Somewhere else

August 3, 2011

When Harry Went Ice Skating

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — waltersdaughter @ 2:33 pm

 When Harry Went Ice Skating

Originally written April 25th 2011

He didn’t meet anyone – that I noticed, anyway – he was too busy zooming round the perimeter of the rink honing his gliding, dodging and turning skills.

I, on the other hand, as a mere observer on this occasion, met several interesting people.

Harry was one of the first out onto the ice this morning. I watched anxiously for a little while, until I could see that he was quite at ease in this element, then relaxed and began to take in the other skaters as one by one, they teetered onto the surface.

I had planned to explore the nearby Grimtown while Harry was enjoying himself, but it was quickly apparent that “people watching” was the more entertaining way to spend my three free hours.

The skater who had put Harry into  second-onto-the-ice position was a mature gentleman. He was trying out a couple of stylish moves which belied his age. He came off for a rest every now and then, which gave us the chance to exchange a few words each time. I’m not sure whether it’s me or the openness of people in The Wolds, but I very quickly learned his name, age, marital status and medical history! (Actually, after the second exchange, Harry popped off the ice to come and ask me if I was being “chatted up”!) Now here was a man to be admired for his zest for life! He’d only been skating for three years, since the age of seventy three and after recent life-threatening cancer and the subsequent surgery, radio- and chemotherapy. Ice-skating added to his other hobbies of sequence dancing, ballroom dancing, motorcycling and visiting far-flung countries! His words and his actions were inspirational:

You can either give up, sit inside and watch life going on outside your window, or you can get up, get out and live life to the full!”

He proudly showed me the badges he’d earned for his skating competence, wearing them on his waistcoat as a child might display swimming badges on his costume. He was also pleased to tell me that I wouldn’t forget his name; his surname, Sleygh; his first, Robert.

“They call me Bob Sleygh!” he smiled.

The next onto the ice were four young friends, about fourteen I would estimate. The two boys, sporting those wonderful sideways-swept-into-the-face hairstyles (not the most practical of arrangements for seeing out from when binocular vision might be an advantage!) slid along with caution but increasing speed and confidence, while the girls held hands and the board at the side and slowly giggled their way round. One of the girls, I noticed, was admiring Harry’s prowess, and seemed to smile in his direction rather a lot.

A large group of dark-haired young lads spilled boisterously onto the scene next, accompanied by four adult guardians. The boys’ lack of previous experience on the ice was all too evident as they tottered, slipped, skittled and bumped onto various parts of their anatomy, causing the elderly gentleman to proclaim that they looked

“- – more like a bunch of tadpoles in a pond than skaters on an ice rink!”

I learned that these youngsters were on their last day of a fortnight’s visit from Malta – members of a sea scouts group being looked after by a similar group in this country. They’d had a wonderful time doing “boaty” things in Scotland and this was a fun last day for them. Their fun ended when one of the smaller boys fell heavily and awkwardly onto his ankle, resulting in his being carried off the rink to await the summoned ambulance crew. Again, Mr. Sleygh had pertinent words:

“They have nine broken limbs a month here, you know!”

Two little sisters, with neatly tied-back hair, flesh-coloured thick tights and dainty dance skirts, strode in towing cabin-crew-like pink cases with long handles. They sat along from me on the bench and produced white boots with gleaming blades, which, once tied on, were covered again by their fleshy tights to make long uninterrupted legs, skirt to ice. Their entrance onto the rink was effortless and they were soon pirouetting and salchowing in the centre of the arena, practising until their trainer joined them. They were good – very good.

An interesting but little known fact is that Harry’s maternal grandmother’s cousin (attenuated or what?!) was a European Ice Dance Championship medallist and later, coach to a pair of very well-known British ice-dancers! (Harry might have a bit of the gene, but he’s hoping to use it for ice-hockey, rather than dancing!)

Harry was concerned I might have been bored today. He needn’t have worried.

When Harry and I went to the rink today, Harry did the skating, I did the meeting.


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