Pictures this page are of Chris Summers and James (no surname given, can anyone supply one now, please). Not much more to be said today, except that the sun is shining and I’m off to continue walking round the Capital Ring with Simon Evans. All being well, today we cross the river into South London.
Zed had not been born in this town. His father worked for an electronics company and they had moved there when he was six. The whole area was booming. You could tell: Ron’s was busy, full of kids like Zed with plenty enough money to keep the management off their backs with an acceptable trickle of unnecessary consumption. He knew most of them. Everybody knew everybody here — the town wasn’t that big. But very few of them had been born there. Zed wondered how many realised they were already dying there.
He gazed at the pile of junk in front of him and began to break bits off the foam hot chocolate cup. Those kids at the other table were skaters. At least they had that going for them. He’d seen them sometimes skating the brick banks in the big office complex behind Mac’s on Sundays. At first he’d been really pissed off. That was one of the best spots he’d found in years of travelling: the total playground — transitioned banks, steep ‘bank’ banks, curving banks, straight banks, benches, walls and all his to explore. Then all these new kids started to appear, stirring up trouble with the security. But they didn’t affect him that much, in fact, once he’d got over his first irritation, they stoked him. They brought with them a different approach: to the carves and grinds he knew they added Ollie Blunts and No Complies — and then there were the Hand-rails. The complex was full of metal hand-rails and this new bunch exploited them to full effect. The tall one was even working on the monster long ones round the side of the building.
Zed didn’t mind the kids at all now. He liked to watch them and listen to them, they were skaters like him. And they didn’t get in his way: he skated as he always had skated, when they were gone — the nights were still his alone.
Anyway these new locals didn’t skate the banks all the time. They’d first appeared a couple of years ago as they made the progression from BMX bikes to scooters to boards. He’d ignored them completely at first, even on that Saturday when they spent the whole day there skating and skating and finally getting their first kick-turns in. But they seemed to come in phases. They’d session heavily for a while, stir up a load of trouble with the security and then lie low for a bit.
After a few weeks they’d re-appear again, skating stronger than ever and Zed used to listen to them and try to pick up where they’d been. Gradually he built up a picture of a whole new scene developing around this town in the middle of nowhere.
There was an American air-base nearby and there were skaters from America there. The locals used to go out to the base sometimes to skate their ramp and would come back to the banks completely stoked with tales of a guy called Eric Gough, who’d blown them away, or a chef at the base who used to skate wearing a chef’s hat. Then there was a period when he didn’t see much of them and later worked out that they’d spent most of it dorking around with an old door lent up inside the tall one’s garage for wall-rides.
They were getting more and more into their skating and each time they returned to the banks Zed resented his isolation even more. True, they seemed to argue and bitch among themselves a lot – “That’s a Lein to Tail.” “I KNOW that! I just SAID that!”, and to him they seemed hung up on who could do what. But they had a laugh. They even had a pro skate clown, a short dumpy guy called Mark who used to fall off his board when peds walked through the place and literally roll around on the ground in front of them giggling. They had life. They skated, they laughed and they talked and bitched non stop.
There seemed to be life springing up all round the town as far as Zed could make out. Sometimes the locals would bring visitors from Basingstoke or Oxford, though some of them would complain that the banks felt too steep. No, the attraction for these visitors apparently was a pair of ramps, one about 8 1/2 feet high and one mini, built on pallets in a tiny garden next to the sewage works in a village just outside town. One rad day, early in the summer those ramps had provided the focus for the locals as well as skaters from Reading and Oxford — they’d sessioned them, sessioned the banks and then left again, heading for yet another ramp, further out in Bucklebury. Zed had begun to wish he could go with them.
Strange, he thought, just how much there seemed to be to skate around town now. These new skaters seemed to be getting into more and more things.