Have you ever watched someone doing something that looks simple and you decide to try it and you sit down at the piano after watching a virtuoso and you place your fingers on the keys and play and all you hear is Bing Bang Plunk Boing and your fingers feel like lead. You hope no-one heard you making a fool of yourself.
Or you watch someone doing the high dive and think it looks easy and you climb up the high steps of the highest diving board and you walk to the end of the board… When your friend has peeled your fingers off the railing and you look down miles to the surface of the pool and you feel sick in your stomach and you freeze and then shuffle ignominiously back to safety, averting your eyes from the grinning professionals as you creep down to the ground and cover yourself with your towel and rush off to the change rooms. You’ll never try that again.
One day when we were in high school my best friend invited me to go ice skating. I must explain that Charlene went for figure skating lessons every Saturday and had her own sparkling white boots and little flared skirt and tights and everything. I had never been ice skating before
We arrived at the old Wembley Ice rink one glorious Saturday morning. The air in the rink was chilly and we had jerseys and gloves on too, I will never forget the cold smell of the place. I had to hire skates as I didn’t have any kit like tights and short skirt and….OK. You get the picture. I probably wore my gym skirt and shirt. In those days they didn’t have the rigid plastic boots they have now; they had ancient leather boots that were so worn and soft and wobbly you had to also hire an ankle guard, which made the hiree look like a polio victim. And you still wobbled along looking more knock-kneed than you really were. Charlene helped me to tie the boots on as tightly as was comfortable, then the ankle guards, and then she helped me stagger out to arena. I was so exhausted by the time I got out there, I opted to sit and watch for a bit. Fat excuse. I was terrified.
Charlene was a real expert. She could skate backwards and twirl and glide on one foot. And do fancy little jumps .It looked like magic. Finally I was ready to brave the ice. With ankles twisting painfully, I lurched to the gate onto the ice and held tightly to the barrier as I stepped out onto the ice. My feet promptly slipped out from under me and I clutched the barrier like grim death! That was the story of the rest of the morning. I clung desperately to the edge, slipping and sliding and hanging when I couldn’t control my feet. Each time I came around to the little entrance onto the ice, which looked and felt like a chasm which I could not bring my self to skate across. I climbed off and tottered across the meter space to the next leg of the journey around the rink. It was the bing bang plunk boing again, but on the ice.
What a relief when they had a speed skating session. And then they spent time scraping the ice with their huge machine, which was also a welcome respite. I could sit nonchalantly pretending I was an old hand at this. Then it was back onto the ice.
At the end of the morning when I took off the boots, I could hardly walk. My feet, and especially my ankles felt as though they were broken. My knees and bottom felt badly bruised and I was quite sure that my arms were at least 20 cms longer than they should be. But I was smitten.
It was all I could do to get back to the ice rink the next Saturday. When Charlene didn’t go, I went on my own, which meant a long journey across town to Turffontein by bus. And I repeated my performance, getting covered in bruises, and clinging to the barrier and walking across the chasm….etc etc.
Finally when my mother realised I was really serious about this, she bought me a shabby pair of second hand skates. Dilapidated as they were, they were far better than the hire skates. I began to get my confidence and soon I was able to skate across the meter gate to the other barrier. Then I skated across the middle. What a day that was. As time went by, I bought a beautiful pair of white boots, and a little flared skirt. I started taking lessons and was able to skate backwards and twirl and glide on one leg; and more. The ice-rink became my second home and I made some wonderful friends. Perseverance won in the end. The freedom to be able to skate properly was amazing.
Where to from here? Flying lessons? High diving? Piano lessons? Who knew. The world was my oyster. I had proved to myself that I could overcome anything .