I bought myself a new toy. Mark said it was okay because he has his trottinette.
Between September 1995 and June 1996, every single kid attending junior high in Nantes was leaving home in the morning with a backpack full of books and pens as well as a diabolo. I have no idea how it started—or who started it—but in a matter of weeks, the college Jules Verne’s backyard became a circus training school. I vaguely remember that at one point, the principal wanted to ban them but he gave up. We were innocent 12-year-old kids fresh out of middle school, not yet interested in smoking or starting a strike—such activities would statistically spark our interest a year later. All in all, juggling props weren’t a major issue as long as teachers took break in their dedicated room to avoid any unfortunate diabolo malpractice incident (“ouch, my head!”).
Oh, I’m sorry—we weren’t in school together and you may not know what a diabolo is. This is a skill toy consisting of a cord tied to two handheld sticks and an hourglass shaped axle made of rubber or plastic. The most basic act of diabolo manipulation is to spin it on the string, using the two wands. At optimum spin speed, tricks can be performed. The most common one is “the toss” where the axle is thrown in the air and caught on the string, still spinning.
Like for any skill, practice makes it perfect. I remember buying a red diabolo and training for hours in my building’s inner courtyard, throwing the spool in the air and failing to catch it a thousand of times. And then, at one point, I caught it. It’s kind of like riding a bike—you gotta hope the magic will happen, eventually.
And also, like riding a bike, it’s the kind of acquired skill you don’t forget. So when I saw a €20 red diabolo in a toy store, I knew I had to buy it. Sure enough, I could still catch it even though it took me a few days to remember all the other tricks I had mastered as a 13-year-old schoolgirl.
When in Saint-Michel, I found the original diabolo I had in junior high, hidden in the basement. It’s heavier and nicer than the replacement one I bought—the former is “made in Switzerland” and the new one is “made in China.”
Now, if you’re looking for me, I’m somewhere on the Île de Nantes, practising…