My cousin Susan lost her beloved husband, Tom, a few months ago after a long and valiant fight against several illnesses. I had the pleasure of meeting Tom and Susan when they lived in London for a while in about 1980 and sometime later when they were stationed in Nuremburg. Tom was a great guy and is missed sorely.
Susan sent a message informing me that Tom’s cousin is apparently married to Olympic figure skating champion Scott Hamilton. This was a very nice piece of information which brought back a number of memories to me. First of all, I remember the figure skating in the mid-1970s when John Curry became world and Olympic champion. He introduced the grace and beauty of ballet to figure skating and walked away with all the major titles in the 1975-76 season. When he retired his place was taken by Scott Hamilton who changed the scene completely by introducing strength and athleticism including his famous backward somersault, which was banned for a while, as it was considered to be too dangerous. Both John Curry and Scott Hamilton delighted their audiences over the years and now by accidental coincidence, I am part of that fame 😊
My own skating career began at the Deeside leisure centre in 1976. I went there with my cousin Susan together with my brother David. We each rented a pair of skates, and took to the ice. We had 20 minutes to get around the track as many times as we could. In my case the furthest I got from the side was maybe three metres I spent most of the time falling over I think in the 20 minutes I covered one lap of the track after we were done there was a speed skating for those that could skate and then we went back and did another 20 minutes equally as unimpressive.
Some years later after moving to Sweden, some friends from my corridor took me out to skating on a nearby Lake using long distance skates. These were a bit longer than the standard skates and were strapped onto my gymnastic shoes. The technique was to sort of move from side-to-side leaning forwards and hopefully that would cause some kind of propulsion to get around the Lake. Maybe I managed one or two kilometres during that day, mostly being pushed along by the others, and I thought it was a lot of fun but I didn’t go back for some time.
A couple of years later one of my PhD colleagues Anders invited me to his house over Christmas and said that we would go playing hockey so I had to buy a pair of hockey skates. When the day came to play, we went to this hockey rink. I put on the skates and tried to skate. As expected, I was not very good and I found that I could turn to the right but I couldn’t turn to the left. I complained that there was something wrong with the skates but the others just laughed at me. As it turned out, one of Anders friends, Ronnie, tested my skates and discovered that in fact the blades were incorrectly positioned and that he could only turn to the right as well but that’s another Story. Since then, I have tried long distance skating or the number of occasions with some degree of success managing some trips of almost up to 10 kilometres.
It turned out some years later that I ended up in Gothenburg, in the chemistry laboratory at the University. Some of the people there played in the local amateur Hockey League and asked if I would like to join. I informed him that I was actually unable to skate but said that I was game anyway. They told me that I could be the goalkeeper, as there were no requirements to be able to skate for that position. On the day of the first match, we went down to the hockey stadium got changed and then got out onto the ice. The first comment was by somebody who noticed that “Chris actually cannot skate” they hadn’t counted on that, as when a Swede says he cannot skate it usually means that he is fairly competent, whereas when somebody from the UK says he cannot skate it means he cannot skate. The game started and after a few minutes we were four-nil down. But then I got some instructions from one of my team-mates who advised me to forget about skating just get in the way of the ball, so that was my philosophy for the rest of the game. Every time the ball came close, I just jumped in its general direction, apparently to good effect. The game ended in a 4-4 draw and we were quite happy with that. As the season progressed, I became quite competent as a goalkeeper not letting very many goals in and we ended up in second place in the League. I even have a plaque to prove it. For some reason I didn’t get invited back for the following season.
Long-distance skating is much more relaxing than skating on a hockey rink on one occasion I went out and it was very cold in the region of 20 degrees below zero. I was wearing a woollen pullover that my mother had knitted for me and as it was quite an exertion to skate, I was perspiring quite a bit, and of course at some stage I had to fall over. When this happened, the moisture that had condensed on the outside of my pullover froze to the ice resulting in me becoming frozen to the surface. My friends had to scrape me up from the ice leaving an outline of my pullover on the surface. (Unfortunately, there is no graphic evidence for this particular episode).
Another skating experience was when I went out with my brother-in-law, Lars, for midnight skating on a small Lake. We had done some reconnaissance during the afternoon and found this the ice to be in perfect condition so we went out at midnight by the light of a full moon. We put a Lantern at one end of the Lake so that we could see where we had to get back to and then off we went and skated around the Lake it was a fantastic feeling. If Bitte had been with me it would have been romantic but as it was Lars, we just had a Cup of coffee a hot dog and went back home again. My skating career came to an end at about this stage as I discovered skiing instead and found that to be much more interesting and a lot easier to cope with especially as the snow tends to be a lot less hard compared to the ice.