“What do you think Stuart will get for Christmas? Is he big enough for a mountain bike yet?”
So said my father to my older brother, on a video taken in Vancouver General Hospital on a classic one-tonne camcorder bought in the 1980s, two weeks before Santa was scheduled to stick whatever kids got for Christmas in 1992 (a Thunderbirds Tracy Island being the most hotly requested present, Google informs me) down chimneys across the world.
“Is he big enough for a mountain bike yet?”
It’s the first footage of me alive on the planet, that video, and as such I have the same expression as most babies who have been alive for 72 hours. You know that kind of grumpy, eyes-welded-shut, bundle-of-blankets look that could easily be mistaken for a New Year’s day hangover if you didn’t know it was on the face of a three-day old child? Yeah, that one.
I guess with Whistler a one-hour drive from our home in Lion’s Bay, Canada at the time, the mountain bike question was a natural one, an easy joke, but a suitably foreshadowing one.
We wouldn’t stay in Canada long, though, my Irish parents opting to trade their views of the eastern shores of the Howe Sound fjord network for the footballing prowess and deep-fried cuisine of bonnie Scotland. It was there, a few years after that initial prediction from my father that I would actually ride a bike for the first time – without stabilisers, like the cool kids.
Fast forward to another Christmas day, 1998. Having recently turned six, I ran down into the living room, no doubt at some ungodly hour, to see what the big man in red had brought.
There it was. A new bike. Laid against the sofa. Metallic dark blue, with fire font on the top tube and not a stabiliser in sight. This was the big leagues now. Naturally, I ran right past it to open with the Fisher-Price Pirate Ship my parents had also got me first. The cannon fired actual plastic cannonballs. It’s still my go-to when I’m asked about the best gift I ever received.