Retired salesman, Douglas Kerrison talks about filling a void, understanding the kids, and continually learning.

I retired just pre-COVID. I was working in the farm industry. It was the kind of job where it was all repeat business. So you built up relationships. Friday night [and I was] finished after 50 years. Monday morning [and the] phone didn't ring. Silence. There was a huge void, a massive void. And that's really hard to handle.

A good friend through farming, Lynne knew that I already volunteered with the Scottish Paraclimbing Club. So that's with physically disabled and other non-visible disabilities - young and old. So she said, "I think this is interesting for you. I think you should have a go at this".

I'll be the one that - when they're doing the M-check – [seeing that] the brakes are right or the forks are back to front, or the handlebars are the wrong way or the levers are in the wrong position. I'm the one that does that. So that's my area. And then if we've got youngsters who can't cycle, I often deal with them in a one-to-one. If there's young people that are on the autism spectrum, I'll maybe work with them because I've had practice with paraclimbing and have done disability courses. So that's the way I fit into the team. And it lets them do the main thing, which is to get the kids manoeuvring and confident at Level 1 in the playground. So I'm kind of like a reserve, as it were.

I find it very interesting watching all four of those [instructors]. They all have different approaches. And it's absolutely fascinating. It's, "oh, I can cycle this. I'll just do a wheelie across the playground". I think we had two or three classes. Maybe sixty kids. Now with sixty kids, we maybe had eight [who weren't engaged]. The rest were great.

You get such a boost out of the ones that are maybe not confident in a bike, but by the time you're finished, they are. They're confident in the road. And you balance that against the ones that think they know it all or just it's not a good day for them. But the other thing is, you don't know what sort of morning they've had. You don't know if they've had a breakfast. There are so many other reasons that could be behind the way they're behaving that day, but it's an eye opener. And I keep thinking. It was never like that when I was at school, but that's several generations ago.

Without having this, what would I be doing? Sitting watching daytime TV? I need the contact with people. And it's keeping me fit. It's keeping my mind active. Every school is different, every kid is different. And you're just building skills all the time when you're dealing with them because you always come across something you haven't come across before.

The kids are more open now and tell you what they think and tell you how they're feeling. I was expecting them to be much more reserved but you get far more interaction. When I finished the Level 1 and 2 training, I thought, I might be out of my depth here, but probably end of the first session at Preston Tower, I thought, I'm going to go for this.

I'm loving the bits where we're dealing with, the mechanical side. I love just getting them so their bikes are safe. I've done silver Velotech, so I'd like to get involved in the Doctor Bike sessions and then just recently did Cycle Ride Leader course. It's progressive and I find that going through courses keeps you in tune and it keeps the brain working. Every time you do a course, if you do it with a different person, [a] different instructor, [and] you're coming across a different way of learning.

You have to have a mix. Mix of gender, mix of age, just mix of way of presenting it. As long as the core sections are following the guidelines. But the way that it's delivered can be different and it makes it more interesting for the kids. It can't be parrot-fashion.

Douglas is a Bikeability Scotland volunteer in East Lothian.

Bikeability volunteer Douglas sitting on a rock

Interested in becoming a Bikeability Scotland volunteer?

Would you like to be involved in helping to teach children to ride confidently and safely?

The first step is to contact your Bikeability Scotland Coordinator to find out if your local area needs volunteers.