Time is an abstract concept. It’s a few days after the British Championships and I’m driving somewhere with my Mother. We’re talking about the differences between now and then, then being the early 1960s, now some sort of nightmarish entity that’s progressively making Orwell’s 1984 seem like a fairytale. I’m just listening, her memories are razor sharp and she can still recollect fine details decades later. “Does it seem long ago?” I ask, “Like yesterday” she replies. A few days earlier I was having a smilier conversation with Anthony Mackie, Noodle Brain owner and old friend from back in the Wakefield ‘Rehab’ days. Twenty years had gone by since then. All day sessions and closed door after hour antics. Albert at the time just starting to come to terms with the full scope of his powers and everyone else, the Jaggers included, were repeatedly having to pick their jaws up from the floor. Though he had a flight, other commitments came up and had to pass. Needless to say, he was missed.
I had known I was going to attend for sometime but organisation went a bit haywire. Instead of flying to Bristol like last year, I was destined for East Midlands with two compadres, Jack Toibin and Phill Nolan. Jack’s a kind of Dean Moriarty character with more extreme swings. In his normal every day existence he attends college, shoots photos, skates and films. Multi-tasking a variety of different interests. By night, with some beers in his belly, he takes on a very different type of demeanour. There’s no telling what he might do or where he will end up, but one things for sure, it’s never boring. Phill’s a little harder to pinpoint. Ive never met a person with such a keen appreciation for the cider. Aside from this his humour is erratic and like all Northern Irish men, seems to take life matters quite seriously. Whether he does or not is something i’ve not quite figured out yet.
The journey was thankfully a little later than the usual crack of dawn start and it passed uneventfully until we were making a change at Loughborough. Jack and Phill seemed to be wrestling with a vending machine for a good twenty minutes while I checked out a spot across the road. On my return Phill had acquired a few free goodies and we were on our way again. Our final change was at Kettering. The sun was blazing and the area looked mightily different from the last time I was there. It previously struck me as some kind of ‘Twilight Zone,’ bizarre and circus like, with a hint of danger around any corner. I told the guys of this and they scratched their heads, unable to imagine what I had seen. Soldiers stood in a recruitment booth in the main square and stared us down as we passed. An uneasy tension flowed from their direction. We killed an hour and then made our last leg of the journey to Adrenaline Alley.
I was meeting Matt Brown there, whom I was sharing a room with for the weekend. On arrival, the place was virtually empty. The new hall was a sight to behold. To say the area had gotten an upgrade would be to diminish what an amazing job had been done. Before long Quinny arrived, then the Dutch skaters, so by about four thirty there was a nice little session going down. Due to the early start, two hours of skating and not much food, I crashed hard and myself and Matt left to check in. Some dinner, a beer and a catch up was well needed. Weatherspoon’s had been received with some hostility in Dublin for obvious reasons but with it directly outside the hotel door, convenience took priority. I had intended to get a very early night but got a second lease on life around midnight and we ventured out to meet a few of the gang in Corby. We made a mistake on the name of the bar and ended up in some kind of rugby club with Karaoke in full swing. A sense of existential dread began to creep up my spine. Though we only spent a few minutes, I imagined an eternity here, my factory closed down, wife and kids passed on, sitting there sipping on a stout, watching the wasted youth self imploding and wondering where I missed the last detour sign. Anything we can imagine is only a few steps removed.
We hightailed it to a cocktail bar and met with Erik Droogh, Arnold and Ellen Zoller (parents of Randy) for a while. Myself Matt, Jack and Phill finally ending up in some venue which looked like an old converted townhouse. At this stage sleep was beckoning so before long I grabbed a taxi back to the hotel to wind down. Trump’s inauguration played out on the television, his speech confrontational and sickening, I quickly switched it off in the hopes of avoiding bad dreams and let the cracked voice of Karen Dalton lull me peacefully to the other side. Normally I’m the one that needs to be dragged from the bed but the next morning it was Matt who was feeling sluggish. I grabbed a big breakfast and lots of coffee while he got ready and before long we were off to the park. If the atmosphere was slightly subdued the previous day, it was the total opposite now, there were bladers everywhere and faces of friends, old and new to greet every few seconds. Right away I bumped into Joe and Vasco who were in need of a hot shower. They acquired our keycard and along with Quinny went to freshen up for the day ahead.
I realise now, five paragraphs deep that I’ve not made much mention of the skating. The ‘reason’ we were all there. As always, words, pictures and even footage can’t do justice to what happened but needless to say, some truly inspirational things were going down. Young Dutch skater Jaro Frijn needs mention. He qualified up through the junior, amateur, into the professional and ended up finally in third place, behind Nick Lomax and Joe Atkinson, respectively. He displayed boundless energy, vocabulary and didn’t stop the whole day from start to finish. Nick took the win to no one’s surprise after a combination of tricks that were bordering on impossible. One in particular, a disaster hurricane topsoul on the kink followed immediately by a massive corkscrew 720 on the quarter pipe had even the man himself in total shock. Joe dialled a flawless soul on the wooden barrier to drop soul stall on a 45 degree rail, 270 back in. Winner of the best trick, Jack Swindels, not to be outdone nailed a topsoul on the sub box to 540 tru top soul on the quarter pipe, resulting in the several people fainting and needing medical attention.
There were many other amazing tricks going down and it was a case of in order to look at one, the chances were you were going to miss another. Mery Munoz took the girls category and Takeshi Yasutoko the pro vert also. Dan Hemsley, who had been very close to landing the disaster hurricane topsoul earlier was trying to hype himself up to what I presume was a cab 540 disaster. All this while the podium was being rolled out. I had to avert my eyes for the attempts. His earlier attempts were valiant, this bordering on unattainable. As the awards were being given out, Connaire Skerritt was critiquing his “favourite part of the event”. Matt, if you are reading this, some confetti wouldn’t go astray next year. The after party was a damp squib of sorts but everyone was in high spirits, after not long most decided to cut losses and enjoy a more relaxing time back at the hotel. A big thank you to the organiser, Matt Witchalls and everyone at Adrenaline Alley. The British Championships are back in a big way and plans are already underway for next year. One Love.