Stan Cullimore: Diary of an Urban Grandad
AWHILE back I was in Bruges on a boat. Those of you who read this column regularly may remember me writing about it. One thing I had to leave out, because of a shortage of space, was the crazy bloke we met on a Segway.
Many of you will know exactly what a crazy bloke is, but struggle to recall what a Segway looks like, it's a sort of two-wheeled electric trolley that you stand on. It's got a handlebar to hold onto and you make it move by leaning forwards or backwards. You may have seen pictures of them being used by security guards in American shopping centres.
Anyhow, we met this bloke one afternoon as we strolled down a quiet back lane admiring the architecture. He zoomed up to us on his two wheeled beastie and struck up a conversation. I say conversation, but none of us tourists did much of the talking. We mainly listened, or rather, stared in amazed silence.
There were a few reasons for this. First, he was a tall man to begin with but by the time he was standing on his Segway he was pretty much entering giant territory. Not just any giant either, he was wearing tight leather trousers and a beret. Then there was his accent.
He was obviously trying to tell us something serious and interesting but the trouble was, he sounded like Peter Sellers doing a comedy Dutch accent. So it was hard to listen to his words without sniggering just a tiny bit.
Then there was his way of moving all the time. He didn't stay still on the thing. As he talked he kept on whirling round us in circles or rocking backwards and forwards like some sort of dinosaur-riding baddie from Dr Strangelove.
The other problem I had was that although he was talking at me, all I could do was stare at his wheels and think how much I really, REALLY wanted to have a go on one of those things. It looked so much fun. But something told me that if I tried to ask him about it I'd get nothing but a lecture and maybe an evil stare.
After a while he finished telling us whatever it was he wanted to say and whizzed off into the distance. I probably would have forgotten all about him if I hadn't come home and gone into a cafe. As I sat there enjoying a quiet Americano I picked up a local magazine and saw something incredible.
Now I've mentioned this before, but it's worth saying again. I do love looking at local ads, whether it's in a magazines or better still, in this very newspaper. Whenever I read the Bristol Post I always take the time to look at the adverts because you never know what exciting adventures they could lead to. In this case, I read that some-one had started doing Segway Safaris right here in our little town. Joy of joys! This sounded like the answer to my dreams.
So one thing led to another and last week I found myself scooting along to a side gate at Bristol Zoo. They run these trips after closing hours, you see, so you have to go to a quiet doorway and wait to be let in. Once inside I strolled over and joined a little band of eager souls all waiting to have a go at whizzing about. It was most exciting. A pleasant young chap took me off on a baby sized Segway and gave me a quick guide to controlling it. After which I was allowed to climb aboard a full size version – just like the one the crazy man in Bruges had been riding around on. Oh, yeah!
Then we headed off in small groups to explore the zoo and gardens and generally enjoy the sensation of being a giant on two wheels. Have to say, I loved it. There's lots of stuff to look at and lots of paths to whizz down. I particularly liked seeing the lion cubs who have obviously decided that when they grow up they're going to hunt Segways. As for the Meerkats, from that height they looked even cuter and more loveable than usual.
When the time came to go home, I casually asked if you were allowed to take these things out onto the open road, to roll around the streets and have fun on. Apparently it's a bit of a legal grey area in this country so isn't to be recommended. Maybe that's what the guy in Bruges was trying to talk to us about.
Maybe you're only allowed to travel around on these things in public if you're wearing the right clothes. Well, I've got a beret. Now all I need is some tight leather trousers.