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On manoeuvres: skaters and the army, Ireland 1989The picture at the bottom right shows an army patrol in the background of an otherwise typical scene: skaters using any shelter they can find to session in the rain.

Then within five minutes the heavens opened and down poured a man’s rain. We retreated beneath a small bandstand since the situation was hopeless and opted to hold a flat-land comp on what was the only five square feet of dry land in Northern Ireland. So what was probably the most insane comp I’ve ever attended took place on a couple of paving stones.

At this stage I must apologise for my judging during the middle of the competition as my eyes tended to wander as the R.U.C. and gun-toting paras arranged themselves in the background. This was ‘just routine’ (unlike the comp) and the locals were oblivious to it.

Gary Greena and Stuart Anderson took what little honours were to be had that day. Then, after more rain and a frenetic prize giving ceremony, we headed across the river to ‘the volcano’ — a rounded hump-type thing in a park. It was soaking, but after you hear “It’ll dry out soon” a hundred times you start believing it. After about an hour at this place and some banks around the corner, my brain engaged and I realised optimism can’t dry nuffink.

As we headed back to the car, a young kid banged my leg with a pole: “Who yer with, Mister?” “Oh, er — I’m with the R.A.D.,” I replied, thinking I was being incredibly witty. I was later to be convinced that R.A.D. actually stands for the ‘Republican Army of Derry’, a local splinter faction. True or false, I don’t know — but I didn’t stay around long enough to find out and headed back to Antrim to see Steve Burrow’s new metal half-pipe, which now stands proudly next to established metal mini. It was being sessioned by the Ulster G&T set.

The approach up here can be summed up by their attitude towards bailing: here a decent slam is rated higher than anything so mundane as a decent trick. People like John Coffey melt the snows of lethargy that exist in any scene, spouting theorems. His mixture of skater, philosopher, scientist, artist, and drunk idiot should not be underestimated.

I spent next evening in various stages of consciousness, dancing to the back beat of ‘Whats A Matter You’ by Joe de Vica. My balls were squeezed by a 40 year old woman and after that everything’s hazy, but we returned to the house where party minds turned fazed heads to fazed discussions.

Peter Air to Fakie at brother Clive’s

The dry patch (just). In the foreground Derry skaters skate. In the background someone else performs manoeuvres

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