Goth on Ice: A retrospective

Just saw another “one year progress” video over on YouTube. Now, if I let myself these kinds of videos bother me, they would be very frustrating because they’re doing so much better at one year than I am doing at just under two and a half. But there are, let’s call them extenuating circumstances.

And note that my intent is not to criticize the folk making those videos, nor to complain that I’m not doing better. That’s why I’m not naming the video in here. Everyone’s situation is different. Everyone faces their own challenges and has their own talents and abilities. That means people progress at different rates and that’s okay. I love those videos. They give me something to aspire to. And occasionally I can find something to take away from their videos that I can use to help my own skating and that’s awesome. Same thing with other people posting their stories and videos. And I would hope that maybe someone can find a takeaway from my posts and videos.

The point is that everyone progresses differently. Everybody does face different challenges. And there are reasons why my progress is not as swift as some other people. And there’s no reason to be down or upset about them.

The first is the simplest: I am older than most of the folk making those videos, especially the videos by the kids who are growing up through the ranks. I’m older than even most of the adult skaters posting. For that matter, I’m older than most of the coaches at my rink. I think there might be two older than me. And I’m certainly older than most of these people posting these videos. Younger bodies respond quicker to training than older bodies. That’s just biology. On the other hand, doing the training helps slow the ravages of advancing age, so there is that.

When I started, skating seriously (as opposed to some half-hearted, self-taught skating when I was in my teens and early 20’s) was miserable. I have major foot issues (pretty bad plantar fasciitis) and my skating at first would be like, skate halfway around the rink, sit on the sidelines to let foot pain fade, then skate the rest of the way around and stop again to let pain fade. Make about twice around the rink that way and done for the day. In class, I’d spend 1/2 to 2/3 of the time sitting on the sidelines letting foot pain fade. It’s hard to make much progress when you can’t spend time on the ice.

Over time I figured out ways to alleviate the foot pain. Properly fitted skates with, perhaps, more ankle support than was appropriate for my level (Riedell Motion skates), supportive insoles (my custom orthotics made things worse because of the rise of the heels compared to my regular shoes), and later the Riedell “R-Fit” insole system. Not tightening across the instep too much (and cranking down on the ankle to compensate), and just simply getting used to it. I could skate longer, which translated to more ice time.

Then there was COVID and the rink being closed for months. Then there was the auto accident which put me off the ice for yet another couple of months. Again, it’s hard to make progress when you can’t skate.

And, much as I love skating, there are things that make up “talent”–how well one’s vestibular system works, bone and muscle conformation, and so on, which I really don’t have on my side in this. Let’s just say, if I’d started skating religiously at 4 then lets just say that generations Olympians still would have had nothing to fear from me. But that’s okay. Not everyone has to be an Olympian. Even if one likes the idea of competition as a personal challenge there are lots of things one can do where effort and dedication can overcome not being the most talented.

So, yeah, after just under two and a half years I’m 5/7 of the way through Adult 6 in the Learn to Skate USA curriculum. (Really. We tested in class today and I passed 5 of the 7 elements. 5/7.) But when you add up all the various factors involved–what I started from and things that have happened along the way–that’s really not too bad. I’ll never be a “great” skater. I’ll certainly never be in the class with those kids doing their triples and quads. But I might be competitive in my class and age group. And that’s a plenty challenging goal in its own right.

And one thing I’ve found is that I love teaching. I love skating and helping someone else, so perhaps they can come to love it too, is something I really enjoy. I’m only really “qualified” to teach the very basics (although I’ve maintained instructor credentials in LTSUSA since the time I was assisting with the Snowplow Sam courses in the local rink) but being able to help someone in their first time on the ice, who wants the help, is a pure joy.

My point here is that we all have our own challenges. Someone else might be doing “better” by some standard in their own way, but in the end what matters is what we as individuals get out of the skating, whether that’s just recreational skating, teaching youngsters, or Adult competitions in any of a number of categories.

All that really matters is the love of skating and finding some way to express that love.

Annual Tribute to Sophie Lancaster

As someone who is goth(ish) I run into people who have all sorts of strange ideas about goths.  I’m a big ugly guy so most of that doesn’t get directed at me.  Others, however, are accused of being “dangerous” and “juvenile delinquents” or otherwise criminal because of a lifestyle we have adopted as fitting our “inner selves.” The truth is we’re more often abused than abusers (in my case “big ugly guy” shields me from much of that) and even when it doesn’t rise to the level of physical abuse we see the fear, the hatred, and the locked doors.  There’s this delightful “Hornbach” advertisement that illustrates it to a somewhat exaggerated effect but which makes the point (while showing the young lady has an absolutely great dad):

The case of Sophie Lancaster is not just a cute advertisement.  It is a real-life tragedy.  Today is the 12th “anniversary” of the death of her death at the hands of a group of violent thugs.


Sophie was a “Goth” girl in Lancashire England.  While walking home on August 11, Sophie and her boyfriend Robert Maltby were attacked by a group of youths.  The only apparent motive for the attack was that Robert and Sophie were attired in Goth fashion.

They started by attacking Robert.  When he was knocked unconscious Sophie tried to protect him by cradling him in her arms.  The mob continued their assault, now focused on Sophie.  According to witnesses, members of the mob would run over and kick Sophie in the head and jump up and down on her head.  So severe were the couple’s injuries that emergency services arriving on the scene were unable to immediately determine which was male and which was female.

At least one of the attackers actually bragged about the attack as if he’d done something noble, saying to friends, “There’s two moshers nearly dead up Bacup park – you wanna see them – they’re a right mess”

Sophie and Robert were taken to the hospital, both in comas.  Robert gradually improved with some memory loss of the attack and events leading up to it.  This is not uncommon for traumatic injuries that involve unconsciousness.

Sophie, however, was not so fortunate.  It was eventually determined that so severe was her brain injury that she would never recover.  Her family agreed to cease life support on August 24, 2007 and the life of Sophie Lancaster passed from this world to whatever, if anything, may wait beyond.

Five youths involved in the attack were eventually arrested.  It is not known how many others might have been involved.  The five were first charged with “grievous bodily harm” but following Sophie’s death the charges were upgraded.  Of the five, two were convicted of murder and the other three had the murder charge withdrawn on a guilty plea of “grievous bodily harm”.  The five received sentences (after appeals) ranging from four years and four months to life imprisonment with a minimum (I presume, not being familiar with the British legal system, this means before eligible for parole) of fifteen years and six months.

Sophie, of course, is dead forever.  There is no appeal on her result.

New Book Release: The Beasts of Trevanta

$4.99 on Kindle, $14.99 in paperback.

Wounded in body and spirit after the fall of her kingdom and loss of her lover, the knight Kaila has one last duty to perform before dying: seeing two orphaned children home to their clan in Bringanzo’s Desert.

But all is not lost. When the shaman of Three Mountains Clan takes Kaila on a smoke quest she learns Kreg is still alive, fighting his way across the lands to her. She will raise an army to free him, though hell shall bar the way.

And once they’re united, not even the beast men who overran Trevanta, shall keep them from taking back their land.

KAILA WOKE TO the throbbing in her right thigh. The sky was still dark with neither moon visible. The temperature had fallen during the night. She turned her head to the right, in the direction of flickering red-orange light to see the boy sitting and tending a fire. She did not see the girl.

Kaila struggled to sit. Sweat soaked her skin as she finally managed to push her torso upright. She looked down at her thigh and saw that someone had removed her makeshift bandage. The wound was red and swollen, hot to the touch. She did not, as yet, see the telltale red streaks that indicated the blood corruption, at least not yet. Perhaps her blood had washed out most of the poison.

Kaila looked at the boy, still tending the fire. “Where is… I don’t even know your names.”

Kaila’s voice was harsh and rough, forced out of a dry throat.

The boy pointed out into the darkness.

Kaila frowned. “Can you speak?”

The boy shrugged.

“Can not or will not, I wonder,” Kaila mused to herself. She shivered. Even if she avoided the blood corruption, she would likely take a fever from her wound.
She scooted closer to the fire. The effort of even that small motion caused sweat to break out on her forehead.

Kaila took a quick inventory. Her sword lay close to hand, her sword belt wrapped around the scabbard. Her knife, which normally hung from the same belt, was gone. The girl, Kaila thought. The girl must have it.

The boy reached toward the fire and removed something that Kaila had not noted in the glare. A twisted stick, propped above the flame. A small carcass, now scorched from the flame was impaled on the stick. The boy held it out to her.

Kaila’s gorge rose at the thought of food but she knew that she needed to feed her body if she was to have the strength to fight off the infection of her wound, let alone protect the two children who had come under her care.

As she bit into the carcass, a lizard of some kind, she almost chuckled. At the moment, it seemed she lay more under their care than they under hers.

Kaila stripped the last of the meat from the bones of the lizard and sank back. She shivered. She rolled onto her left side, facing the fire and propping her head up on her forearms.

The boy watched her for a moment, then dragged in a bundle of brush and started breaking off pieces and feeding them to the fire.

The warmth of the fire baked her front while her back chilled in the night air. After a time, keeping that position became too difficult and she dropped onto her back. She closed her eyes.

When she opened them again, some time had passed. It was still night. The smaller moon had risen.

Colder. Unless Kaila’s fever had worsened. She shivered. Her breath came in short pants. She tried to sit but her arms gave out behind her and she collapsed.

Kaila almost drifted off to sleep again when the sound of scuffling footsteps jerked her to alertness. With a supreme effort she stretched her hand and grasped the hilt of her sword, drawing it to her. She turned her head in the direction of the sound.

The girl approached pale in the moonlight. Nude. Her feet scuffing along the rocky ground. In her right hand, she held Kaila’s knife. Her left arm held something slung over her shoulder; from her place on the ground, Kaila could not see what.

The girl dropped cross-legged to the ground setting the knife beside her and swinging her package from behind her shoulder. Kaila could see that she had twisted together the hem of her tunic and tied a knot that converted her tunic into a bag. Something bulged within it.

The girl’s gaze fell on Kaila’s face and her open eyes. The girl dropped the bag and scrambled forward, wrapping her arms around Kaila’s neck.

“I was scared. I thought you…you were gonta…”

From somewhere, Kaila found the strength to return the girl’s embrace. “Did I not swear I would not abandon you? Where did you go, child?”

“I went looking for food. I was so scared that you would be gone when I got back but I had to.”

Kaila opened her mouth to chide the girl that she had not the strength to go anywhere but then she realized the girl’s meaning, the one journey even the weakest can take, the one journey everyone comes to in the end.

“I swore an oath,” Kaila said. “And the gods willing I will keep it.”

“I was afraid if you woke while I was gone, you’d think I abandoned you.”

Kaila remembered the words she had thought she heard as she had slipped into unconsciousness. She smiled. “You, too, swore an oath, did you not? And the boy was here.”

Kaila coughed, the sound dry and raspy. Her sides ached with even that small effort.

The girl’s eyes widened. She dragged her tunic over and dumped the contents into her lap. Digging in the various objects she raised two fruits.

“I didn’t have any way to carry water,” the girl said, “but here.”

She cut the end off one of the fruits and pressed it into Kaila’s hand.

“Don’t eat it. The pulp will make your stomach heave. But you can drink the juice.”

Using both hands Kaila was able to lift the fruit to her mouth. The juice was bitter and astringent but it wet her throat. She gulped greedily.

As Kaila sucked on the second fruit, the girl held up a handful of irregular bulbs, like small onions ripped from the ground.

“Ali,” the girl said. “Nana showed me how to use this.”

“For what, pray tell?”

The girl set them on a flat stone and began to crush them with the flat of Kaila’s knife.

“Nana would put them in deep wounds,” the girl said. “They keep away the blood sickness.”

Kaila wished for Shillond’s herbs and magics. Instead, she had a desert girl. As least, Kaila had assumed she was a desert child.

“You are of the desert clans?” Kaila asked.

The girl nodded. “Zashira, of Stone Water clan.”

“And the boy?”

“I do not know his name. I have been calling him Tanik which he accepts.”

“Well, Zashira of Stone Water clan. I am Kaila, Knight of Aerioch. It would seem you are wise in the ways of the desert. I have my sword should I regain my strength. Let us make a pledge, then, to keep each other safe in this land until you and I can return to our peoples.”

Zashira looked solemnly into Kaila’s eyes and nodded. “I so pledge.”

Zashira looked over at the boy who still tended the fire. “Tanik?”

Tanik nodded.

Zashira laid the knife aside then scooted to Kaila’s thigh. Pain pulsed up Kaila’s leg as Zashira poked at the wound.
“The wound has closed, Lady,” Zashira said. I have to open it. The ali has to go inside.”

Kaila struggled to sit up but only managed to lift herself partway, propped on her elbows.

“Help me sit,” Kaila said.

Zashira shifted to Kaila’s side and Tanik left the fire to kneel at Kaila’s other side. Together the two children managed to lever Kaila to a sitting position.

Kaila held out her hand for her knife. Zashira picked it up and handed it to her.

Kaila held the blade up and inspected it. Shillond had told her of the strange miasma that lives in dirt and rot that brings infection, something his wizardry told him that no human eye could see.

Shaking her head at her distraction, she turned the blade toward her thigh. With a precise stroke, she drove the point into the channel of the spear thrust, matching the depth to within a half finger width.

Gritting her teeth at the sharp explosions of pain she withdrew the blade and yellow fluid mixed with red blood wept from the wound.

While Tanik supported Kaila at her back, Zashira took Kaila’s knife from Kaila’s suddenly nerveless hand. Kaila watched, as if from a great distance, as Zashira scooped up some of the mash onto the blade of the knife. She turned the knife and pressed the plant paste into the wound.

Liquid fire poured through Kaila’s leg, traveled up her torso, and burst from the top of her head. Her mouth opened wide but no sound emerged, the pain so great it paralyzed her throat. She collapsed backwards. Tanik fell aside as Kaila’s full weight fell upon him. Then the ground rose up and smote Kaila in the back and darkness wrapped her once more.