Ageing disgracefully and with style

I put on the skates, and I am a little girl again: eight or ten at the most. The blades of my skates slice through the ice. I can hear a clank and a swoosh, the wind in my pompom, cheeks burning, cold air in my nostrils, expelled in rapid vapours, forming frosty droplets on my scarf. I’ve lost my gloves – again. My fingers are red numb claws. I perform a pirouette, the spikes of one of my skates are the pivot and I draw a circle with the other foot. The air can’t keep up with me. I halt, let it catch up, and proceed backwards, knees bent slightly, bum defying gravity as I draw curvy patters on the ice. Another twirl, and I launch forward. I used to be able to do this – I lift one leg, an arabesque begins to form, a bit floppy, like a penknife that I can’t quite fully open. But I gather speed – I’m a bird swooping down-

-and down I go.

The spikes on my blade catch on something; I am catapulted – briefly, given just enough time to realise that I’m going face down, crash landing into the unforgiving ice. Just enough time to twist in the air to save my face. Hip first. Knee caught halfway through a protective kick. And then the ribcage slams down.

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Someone asks me if I’m all right. I nod, but I’m lying. Too embarrassed to admit that my vision is blurred and the blood has drained from my brain, leaving me lightheaded and faint. Daughter drags me to a bench. ‘You told me to fall on my bum. Why didn’t you?’

Where was my big, cushioned bum when I needed it…

Today, the day after, I am no longer a little girl of eight or ten at the most. That girl would be back on ice despite those minor bruises. She wouldn’t even remember that fall. She has run away and I am left on my own: an old woman and her swollen knee, her cracked ribcage that hurts with every intake of breath, and a huge purple bruise on her hip. I can’t recall where and when the hip came into it.

Husband offers an anti-inflammatory painkiller and I say no. I refuse to grow old gracefully. Whenever would I take a painkiller after scathing a knee when I was eight! I am not going to start now. I suffer my debilitating aches and pains in dignified reticence.

I will be back to the ice rink next week. Wearing knee pads.

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O Come All ye Faithful to Malmesbury Abbey

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On Saturday night, I feasted on music, gorging on the angelic singing of Malmesbury Community Choir, and delighting in the heavenly voices of the Westonbirt Girls’ School Chamber Choir. It was quite a treat and it conjured up Christmas on a count of four!

I tried to join in with some of the singing, alas my sheepish bleating failed to rise to the occasion. God and all His Saints must have been cringing up in Heaven at my tragic rendition of O Come All ye Faithful.

The beautiful Malmesbury Abbey was packed and bursting at the seams, so we had to find a place to sit beside King Athelstan’s tomb, on – as it happened – a very cushy little sofa, left there for the sole purpose of accommodating late arrivals from the far end of the county. We also had an unorthodox view of the goings-on. We were looking at the conductors, observed their animated faces and even more animated bodies.

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Watching a conductor in action is something else! The male conductor’s hands were in constant motion as if he was kneading dough: squeezing and stretching it, massaging it with his fingers, pulling, flicking and leaving it to rise. The lady conductor was like a weaver: picking thin strands of wool and dragging them through the air, then feeding them into the body of the melodic fabric, extracting loose ends on the other side, tying them into small knots and snipping the frayed bits at the end. It was all like some mysterious sign language that only the singers could understand, and respond to with their song.

And then at the end, the conductor put his finger to his lips. Motionless silence.

I sang carols all the way home, just like the fifth little Piggie, to my poor husband’s utter dismay. All stars ran away from the firmament, leaving only one crestfallen Moon and one disoriented Star.

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