn too but there is one small difficulty. Time. Skills like these aren’t learned overnight. It takes patience and resilience and determination and perseverance. I love my children dearly but these are skills that seem to have been a little lost over the years. In this age of X Factor fame and instant gratification, just plugging away at something until you can do it is less fashionable.
I saw Matthew Syed speak at a conference recently. He talks about the need to keep trying, to be open to failure and to practise to achieve what you want out of life. It doesn’t really matter what it is that you want, roller skating, writing a novel, running the world. They all take the same skills.
So I’ll be encouraging my kids to learn to skate until they can do it well and then maybe, when they are adults with children of their own, they will be able to skate backwards too!