Week Eight: Battle of the Blades – Robson Square Edition

This week I decided to go ice skating at Robson Square in the heart of Downtown Vancouver after work. Like so many Vancouver attractions, skating at Robson Square was one of those things I’d kept meaning to do every winter, but never quite got round to. Now, spurred on by the afternoon’s nail-biting gold medal win for Canada’s Women’s Hockey team in Sochi, it was time to hit the ice.

The Rink

The Rink

It’s free to skate at Robson Square if you have your own skates, or you can hire a pair for $4. We hired ours and pulled them on just in time for everyone to be called off the ice for cleaning. This took several minutes, so I took the opportunity to pose for some photos. Because if Selfie Sunday proves anything, it’s that narcissism is a great way of passing the time.



Finally we were given the all clear to get on the ice.

Now I’ve never witnessed the birth of a Canadian, but it’s quite possible that they come into this world feet first to thrust into a pair of skates. I have literally seen prams holding tiny, gurgling infants being pushed around on ice rinks, and nobody bats an eye lid. It’s incredible. And extremely disconcerting for non-skaters like me who find that the pram acts as a siren to our flailing bodies. Bodies which the ice have turned into unstoppable flesh missiles. On behalf of all you visual learners out there, and for those who just like Venn diagrams, I’ve taken the liberty of illustrating my concerns in graph format below;

Ice skating Venn diagram

I can not stress enough how much of a bad idea I think this is.

My own experience, having grown up in England, was a little different. My feet didn’t touch the ice until I was about eleven. Whilst my sister took lessons and become technically proficient, I went to open sessions sporadically to mess around with friends, and the last time I went was around three years ago. What I’m trying to say is, I’m not very good. Which was probably not much fun for my prairie born husband, who at one point was quite literally skating circles around me as I took my first wobbly steps onto the ice.

“You’re too stiff. Just relax,” he advised, seemingly unaware that ordering someone to relax has worked a grand total of absolutely never in the history of anywhere.

As I completed my first faltering laps, I became uncomfortably aware that my skates were too big. There wasn’t enough support around my ankles, which are pretty scrawny to begin with, and I started to worry that I would fall and break one or both of them. This of course translated into my legs stiffening up even more and I promptly took my first and only tumble. Hard. On my backside. Thankfully my derriere is more padded than my ankles, so nothing was broken, but I decided to swap my skates for a smaller pair just in case.

Feeling a lot happier in my new smaller skates, I tried to relax my limbs as had been suggested. Rather than do something useful, like focus or meditate, my brain decided to go into it’s own particular brand of coping which I will call ‘tenuous connections therapy’. This is a process where my brain will take any available external stimuli and try to match it to something (anything) in my memory bank which will allow me to succeed at whatever it is I’m attempting, no matter how ridiculous the link*. In this instance it latched onto the song playing from the rink speakers, which happened to be ‘Every time You Go Away.’ This reminded me of the closing scene in ‘Trains, Planes, and Automobiles’. Which starred John Candy, who also starred as the coach in ‘Cool Runnings.’ And  if he could teach bobsleigh, surely he’d at least know the basics of ice skating? I mean he must have done, he was Canadian! It’s a sign! Yeah… I told you it was tenuous.

Feeling secure in the knowledge that the spirit of John Candy was looking down and urging me on, or possibly making wisecracks at my expense, I let of the side rail. And didn’t fall over.

Thanks for everything, Mr. Candy

Thanks, Mr. Candy

My confidence soaring, I started to pick up speed. I felt graceful. I felt poised. Swan-like even. Time, dear reader, to obtain photographic evidence of my new found mastery of the ice. I handed the camera to my husband and glided effortlessly towards him while he snapped away.

“Did it come out alright? Was it blurry?” I asked.

“No,” he laughed, derisively. “You weren’t going fast enough for it to be blurry.”



Ice mastered!

*As a side note, I can’t be the only one whose brain does this. I hope. If I am, please let me know so that I can seek help from the appropriate professionals. Thank you.

VERDICT: Robson Square is a fantastic free/cheap evening out if you have to be in Vancouver during the winter. I strongly recommend it, and will definitely be back again. Although next time I will probably bring a thick pair of socks to avoid my boots rubbing.

ADDENDUM: Congratulations to all the competitors at Sochi this year, and a special mention to Jenny Jones, for winning Team GB’s first ever medal on snow. Go Jenny!


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