Saturday, June 11, 2016

Something a bit different...

I've been toying with writing this for a while but couldn't decide whether I could a) bring myself to do it or b) handle the exposure.

But you know what, if it helps someone else feel less alone then let's go for it. Maybe it will encourage people to think before they speak too, and avoid them inadvertently causing untold heartache.

No one does it deliberately, or with malice, but for the media/law trained among you, this is a strict liability offence. The intent, or lack of it, in no way mitigates the crime.

The "offence"? Commenting on, or even asking about, someone's childless status.

"Do you have children then?" This was the first question the beautician asked me yesterday while waxing my legs.
It could have been left there, but of course, it wasn't. It never is.
"Oh?" Like I'm some sort of freak who isn't doing what they're supposed to do.
"Why not?" Joking now, with a sort of wink: "Too young?" She can clearly see I'm not too young. In fact, she can see I'm a little too old, if anything.
Now, what can I respond to that? Yes, I'm too young. Loving the freedom. No, but I don't want children.
I could tell the truth. But I can guarantee she won't know where to put herself if I do. So I shrug it off, put on a fake little laugh, and change the subject.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg in reality. Not a day goes by when someone doesn't comment: "Oooh, pregnant?!" to a woman - any woman - who's just announced she feels a bit sick.

Put yourself in the shoes of someone who's tried everything to have the family she's always longed for. She might have cried every month for five years when the dreaded "time of the month" yet again slaps her in the face. She'll have had endless hospital appointments, undergone invasive, embarrassing, even humiliating, tests, perhaps had rounds of treatment, maybe even surgery. And yet, every month, it's the same.

One day, she's told there's no hope. And there really is no hope. Not "Oh-go-on-hoilday-and-relax-it-might-happen-hope" not "I've-known-people-who've-been-through-IVF-and-then-they-fell-pregnant-naturally-hope". There is no hope. No medical chance. Zilch. Nada. It's not possible. Will never be possible.

Make no mistake - she's suffering grief. She may not have physically lost a child, but in reality that's exactly what's happened. She's lost the child she imagined, maybe even named.
She might have collected toys or clothes she wanted to give to them one day.
There's the sudden feeling of irrelevance. It's all those mementos she's collected over the years to pass onto her own family. The one that's now - and will forever be - non-existent. The wisdom she wanted to share - how she wanted to teach them the hobbies she's enjoyed - the diaries she saved to one day show them - and the family photos there's no one to share with.
It's trying to find meaning in life without a family. No children = no grandchildren.
It's looking to a future in a care home, with no one to visit her.

Meanwhile, she'll have a disappointed mother, who feels desperate to be a gran, and she'll feel pressure to hold herself together in the face of carrying on with "everyday life", work, making the tea etc. And she doesn't want to upset her equally devastated husband any more than he already is, so she puts on a brave face.

She continues - because what other option is there?

I know what some are thinking at this point - because it's often the standard response. Why not "just adopt". There are plenty of children out there needing families, right? Yes, that may help some. It may not help others. A suggestion that paints her - again, inadvertently - as selfish for wanting her own isn't going to help her feel better. I promise you, she will have considered all the options.

As someone without her own children - perhaps no experience of raising children - she may not feel in a position to do a good job of bringing up an older child, or one with additional care needs - and that's just one potential scenario. There's also the fact that this wrung-out shell of a woman who's been poked, prodded, and suffered untold levels of heartbreak has just been through three, five, maybe ten years of hell. Beginning another drawn-out - maybe another five year - process which puts her under scrutiny and asks her to justify why she should be "approved" to have a family - when most others can just have one, literally no questions asked - is probably something she can't face.

Now remember you're in her shoes. And tell me how you feel when a joking friend - meaning no harm - suggests you might be pregnant - and how you respond to the question of why you have no children at your age?

Thursday, December 03, 2015

14 Christmas gift ideas for skaters

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

Skater types always love skating-themed gifts, no question. A new pair of Chloes, a skirt, a dress, a hoodie, a jacket, new soakers or blade guards....the possibilities are endless.

Since my list last year was so popular (which I hope means some of you had an awesome Christmas!), I decided to update it for this year for you to share with (and hint to) your family and friends ;-)

So here are 14 ideas to begin with for something a little bit special.

Happy hinting!

Little disclaimer: I haven't necessarily bought any of these things and can take no responsibility for the quality of items or reputable nature of any of the websites linked. Check those things out for yourself! (Although, as an aside, I have used Cafepress and had nothing but joy from them:-)


Do you know any girl who doesn't love a new necklace or pair of earrings? There are quite a few bits of skating jewellery out there to be found if you look hard enough. Here are just some ideas.

As far as stocking fillers go, these cute earrings, left, are perfect. A snip at just £5.99 from Iceventure.

For something again not too expensive, this blue stoned skate necklace, right, available from iceventureuk is adorable. I got one of these for Christmas last year and love it. My only complaint would be the chain has tarnished somewhat in the time I've had it, but what do you want for £10.99?

For something a little more upmarket, how about this Thomas Sabo silver and white enamel ice skate charm? It's £39.95 on its own, but obviously would be a bit more pricey if you got a bracelet to go along with it.

Another super cute necklace is this one, below, which also comes with an initial monogram and birthstone-coloured bead for the personal touch. This one's £10.18 (plus shipping) from Etsy.


Irving Brokaw's The Art of Skating

Irving Brokaw was the first American to compete in figure skating at the Olympics in 1908 (the first Olympics to include it as a sport). Including lots of illustrations and pictures, Irving Brokaw's book charts the history and

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Flexibility/stretching tutorials

I was asked recently if I could share some of the YouTube tutorials for stretching that are out there, so here are a few links for anyone it might help.

I'm not a coach and not qualified in anything of this sort, so if anyone qualified is reading this and sees any issues with any of these videos/tutorials, please do let me know.

Stretches for getting your splits:

Back stretches:

In fact, all of Lisa Maree's videos are pretty good - her channel is here: BalletLisa

"The Frog" is really good for opening hips (although it's not the most lady-like of poses!!):

Another for stretching the legs and improving hip flexibility:

If you're really at a beginner level, this is a great video showing you some starter stretches:

I hope these help!

Sunday, July 05, 2015

7 figure skating scenes in movies and TV shows NOT about skating

The Ice Princess, Cutting Edge, Blades of Glory...every skater has seen at least two out of the three I'm sure.

I think skaters are pre-programmed to seek out films, TV shows and even adverts that feature figure skating - despite knowing they'll be angered on some level by the unrealistic elements and timescales contained within. Of course everyone can knock out a double axel after three weeks of lessons, right?

But how many of these little gems did you notice? And are there more? Please do share your own in the comments.

1) Orange is the New Black

Uzo Aduba (aka Crazy Eyes) in her skating days, left.

This scene featuring my favourite character Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren was the inspiration for this blog post, actually. When I saw the episode a couple of weeks ago, I just had to Google the actress, Uzo Aduba, to find out if she was a figure skater. No non-skater could land that lovely off-ice axel, I thought. Sure enough, it turns out Uzo skated for 10 years as a youngster. No surprise.

2) Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The first time I saw this scene was long before skating was on my radar, and I recall my younger self thinking what a lovely skater Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy) was. Now I recognise the simple but elegant turns for what they really are :-)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

10 things I learned from watching BACS (British Adult Championships)

A couple of weekends ago, I went down to Sheffield with friends to watch the British Adult Championships. I try to go every year because it's so inspirational to watch other skaters my age and older competing. It was a fantastic event, as usual, and all the skaters were brilliant.

Here are some things I learned (or had reinforced in my mind) this year.

1) Adult skaters are paranoid. 

Not ALL adult skaters are paranoid, of course. You can't lump a whole bunch of people together like that, but certainly among skaters I know, this can be true.

I, and many others I know, often feel judged when we skate. Maybe we are sometimes. But at BACS, there's nothing but admiration for other skaters to be heard. When any skater is called out onto the rink at Sheffield, whatever their ability, skill level, or however long they've been skating, the only comments to be heard are positive ones, or occasionally "constructively-intended" criticism. There's not a bitchy word to be heard. It's refreshing when competitive sport can often be harsh.

2) Adult skaters are extremely supportive of one another.

Basically, see above.

3) Confidence, or lack of it, shows...

It's true. A confident skater is instantly judged to be a good skater. If they believe in themselves, it comes across. A lack of confidence does the opposite. If a skater skates out onto the rink with head held high and a beaming smile, the audience (and no doubt judges) are already making assumptions about what's to come. First impressions count.

4) ...BUT if you fake your confidence, it still shows.

Confidence is a state of mind - but it's also an outward impression. If you don't feel confident, try to come out with the head held high and the beaming smile anyway. Who's going to know you don't really feel it inside? The answer is - only you. Those first impressions will still be one of confidence, instantly colouring the audience's and judges' opinions of your skating skills.

5) Posture makes all the difference...

This point is again related to confidence. A slouchy skater looks to lack confidence, and therefore skill. If Mao Asada skated out onto the rink with a hunched up back, looking down at the ice, would you have been as impressed?

But this point also goes further than that. As we all know (or should know), the placement of the upper body makes a world of difference to our skating. My coach must have told me a million times that having my head looking up and in the right direction means I'm more likely to be on the right edge, or not scraping my toepicks, etc etc...

6) ...As do nice arms...

Even at some of the lower levels in which a skater doesn't yet have the confidence and/or ability to "do" too many "pretty arms" in their program, a nice, straight set of arms looks so much more confident than those with a bend at the elbow, or floppy arms. I see why my coach is a big fan of shouting "ARMS!" at me now. :-)

7) ...And finally - shoulders. 

I actually never realised until very recently what a difference shoulders make to a person's overall posture and look. Even just holding the shoulders a little too high (which happens a lot with nerves and tension) can make a person look ungainly or lacking in confidence.

8) If you forget your program, make it up as you go along and don't let on.

One girl I know had the "mind blank" issue on the day. I imagine she wasn't the only one. The thing was, we had no idea, watching her, that it had happened, until we saw her afterwards and she was upset about it. It's not an ideal situation, but try to remember that the only person who knows you've messed up is you. Unless you make it obvious, of course.

9) The golden rule: If you fall, get up - as fast as possible - and carry on.

Unless you've broken a bone, of course. Although, even then, if you can carry on, do. You can pass out later ;-)

Everyone will admire you when you carry on. Even the best skaters fall in competitions. It means you're skating to your full ability and pushing yourself. Good for you.

10) A bit different, number 10 - take a damn blanket.

Man does it get cold, sitting in an ice rink for maybe 12 hours, for two or three days straight. And a rink that was warm last time might not be this time ;-) You have been warned.