A complete break with tradition today as I did some research for this blog. Not to any great extent. I just Googled “fig jam” to see if the amazing electronical interweb recognized this term merely as a tasty variation on the condiments you put on toast, or also acknowledged a traditional Australian use of the term. I needn’t have bothered. Both Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary were down with the Aussie variation. In fact, Wiki was even aware of a single, “Figjam”, right on topic, by the band, Butterfingers. (and click on the link! Good song!)
So, anyway, this week’s blog topic is FIGJAM. As in: Fuck I’m Good. Just Ask Me.
In honour of one former Australan Rules footballer who, somewhat unfairly, carried the nickname for much of his decorated career, and all the other strutters who have had it muttered behind their backs or, shit, to their face over the years.
But also in honour of me. because I am FIGJAM, for this week at least.
In fact, my whole hockey class rocks, but we’ll get to that.
Let’s keep talking about me…
I had to work all weekend, including a nasty 5 am start on Sunday. So I hit Sunday night exhausted (but not so exhausted that I didn’t turn up at the Spiegeltent to see Smoke & Mirrors, a frickin’ awesome cabaret/circus/magic show with kick-arse live music, to celebrate my mate Kayt’s birthday.)
So I hit Monday really exhausted, and now hungover to go with it, and decided to wag work. This I can recommend. A slow Monday start, breakfast at an outside table at North Island, my favorite Fitzroy North cafe, an iPod-soundtracked leisurely walk of the pooch through Edinburgh Gardens, and then to the Icehouse for the 12.30-2 pm general skate.
The legion of dedicated nickdoeshockey readers (Hi Mum! … Mum? Sigh … Hi, Nick!) will know that I detest Sunday general skates, which are more like the running of the bulls on ice, with hordes of skaters just waiting to collide and get hurt.
Monday 12.30 pm – different story. There were maybe a dozen people on the ice. This is bliss. And it gets better. Almost everybody was either a hockey trainee like myself, or a figure skater, working on their moves. Other guys in hockey padding, trying to pivot and do crossovers or whatever skill was holding them back. And figure skaters like one I got chatting to, Bec, who was spinning effortlessly, gliding backwards, the whole figure skating thing. I was jealous as hell and asked for backward skating tips and suddenly, I was in with the figure skating crowd, learning some basic moves like the slalom, where you wiggle your arse in a very chick-dancing kind of way (no dignity in hockey training: we’ve covered this) while rolling from inside edges to outside edges to propel yourself along the ice. In figure skating, this is something you learn even before swizzles, and I loved it, for getting used to feeling my edges – especially the outside edge, which required better balance and momentum to use, and is crucial for crossovers.
Bec also told me hockey players are sneered at by her kind as “gorilla skaters”, because the standard hockey stance, which is drilled into us at every turn, is to have your knees slightly bent, your butt poking out (imagine taking a dump, basically) so your balance is in your legs and your centre of gravity is low. Figure skaters can laugh it up, but they don’t have to prepare for people trying to KO them, or at least knock them off their skates, while going about their loop de loop business.
Tuesday night, Will and I, and Jack and Mel, were all there for the 7 pm General Skate. More crowded on the ice than the queue of morning show on-air talent trying to get the first flight to a disaster zone. The usual Dick Swingers were even there, zooming through the hapless beginners. Sigh.
So I lasted less than an hour. But did some slaloms, snow ploughs, attempted a little backwards stuff, and even began to hesitantly play with the concept of a genuine two-footed hockey stop.
Which brings us to Wednesday and actual hockey school. We got straight to work. We skated fast, we had to stop dead and turn around. We attempted to pivot, we skated backwards (even me, after the two days of practice and incremental improvement), we learnt the tight turn, we did crossovers, we did a weird exercise where we skated deliberately and with exaggeration on our inside edges or our outside edges (thank you, Bec, for slaloms) and we did more crossovers.
A lot of the exercises were in the forms of relays (five lines of six) to encourage us to really hustle up and down the ice.
And here’s the thing; we collectively realized that we’re improving a lot. We’re getting good. You could see it in everybody’s faces.
Sure, those at the top end of the skating experience/talent rankings are just blitzing as they’ve always blitzed but any AFL coach can tell you a team’s success is not decided by the top six, or even the middle six, but the bottom six. And our bottom six, which would include me, I reckon, have improved out of sight.
In only four weeks (seven for me, if I include beginner skate class), some seriously non-beginner moves are now being attempted and even achieved; not all the time, obviously. I’m sure, if you were standing next to the rink, observing, I would look hesitant and barely competent, but I know where I’ve come from and in how short a time. I barely fell and sort of pulled off a lot of the moves required. Us beginners, by the end of the lesson, were grinning at one another, waiting for the next crossover run, flush with our improvement. And even among the elite, like Ray the painter who is maybe my age, maybe older, dunno, and hadn’t skated for 30 years; he was tearing up crossovers and had the best fall of the night, pushing too hard and losing an outside edge. But it was a good fall: over-extending, pushing his limits.
Next week, our coach, Lliam, who is most notable for being the captain of Melbourne Ice and even more-so for his occasional, unexpected impersonations of Detective Mittens, the Crime-Solving Cat, said we wear full body armour. The sticks and pucks are getting closer all the time.