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     Volume 4 Issue 48 | May 27, 2005 |

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Straight Talk

Diagnosis Rollerblade-itis

Nadia Kabir Barb

A while ago I may have mentioned that my husband went and bought (what I thought was in a fit of insanity) a set of rollerblades. But I have just realised that this insanity is contagious and has spread to the rest of my household. Now all three of my children have also been afflicted with "rollerblade-itis". And from what I have gathered, the best way to get this malady out of one's system is to go out to an open space, especially on a sunny day and roller blade to one's heart's content. So, like any long suffering wife or parent, I bundled one husband, three kids, four sets of roller blades and one bicycle in the car and drove to my destination of choice Hyde Park. There is a stretch of road in the park reserved strictly for pedestrians and cyclists which seemed like the ideal place for my ailing family to exorcise the rollerblade bug. This road is situated in front of the Albert Memorial which coincidentally is a monument built in memory of Queen Victoria's consort Prince Albert and is thought to be one of the great sculptural achievements of the Victorian era due to the sheer scale, opulence and complexity of the sculpture. Once we had parked and unloaded the car it was time to initiate the cure. To my surprise, there seemed to be an epidemic of "rollerblade-itis" in Hyde Park. I must possess a very robust immune system not to have been affected. There were people of all ages and various levels of competence dashing past us. Some were trying their utmost to just stand up and not topple over and others were whizzing around making everyone else feel wretchedly inadequate.

Well it didn't take long to cure my youngest as she tried her roller blades on, wobbled around for a few minutes and then gave up and decided to ride her bike instead. Now have any of you ever observed a chicken when it runs around? It seems to have a random pattern of running from here to there. That is exactly how I must have looked to an outside observer. On the one hand, I was trying to run next to my youngest daughter to act as her brakes (sadly her little hands couldn't quite grasp the brakes on her bike properly) and on the other hand was being manhandled by my eldest daughter who was on her rollerblades and who initially refused to let go of me and kept grabbing onto my arm and neck nearly strangling me at times! Fortunately my husband proved himself to be adept with his rollerblades and was teaching our son.

Every now and then the kids would stop to have a little rest so we managed to commandeer half of one of the benches aligning the road, as the other half was occupied by another group of people. Needless to say they were all equipped with the latest roller blade paraphernalia. When the sun is out people just naturally seem more friendly and approachable so within a short time we were all chatting away like old friends. I think the ice was broken when my youngest nearly ran one of the men in the group down with her bike. He then turned out to a police officer called Imran. To her relief, he didn't arrest her and instead went up and down the road with her on his roller blades while she practiced not mowing people down with her bike.

Having secured my place on the bench under the benevolent gaze of Prince Albert, I had an opportunity to sit and take stock of my surroundings. It was one of those rare gorgeous sunny afternoons where everyone seemed to be in a good mood and from where I was sitting most people around me gave the impression that they were all having a great time. For example, one stretch of the road was being occupied by a group who were playing hockey on roller blades and there were cheers every time someone scored a goal. Then immediately in front of me was another group who were obviously taking lessons from an instructor. What crossed my mind as I gazed at all the people around me was that if I took a cross section of them, I would see a correlation between the approach they took in the way they were rollerblading, and the way they approach life itself. Sounds rather far fetched, but hypothesising is such an amusing way of passing time so bear with me. If you started with the people like myself, who were not rollerblading but watching or accompanying people would you find that they were all by nature, risk averse or were more likely to play it safe in life? I mean getting on the roller blades would mean accepting the risk of falling and possibly getting hurt. Not everyone likes to take that gamble but may prefer to stay with the tried and tested. Then you had people like the Egyptian lady Yusrah, who was part of the group we were sitting with. She had her roller blades on but was kitted out in all the latest rollerblading protective gear, i.e. helmet, knee guards, and hand gloves. There were countless number of people like her holding on to benches or friends and taking things very slowly. In their day to day lives were these people more willing to try new things but possibly had the need to be prepared for any eventualities? Maybe they were cautious in their outlook but prepared to take up a challenge if the need arose. Then of course we had the people who were not necessarily proficient at the sport but were giving it their best shot and each time they fell over they just got up and tried again. Maybe these were the people who didn't give up in life and pursued things regardless of the outcome. In other words, had an abundance of determination and drive and very likely did not spend much of their lives regretting all the things they wished they had done but never had the nerve to pursue. As they say "no pain, no gain". A great example of this would be our policeman who was resilient to the point of being masochistic! I can't recall how many times I must have winced on his behalf.

I was brought out of my reverie by a clamour from the kids to go and buy ice-creams. It looked like for the time being rollerblade-itis was in remission and we bade farewell to our new found friends. My theory on life and rollerblades still remains to be tested. By the time we got home, I had a burgeoning desire to try on my daughter's roller blades and have a go myself, preferably when everyone else was in bed! Oh well, what can I say --- I guess my immunity is not as stout as I had thought…

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