There's no middle ground on rollerblades. You either leap to your feet and zoom about confidently like a Starlight Express chorus-girl or you stand jerkily like a newborn foal and roll awkwardly away with arms flailing, like a cartoon character on a banana skin-strewn pavement.
This is a shame because, once you're good, inline skating is excellent. It's a speedy way of commuting. It's the best way of park and seafront promenading, being more involved than a bicycle and less ordinary than walking. It's marvellous for meeting people. And it's good for you - vigorous blading burns 700 calories an hour, about the same as jogging, and is particularly good for back, shoulders, bum and thighs, a useful low-impact work-out. Low-impact, that is, if you avoid smacking face first into the concrete.
Luckily, you can fast-track the idiot phase by having lessons and joining a "group skate" to gain confidence. Having been utterly artless on roller-skates, skateboards and anything similar throughout childhood, I was a good test case. If I could blade, so could anyone.
I met 31-year-old instructor Andreas Kolattek by the Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park on a lovely weekday morning. Just a few joggers and dog walkers cruised the broad car-less boulevard.
As I struggled into my crash pads, Kolattek explained that he'd left the City in 2001 to attempt one summer on a skater's salary. He managed it and became a full-time skating instructor. His company, Citiskate, now has 16 part-time instructors, three group skating events in London every weekend and regular trips to group skates in European cities.
"Seventy per cent of students are women," Kolattek said, as I mastered standing still with my skates in a V-shape. "They're better beginners because they're better at shifting their weight from side to side. And guys tend not to listen."
Determined to smash sexual stereotyping, I learnt the heel brake stop, then the basic turn. I was wobbly but getting more confident by the minute under Kolattek's calm tuition. By the end I was attempting "backwards lemons" - separating then squeezing the blades together to propel oneself backwards, jellyfish-style.
After a few practice sessions in the local park, uneventful apart from the odd tumble and one hurtle into a clutch of sulky but startled hooded teens, I was ready for the simplest of Citiskate's group events: the Easy Peasy Skate.
"I started the Easy Peasy for kids," Kolattek explained, "But it's mostly adults now. It's great for beginners: flat surfaces and you stay in the park, away from traffic."
Battersea Park was beautiful that sunny Saturday morning; full of joggers, cyclists, dogs and children. About 30 of us gathered around 42-year-old Easy Peasy leader Brian Devlin. Ages ranged from 22 to 50 but most were thirtysomething.
"It's 3.8 miles, twice around the park," Devlin explained in a cheery Scottish accent. "Take it easy, have a chat as you go round, don't think about the skating and the skating will take care of itself. If you fall, just make sure you clean the ground when you get up."
After everyone had chuckled nervously and introduced themselves - just names, no embarrassing "what I hope to achieve" stuff - we were off. Two people became briefly entangled, one fell over and it was immediately clear that I wasn't the worst. Brimming with schadenfreude-fuelled confidence, I coasted along next to 32-year-old barrister Alison Janissarian. She'd had four lessons with Kolattek and was much better than me: "I work really long hours," she said, "so I wanted to get out, do something different and meet some people who weren't barristers."
Gliding through the agreeable and underrated park, I chatted to pretty much everyone. Some of them were halfway through a course of group lessons with CitiÃÂskate, some were having private tuition, but most were just there for the fun of skating in a gang and to make friends.
Although abilities varied, everyone made it to the end and enjoyed themselves, from 34-year-old physio therapist Brian Kelly, who always looked like he was about to fall, to Roop Kalair, a 29-year-old IT worker who zoomed about like a superhero, until wiping out spectacularly but painlessly.
It really was fun and afterwards we had a very cheery drink at a lakeside café, before splitting and heading back through London's vastness to our separate lives.
"The next stage," leader Devlin told me, "Is the Sunday Stroll. It's 10 miles, quite quick. We see if people are good enough to move on at the Easy Peasy Skate."
More advanced than even the Sunday Stroll is the Friday Night Skate, a fast road route that sounds terrifying. For now I'm going to stick to the Easy Peasy. But I can already feel improvement so who knows? Maybe one day I'll be good enough to skate to work . . .
"Blading through traffic is so much fun," said Devlin, "that people think it must be illegal!"