Sam Carlisle

How rollerblading changed my life

My daughter and I are now part of the gang

  • From Spectator Life
(Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)

The eight-year-old me hated Barbie. My family couldn’t afford the impossibly-proportioned doll that my friends gleefully dressed as an air hostess or housewife. I made do with her cheaper, lumpen British equivalent, Sindy, instead. And yet I shall be in the queue for the Pepto-Bismol explosion of neon that is the new Barbie movie, starring Margot Robbie as my friends’ brash plastic heroine made real.

Our gang includes a retired barrister and a graphic designer who started skating in her late sixties

What won me over is not that the film stars bare-chested Ryan Gosling, as Barbie’s anatomically-challenged boyfriend Ken, although obviously that is quite a pull. The lure for me is this year’s hottest summer movie features Robbie and Gosling rollerblading, the hobby that saved my life. 

It really did. Six years ago in London’s Battersea Park, I was unloading my teenage daughter’s wheelchair to take her for a stroll. Elvi has physical and learning disabilities, it was impossible to find a sport we could do together so we did a lot of walking.

In the next disabled bay a man wearing rollerblades was also unloading a wheelchair. Curious, I asked what he was doing. ‘I’m not abusing the blue badge,’ he replied. ‘I’m part of the charity Wheels and Wheelchairs. We push wheelchair users around the park at speed, would your daughter like to join us?’

That one serendipitous moment transformed our lives. The next weekend we tentatively joined the Wheels and Wheelchairs crew, me wearing rollerblades pushing Elvi with two other skaters pushing me to increase our speed. The sensory rush of racing, with the wind in her face, was like nothing my daughter had experienced. Elvi doesn’t have many words but her excited giggles told me, and the smiling passers-by, this was something she loved.

We’ve been rollerblading ever since.

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