Friday, February 04, 2005

Holiday on Ice it is not. Not even a holiday, probably, but I won't know until I wake up tomorrow and find out just how stiff I'm going to be. But ice? Yes.

What I'm getting around to saying, is I had my first ice skating lesson today. Paul came too, with the attitude a cat has when faced with the prospect of swimming lessons.

Let me admit I have skated before. They had an ice rink in Bloemfontein. Once. And I did go and skate. Probably also once. And it was nearly forty years ago. But, it counts for something, surely?

Anyway, we arrive and hire our skates. They almost certainly didn't realise we are complete novice skaters. Most middle-aged couples in the Netherlands have probably being doing it all their lives. So they gave us grown-up skates, not the training skates young kids use. (Training skates are to skates what tricycles are to bicycles. They have little extra skating blades on the sides ...)

The neighbours think our skating lesson is hilarious. This was even before they saw us on the ice. I suppose you don't expect people our age to take swimming lessons either, which must be the South African equivalent. I see their point.

Our teacher took us more seriously. He took one look at us and went off to get some rollators. Well, that's what he called them. Essentially, these are like the walkers you see the infirm elderly use to keep their balance. And here I was hoping it would be a long time before I need one of those.

Nothing daunted, we grab our walkers, I mean skaters, or rollators, or whatever and start off with our little training steps. Ice is damned slippery! The instructor, (with a name that sounds like Phew!) comes over and shows me how to move my feet. Oh, and look up! I obey, and go skating off around the beginners's corner with gusto, armed with my rollator, trying hard to look forward and not at my feet.

I'm just starting to get the hang of it when Phew! calls me over. "Ok," he says, and pushes my rollator away from me. "Go after it. Push, and chase."

I glance over at Paul. He's allowed to keep his rollator with him, why not me? Oh well. I push the thing away and skate after it. Push. Chase. Push. Chase. OK. I can do that.

Next thing Phew! has grabbed my rollator and taken it away! No more support system! "You don't need it," he says. "Just go." Aaargh. I go.

This apparently is not good enough either. Now Phew! wants me to skate on one foot, lifting the other off the ground, not high, about 1 cm. One foot at a time. OK, I nearly come a cropper, but manage to stay standing. I try and follow his example of pushing out to the side. Eeek. But it's OK. I'm managing.

By now, we're ten minutes into the lesson. Phew! decides it's time I try the main track, a 400m oval where all the experts are skating away. Oh well. Off I go. The kids are pretty boisterous, but I manage to avoid collisions. I try the one foot thing and nearly fall over a couple of times. But I do see some people with a lovely skating rhythm, and get the idea of what Phew! means by this strange one legged skating thing. It also conserves energy, so once you get into the swing of staying on one foot for longer, you could probably go for miles without getting tired.

Have I mentioned long distance skating is the national sport of the Netherlands? If I'm going to learn this, I'm probably in the best place in the world to do so.

Yeah so I go around. And again. This could be addictive.

"Very good" says Phew! "Most beginners need about two hours with the rollator. And here you are skating already." OK. So it seems exposure at an early age does count for something. Mothers, get your children onto skates. (Yes, I mean you!)

"So," I say to Paul afterwards, "I suppose skating is a healthier addiction than Scrabble®?"

"Hmmm." He thinks about this for a split second. "I can see it now, Janet, star of Scrabble® on Ice".

Yes, I like that idea.