I can’t remember the last time I went ice skating. I do know I have been ice-skating before – I still have an occasional ache in my left elbow from when I fell. It is undoubtedly true what they say that the hardest part of ice-skating is the ice!
I went ice-skating last week – Thursday in fact. Thursday is the US holiday in celebration of Thanksgiving…and I have long since recognised the benefit of being able to take a vacation day when the US – especially those colleagues who I do most of my work with – has a Public Holiday.
It was an artificial skating rink of course – there are very few times or places when it’s cold enough in the UK to allow lakes or rivers to freeze that deeply. But at this time of year ice-rinks appear all over the place. That having been said, it was still my wife’s idea…and it did give me reasons to think and plan.
The thinking was about how long ago it was since I slipped and landed on that elbow. The planning was what I was going to do to prevent any repeat occurrence. And sure enough I did find my supply of elbow, knee and wrist protectors hidden away in a box in the garage.
The second piece of planning was what I was going to wear. Not so much as to look the part on the ice…more to try to disguise the fact that I had all these joint pads on from the other skaters.
In many ways of course I needn’t have worried. It was obvious as we arrived that no-one as taking any notice of me – everyone was either too excited – or too worried – about themselves. My other immediate observation was that the skates I hired were new…and the blades were sharp. I thought both of these augured well…on what basis I have no idea…but I was looking for any reassurance at this point.
We started. I stood motionless as my wife disappeared off on her first circuit. And then I shuffled. The closest resemblance my shuffling had to skating is that both words begin with an ‘s’. The good news was that I had zero chance of falling as I never let go of the side of the rink. And I quickly learned that polite smiling was the best approach when anyone – aged between 4 and 74 (approximately) – passes you on an ice-skating rink. Survival rapidly takes over from pride. Fear overcomes vanity. In the blink of an eye.
And then something strange happened. My second, third and even fourth circuits were just as slow and just as poor – in fact worse – than the first one. I was showing zero progress. At this point I stopped by the entrance…looked longingly at the adjacent coffee bar, and the comfy seats…and made my choice.
Suddenly my wife was appeared by my side. ‘You are doing really well’ she said. ‘You are getting better each lap’. ‘Come on, let’s go again’. And she was off.
That was all I needed…that and the realisation that the coffee bar wasn’t open yet. So off I went. Back into the fray. Uncomfortable. Ungainly. Uncool. But I did it anyway.
And by the end of our hour, I was even lapping the circuit without touching. I still looked (and felt) unsteady – and people still seemed to get out of my way very quickly when they saw me coming.
But we had so much fun – most of it at my expense mind you – but who cares. I tried something new – or virtually new.
I didn’t fall…or fail…I flourished…almost.