Five-minute memoir: On thin ice

 

I was not, by any measure, an athletic child. My tiny stick legs never moved quite fast enough, and my hand-eye coordination bordered on non-existent. Despite my parents' noble attempts to engage my inner athlete, signing me up for everything from softball to tennis lessons, I showed neither athletic interest nor potential. At 10, I found myself coordinating dance routines on the football field with the similarly indifferent centre-fielder.

Then, when I was 11, I took up ice skating. At the time, my enthusiasm for sports directly corresponded to the sport's sparkle content. And as far as I could tell, ice skating's sparkle content was high. There were glittery costumes and colourful dresses and practice outfits made of shiny Lycra and chiffon. Dressing up, wearing make-up, and trying to look pretty were actually a part of the sport. This, I decided, was a sport I could love.

My parents, thrilled they had at last found an athletic endeavour I enjoyed, signed me up for lessons with one of the skating club's coaches. They bought me a new pair of skates, white and smooth as eggshells, and invested in a few sleek practice outfits. Committed to putting my new wardrobe to use, I practised religiously, after school and at weekends, and to my surprise (and possibly my parents') I wasn't terrible. I wasn't good, per se, but I could jump and spin and skate backwards and forwards without falling. With every new jump and spin I learnt, my confidence ballooned, as did my hunger for learning more: more jumps, more choreography, more footwork, more everything. Then one day, after warming up with a few laps around the rink, my coach, Lisa, proposed an idea: what did I think about skating in my first competition?

I loved the idea. A competition presented an opportunity to show my family and friends I possessed at least a modicum of athleticism and grace. More than that, it provided a chance to wear my first proper skating costume. With my coach, I developed my first routine, a 90-second programme set to an orchestral version of The Beatles' "Yellow Submarine". After weeks of practising toe loops and Salchows and sit spins, my coach smiled and patted me on the shoulder. I was ready.

On the day of the competition, I stepped on to the ice to warm up, wearing a fiery coral dress studded with brilliant crystals. My mum had sewn the crystals on to the dress herself, threading the delicate beads on to the bodice and along the hem of the skirt. The costume was electric, setting off my petite frame against the bright white ice. As I warmed up, I felt like Nancy Kerrigan or Kristi Yamaguchi.

Unfortunately, I did not look like either of them once I began my performance. With the opening musical flourish, I began as I always had, with a twirl and a series of three-turns, but then, 10 seconds into my routine, I looked out across the ice at the audience and noticed everyone's eyes glued to me. I froze. Everyone was staring at me – watching, waiting. My mind went blank. I could not remember what came next.

Instead of doing three-turns and crossovers, I meandered across the ice, like a vagabond wandering into the mist, the tune of "Yellow Submarine" blaring in the background. I scanned the crowd for my coach or my mother, hoping one of them would be able to stop the music or tell me what to do. But I couldn't find either of their faces in the crowd. All I could see were a bunch of strangers, staring in bewilderment as I drifted aimlessly across the ice. I wanted to shout, "Mum! Lisa! Stop the music!". But I was on my own. I could either give up and skate off the ice or keep going and somehow save this routine. I kept going.

Through luck or sheer will, or a combination thereof, the choreography rushed back to me, and I carried on with the routine. I finished with great gusto and, to my surprise, ended up winning the bronze. Needless to say, the competition wasn't steep. But I didn't care. I'd won the bronze, and I'd done it on my own.

The competition was the first of several, all of which followed a similar pattern of disaster and surprise, and eventually I gave up the sport for other non-athletic pursuits to which I was better suited. But long after I'd quit ice skating, that first competition stuck with me. There have been many times since that day when, faced with one of life's trials, I have felt lost and alone, without any immediate relief in sight. Every time, I've had two clear choices: give up and walk off the ice, or keep skating until I figure out, in my own way and on my own time, what to do next. Every time, I choose to skate.

'The Secret Supper Club', by Dana Bate, is out now, published by Canvas

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor