On a walk today I found myself passing the ice skating rink (‘the coolest place in town!’) where my late father was a devoted member of the skating club for about fifty years. He went every Saturday evening and every Sunday afternoon. We children tried ice skating as well, but were not as taken by it as he was.
I was already thinking of myself as a pianist, and at the skating rink it wasn’t long before I started to have ghastly visions of falling on the ice and having my fingers instantly sliced off by the sharp blades of someone’s skates as they whizzed by in mid-arabesque. I became afraid of falling, and that in itself made me a poor skater.
When we looked in at the ice rink today there was a club session in progress, but business was not booming. The organisers said that skating had suffered from the fact that everyone now goes abroad for their holidays. Going to the local ice rink was once a popular holiday activity, but no longer. TV shows such as ‘Dancing on Ice’ have brought a bit of a revival, but ‘people want instant success. They get discouraged when they find it’s going to take them a while to become good at it.’ Hmm. I felt I had encountered that attitude elsewhere.
But how my Dad enjoyed the club in its heyday! He was a ballroom dancer too, with a good sense of rhythm and a steady demeanour. He knew all the tunes. At the ice rink he was a popular partner with the ladies, glamorously attired in their spangly skating outfits. When I was learning to skate, I was occasionally invited to dance. As I gingerly waltzed round the rink my Dad and his partner would keep swinging gracefully into my orbit and out again, Dad’s contented gaze fixed on some distant utopia as he silently whistled along with the electric organ.
When there were skating competitions on the telly, his laconic comments told me what I should be looking for. I still look for those things today when watching the Winter Olympics. Grace, rhythm, balance and musicality – you can’t go wrong with those. And don’t look smug – it’s annoying!