“It’s catastrophic,” says my son.
He also said this at Christmas, but he meant chaotic. This time, I think he means what he says.
We’re in Barcelona. We’ve come specifically so son can skate. Forget Gaudí, Barcelona is a skateboarder’s paradise, unless EasyJet lose your skateboard, in which case it’s paradise for all the other skaters and hell for you.
We’re in the latter camp. In Barcelona, without the bag we had to pay to put in the hold, to bring the skateboard, we’re going to Barcelona specifically to skate with. It’s like The House That Jack Built, but more catastrophic.
I go into catastrophe-management mode. It’s not my default setting, but it turns out I’m quite good at it.
I find a bike-rental shop which, curiously, does not appear to have any bikes for hire. And why would it when there’s a Barcelona Boris Bike stand right outside? It does, however, have two or three skateboards.
We hire one.
Son heads to the Museum of Contemporary Art, which art lovers visit at their own risk. It’s not the museum that’s hazardous. It’s the square outside, and the ramp leading to the entrance: the world’s most popular skate spot. You can hear the clatter of wheels and the grinding of boards and smell the dope several streets away.
It’s just where you want to leave your son.
The following day, he heads to a skatepark beneath a flyover on the outer reaches of the city. It’s not exactly Gaudí, but it’s as close to urban architecture as he’s going to get.
Day three: a few hours before we are due to fly home, the missing bag arrives and son is reunited with his own board.
There are benches at the port to be ‘ollied’ over, so I offer to take the hired board back.
“Cheers babe,” says son, in his very best ironic voice.
The irony is that carrying a skateboard through the centre of Barcelona has the effect of turning middle-aged women into objects of interest.
People who would normally bump into me, because I am invisible, suddenly view me with curiosity.
I tell my son this, when he comes back from flying down flights of stairs, relishing my moment.
“Which way did you carry it?” he asks, in a state of some anxiety.
“Sideways, tucked under my arm.” I think this is a satisfactory answer, but apparently not.
“But which was way were the wheels facing?” He demands. “Towards your body or towards the street?”
This is clearly important to him. Not quite important enough for him to get up an hour or so earlier and do it himself, but important.
“I think they were out,” I say, “Pointing away from my body.”
“Oh no,” he groans, outwardly, the same way as the wheels were pointing. “That’s not how you carry a board. People were looking at you because you were carrying it wrong!”
I’d been doing so well.
But this is catastrophic.
Illustration by Joda, @jonydaga