The ice skating crisis.

I’ve been cycling this morning, the first time I’ve riden a bike since I can’t remember when. Maybe in my late 20’s, which means at least 15 years. Getting back on a bike and riding it was, as the cliche goes, just like riding a bike and memories flooded back of being able to cycle with no hands and do wheelies and all that flash crap which is of no use to anyone at all. There were no such flamboyancies today but with the help of ‘Irish man’ I covered 25km – to the shore of Loch Neagh and back – and worked up a little sheen in the process. Cycling is fine, it at least has a purpose and can offer some assistance to a day to day existence. The invention of cycling makes sense, which is far more than can be said for ice skating.


Earlier this morning BBC News online had decided that ice skating was a big enough story to take up a place in its headlines. This has since been acknowledged as an extreme overvaluation and so by the end of the day should have vanished completely. Apparently Mark Hanretty is a professional ice skater on ITV’s uttertly worthless Dancing On Ice, which is just a colder, more dangerous, desperate clone of Strictly Come Dancing. He has been quoted as saying that ice skating is in danger of suffering from a ‘lost generation’ of elite skaters if public ice rinks aren’t reopened soon. They shut, it seems, due to something called coronavirus; whatever that is.


All this ‘lost generation’ hyperbole is complete nonsense. It has a touch more resonance when it comes to schools and education but even then there is the stark truth that there are precisely zero generations being lost just because things have closed down for 6 months. Just look at the generation born before the beginning of World War 2 – they didn’t get lost, they just adapted, grew up, shagged like rabbits and made the most of a new set of opportunities. And so there will be no ‘lost generation’ at all, just a few poor souls that slip through the net, but then there will always be a net and some things will always slip through it.


As for the ‘lost generation’ of ice skaters well please give me a moment to consider the gravity of such a catastrophe. Who cares? Ice skating is pure jetsam. It could go any day and very few people would miss it for very long. When do 99.9% of people think about ice skating other that during the Winter Olympics? More importantly how did it ever become a pastime? Apart from the mild thrill of speed skating the rest is just grinding and flapping to often quite awful music, with the accompanying chance that you could shatter a limb on the really-very-hard ice or simply have your knuckles shaved clean off by the next clown that passes by. Only the very best make ice skating look easy and even then is is not much more than spandex, fluff and glitter; an indulgence that few have the time, money, inclination or spare hips to bother with.


Quite how public ice skating rinks are high risk settings for Covid19 transmission also escapes me. In my limited experiences of ice sking as a child (I hated it, in case you hadn’t already sensed the tone) my rule number one was to avoid the next person as if they really did have the plague, as well as appalling personal hygeine. Then, if you ever get to the stage where you can put one skate in front of the other without losing your front teeth or breaking an ankle, you just go round in circles, perspiring from tension rather than exertion and liberally slamming into the side, the relief of finally getting off the ice being the clear highlight of the whole experience.


These days I seem to get sidelined more and more by stories of the things people have missed doing this year, because quite often I start to realise just how many futile distractions there are. We’ve become so obsessed with being distracted that we even have a TV programme where fourth rate celebrities in garish sequins and lace compete to temporarily resurrect their careers by skating on ice, accompanied by some professional with the thighs of an ostrich and more smile muscles than The Joker. Our not-really-very ‘lost generation’ of ice skaters will only have the same problem as all the other ice skaters around the world so why worry? Who ‘wins’ at ice skating is painfully irrelevant in the grand scheme of things; besides they say it’s the taking part that counts, though if it was left to me I wouldn’t even bother with that.


G B Hewitt. 06.08.2020

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