A new beginning after 60 years: “I started skating and found my peaceful place in the world” | life and style

On his 60th birthday, Maurice Newman took the train from his home in Kent to London and bought himself a pair of inline skates. He wanted “a new challenge – something that wouldn’t cost too much and would be a good full-body workout.”

He wasn’t fazed by the wheels under his boots – he had ice skated before, plus he has a high risk threshold – so he headed straight for Hyde Park. At 8 p.m., the park thickened with skaters, and Newman was swept away on an eight-mile street skate. “I just survived it,” he says. “I was so tired when I got back to Victoria Station.” Since then, he considers his skates as “a passport”.

“I can take my skates to any park in the world and make friends,” he says. It was like that in Vietnam, in Myanmar (which he visited recently) and in Berlin, where he did skate marathons. In Dubai, he skated slowly on the polished mall floors, just to see what the guards would say (nothing).

Newman is now 77 and many of the friends he made on the weekly skates in Hyde Park have married, had children and left the stage. But new groups have formed. In Herne Bay, where he lives, Newman skates socially at the rink on Saturdays and alone every day, often along the coastal path from Reculver to Margate. “Twenty miles is nothing,” he said. “I just knocked him down. It’s not like running. There is no impact. The more technique you have, the less effort you will need. You can skate to your grave.

“I can take my skates to any park in the world and make friends.” Maurice Newman in Herne Bay, Kent. Photography: David Levene/The Guardian

Newman, a welder who still works one day a week, grew up in Myanmar. His father was a lumberjack and the family moved with his work. “I attended several schools: one month here, two months there. In class, his mind was always elsewhere. “I was a dreamer. I wanted adventure.

When Myanmar (then Burma) became independent, the family felt out of place. “We were part of the British Empire. British, yes. But not racing. Just British because we chose to be more British than Burmese. Our culture was more Anglo. We had legs on both sides,” he says.

They left Burma for Borneo, and from there went to England in 1960. At 18 Newman joined the British Navy – satisfying this desire for adventure – and at 23 he met his future wife, Ruth, on an ice rink in south London; they have been married for 44 years. But Newman’s identity is “complex. In England, I feel more oriental than British. But if I go to Borneo, I feel more British than Oriental.

In recent years, he has started revisiting the schools he attended in Myanmar. To Bhamo, he says, “Nothing has changed. The barbed wire where I cut my leg is still there… Time stands still.

Did he leave a part of himself there? “No, I don’t have that feeling,” he said. “Not in the sense that I want to go back in time. I want to move forward. I still want to do something exciting when I’m 80. I want to do something at 90. But of course, I don’t want to live forever, because it’s too tiring.

Newman is a lifelong learner (he went back to school in his late 40s to earn a fine arts degree) and a creative thinker (he enjoys making skate art using his wheels instead of paintbrushes). He recently took up parkour, although he “always did [it]before it was called parkour, swinging on branches” in the jungle.

“I always wanted to play all my life,” he says. “It’s what keeps you young and fit. If I’m tired, I put on my skates and I’m not tired anymore. It’s a drug for me. »

Maybe on skates he no longer feels that he has one leg in two camps? “That’s a good question,” he replies. On wheels, there are no borders. “I wasn’t aware of it, but I can see it now. It’s probably a very nice place to be in the world,” he says. “A very quiet place. »

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