|And for my next trick, I'm going to fall off - to the left, my left, not your left.|
Downhill racing on two wheels. Kick start. Push off. Downhill surge. Wind in my face.
Two wheels. No, it's not my mid-life crisis Harley. It's not my mid-life crisis carbon-fibre racer.
It's, um, a kick scooter.
The man for all parties
This is the fun part, sailing downhill over smooth pavement until I hit the potholes at the bottom. Rattle, rattle. Over the road, past the chippie and the fire station and then the long slog upwards past the secondary school, possibly watched by a gang of youths supping surreptitious fags in between (or during?) lessons.
I try to look appropriately youthful as I slither in the mud-slick past them. "Yeah, bro, this ain't what it looks. This receding hairline isn't middle-age: it's the pressure of A-Levels and the only reason I've heard of the Spice Girls is because they recently announced a reunion tour - without Victoria Beckham apparently. Isn't she the one married to that old ex-footballer? The man whose professional career so-obviously-did-not-run-concurrently-with-my-(later)-childhood?"
I don't think they're convinced.
Then it isn't long before I'm rolling (or bumping - those flagstones aren't very smooth) into town and my outlook abruptly changes. Suddenly I'm trying to appear as grown up and responsible as possible. I give elderly ladies a respectfully wide berth and slow down to a crawl at footpath junctions, zig-zagging at snail's pace between pedestrians and smiling what I hope (but probably isn't) a reassuring smile.
"Yes, madam. I am so much more mature than I look. I've simply borrowed my teenage son's scooter to go to the bank because my wife is using the spare Range Rover. Good morning, sir. Lovely day for a walk, isn't it? Really, I'm not trying to hustle you. Please, take your time."
I imagine that everyone is giving me disapproving looks. They probably aren't. Who knows? They might be wishing they had a scooter to.
No cred to lose
I grew up in a world far away from paved streets and tarmac footpaths. Well, a good mile away anyway. I had a scooter to play with as an infant, and never got another until I was past thirty. Skate parks and stunt scooters were a great unknown. I'd never been on a half pipe: my eldest son had, at the tender age of seven, already got the march on me there.
It's like time and opportunity passed me by. Scooting and skating are not considered 'cool' once you've reached adulthood. Okay for the teenagers, not so for their balding, beer-bellied elders. To be seen chugging along on a scooter is, apparently, to immediately invite sniggers and a catastrophic loss of street-cred.
Except that I never had any street-cred to lose. You can't go backwards from zero so perhaps my late attachment to a fairly unremarkable push scooter may actually work in a kind of reverse. I'm the one who dares where others fear to tread, who rides where others walk, who carries his wheels around town rather than paying for the privilege of leaving them in a car park. Maybe other people secretly feel the same? Because let's face it:
Come on, hands up who hasn't watched a kid on a scooter and thought "I wish I could do that!"
It's quicker than walking - you can be there and back in the same time it would take you to get there on foot.
Cheaper than driving - no parking fees, no petrol, no wear on the tyres.
It's handy - can't be bothered to lug the bike out of the shed for a ten-minute ride? Take the scooter out from under the stairs instead.
You can take it with you - in the car boot, and keep up with the kids without having to run and look ridiculous.
You might win the World Cup - okay, a bit unlikely, but it's well-known that French Premier League and World Cup winner N'Golo Kante used to turn up to training on a scooter in his early days as a professional.
A note of caution though:
You will fall off
I have been asked whether I do tricks. I do one: it's called falling off. Several times. Can be quite spectacular, but I'm not sure it really qualifies as a 'trick'.
Pavements can be bumpy and fallen leaves are slippery. Many scooters have brakes that don't work too well in the wet, so you need to be aware of terrain and weather.
But having said that, people still say:
"[Someone adult I know] would love one of those!"
It's official, everyone else wants one too! But I've yet to see anyone actually get one. There are myriad reasons for this, many of them exceptionally logical and sensible and which I have chosen to ignore.
And back to the beginning
If there isn't any foot-traffic (smokers, loafers, dog-walkers) on my homeward journey I can get all the way from the second school gate down past the chip shop without putting my foot to the ground. It's payback for the annoying slog uphill on the way out and the time gained there means I don't feel so bad about walking up the hill beyond. It's something I've worked out carefully over time. Alone.
The only Dad on a scooter. There and back. Up and down. Wind in my face. Alone.