Knees bend, arms stretch - and fall! Ice skating lessons from an expert
PUBLISHED: 12:00 20 December 2015
Ice skating is normally associated with elegance, sparkling costumes and a festive snowstorm - if you're lucky.
In England, the snow can’t be guaranteed, but there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy some time on the ice.
One Havering resident who makes sure he does is Alan Paul, 69, from Upminster, who has been skating for more than 40 years.
He still has two lessons a week and kindly agreed to teach me the basics at Lee Valley Ice Centre, in Lea Bridge Road.
When I arrive at the ice rink, Alan has already been skating for two hours, including a 30-minute private lesson that morning.
Despite his early workout, he is still enthusiastically practising backwards twirls in the middle of the rink, as small children skated around him.
He smoothly skates over to greet me, making it look like the easiest thing in the world.
Then he refuses to let me begin my lesson until I “tie those laces again!” and zip up my coat properly.
Once we get onto the rink, I feel like a horse trying to rollerblade – that is to say, I ungracefully fall flat on my face.
Alan coaxes me away from the barrier and gives me a few tips to get me started.
To get moving, take small steps with your arms out straight, until you glide.
Make sure you’re not standing too upright, as this makes it easier to fall.
Keep your knees bent and your arms outstretched.
Once you are skating, bring your feet back to centre between each push, otherwise your feet end up travelling in different directions.
After a few tentative laps around the rink, I feel more confident about letting go of Alan’s hand.
He immediately speeds off and performs a twirling jump while I accidentally knock
over a group of five-year-old girls.
When I get back up, I feel determined that I will make it around the rink without stopping, or clinging to the barrier.
I came with grand ideas after watching videos of figure skating at the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014, and I’m determined I will at least give this a go.
As Alan watches me skate round, he offers encouraging advice.
“It doesn’t matter if you fall over as long as you get back up again.
“I go ice skating to keep fit, exercise and discipline my brain.
“I’m nearly 70 years old so I’m always telling everyone
else that they have no excuse!”
With that in mind, I manage to skate around the rink three
times, without falling over.
Obviously I was sped past by several children and wobbled a lot, but I can proudly say my first time was a success!