“Oi mister,” a young boy called to me as I walked with Mia the German Shepherd across the playing field today, “I like your dog.”
“Thank you,” I replied, “I think she likes you too?”
“I’m used to big dogs,” he called back running up to us, “I got one identical at ‘ome ‘cept it’s a Rottweiler and something else mix.”
We were then joined by his friend, a lad of the same age about eight or nine. I had seen the two of them practising tumbling head over heels earlier. The new-comer had been particularly fearless in his efforts. “I thought you were very good and brave at the head over heels tumbling,” I told him. On hearing me say this the first little boy bristled.
“He can’t land a back flip though,” he told me indignantly, “he can send it but he’s frightened of landing it in case it goes flat.” Turning to his friend he added, “that’s true ain’t it?” Turning back to me he said, “I can send it and nearly land it and I ain’t scared either.”
“I ain’t scared.” said the other lad quietly and he looked at me earnestly to make sure I knew it.
“Do you want to see me land it?” The first one asked me. Before I had a chance to answer he said, “Watch this mister.” And he did a backward flip landing on his hands and knees. “Nearly,” he said and did another flip this time landing on his feet but with his hands on the ground.
I was by now getting worried that he might break his neck in his attempts to impress me so I congratulated him on his efforts and began to walk away.
“Wait mister, wait,” he said, “I got this. One more go all right?” He positioned himself ready for take-off and swung his arms. Suddenly he stopped and with a look of great concern on his little face he said, “don’t worry if I get it wrong mister okay, it ain’t dangerous.” With that he executed what to my eyes was a perfect flip. “I done it!” he exclaimed, “that’s the first time I ever sent it AND landed it.”
“Excellent,” I told him, “ten out of ten. Well done young man.”
“Is your dog friendly?” asked the other young boy and gave Mia the German Shepherd a pat on the head. “I ain’t scared of landing it mister,” he said conspiratorially and ran off to join his intrepid friend who was heading for the swings.
I continued on my way feeling rather grandfatherly and was pleased that I had learned some gymnastic terminology from the two boys. I also wondered, just for a moment whether I would be able to send and land a back flip.