Tom Hodgkinson: 'I never learnt to 'ollie', but my son sure as hell will'

 

Share
Related Topics

It's often said that those who have failed in adult life look to their children to succeed. They become pushy parents and live vicariously through their children's achievements. This is now happening to me. But I'm not hoping that my children will become lawyers or doctors or hedge-fund managers. I'm hoping that they'll be good at skateboarding.

Yes, I am a skateboarding failure. As a teenager, I loved the culture around skateboarding: the punk bands, the physical feats, the creative community. While an undergraduate at Cambridge in the late 1980s, I wore hoodies and trainers and, with my friend James Parker, now a critic on The Atlantic, pushed a borrowed board along Jesus Lane on the way to lectures.

It wasn't the most natural pursuit for a public-school egghead. My contemporaries, such as Nick Clegg, were more sensibly looking to their political careers and speaking at debates, or studying for the law exams which would lead later to enormous fees as barristers, while we listened to the Beastie Boys and played in a hardcore punk band called Chopper.

One summer, when I was 19, my younger brother took me to a concrete skate park under the Westway, west London. I had a go, fell off, and broke the metatarsals in my foot. I was in plaster for three months.

At 21, I got a job in Slam City Skates, the London skate shop, then a part of Rough Trade, the independent record retailer. I met real skateboarders who would invite me to join them skating at the weekends. I had to fess up: I couldn't skate. Luckily, there was another young man who was into the skating scene but who was as bad as me when it came to the practicalities. He was the journalist Gavin Hills, who went on to be the star writer at The Face before his untimely death at 32.

We decided to revel in our uselessness and formed the Crap Crew for older, less talented skaters. We had safety in numbers and found liberation in admitting how bad we were. We chose unchallenging skate spots such as the wide boulevards of Regent's Park. The 15-year-olds who frequented the shop delighted in taking me under their wing.

This all came back to me when I visited Slam City Skates last weekend to buy a skateboard for my younger son's ninth birthday. I never learnt to "ollie" (jump in the air), but Henry sure as hell will. Previously I had encouraged my older son, but he didn't show much interest. I now realise that encouragement was the wrong tactic. Children seem to do the opposite of what you plan for them. When Arthur was small, we banned sweets and computers, with the result that he has become a sugar-addicted über-geek.

One problem is that we were living on the wilds of Exmoor. You can't skate in a field or on the beach. Skating is an urban phenomenon. That is one of its central attractions. This simple piece of wood and four wheels can take what Prince Charles used to call the "monstrous carbuncles" of Brutalist modern architecture and transform them into a playground brimming with creative possibilities. That is what happened at the South Bank. God only knows what the original architects were planning when they designed what is known as the undercroft, with its concrete banks, steps and railings. They surely did not produce architectural drawings showing little skaters doing noseslides on handrails. But over 40 years, skateboarders have taken this space and transformed it into a skate mecca.

The planners now want to do away with it, and a campaign to save the South Bank has been rumbling on. When I bought Henry's skateboard, the boy behind the counter gave me some window stickers advertising llsb.com, the Long Live South Bank website. The planners have designed a new skate centre as an appeasement, to be built nearby. But the attraction of the original is precisely that it was not designed as a skate park. One of the joys of skateboarding is that it rethinks the urban landscape. When I worked at Slam, news of new skate spots would circulate: maybe a council had just drained a pool and you could get in by climbing a fence.

Designated skate areas take the fun out it, like a special wall set aside by do-gooders for graffiti. It's just not the same.

Tom Hodgkinson is editor of 'The Idler'

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: the feeble-mindedness of ‘predict and provide’ in air travel

John Rentoul
Neo-Nazis march in London  

I'm taking my Jewish kids to a vile neo-Nazi rally in London this weekend – because I want them to learn about free speech

Richard Ferrer
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map