The first thing to do was to take our sports shoes across to the inspection table to make sure there wasn't a spot of dirt on them that would compromise the ice we'd be playing on. "You have worn these shoes outside, haven't you?" said the shoe examiner with a hint of disapproval as she turned my shoes over, before attacking the soles vigorously with a vegetable brush dipped in a bowl of water.
There are six "sheets" on the ice at this curling rink and a dozen or more ladies in red jackets had made themselves available to give us instruction in six groups, making sure that we didn't fall over on the ice, or if we did, that we'd be able to get up again. They were all keen amateur players and, it seemed to me, very well trained teachers too. They wore special black curling shoes with a removable rubber sole cover for the "off foot," usually the left one, that had a very slippery "slider" attached. We novices were lent portable sliders, slightly less slippery underfoot.
I was in a group with a Japanese lady, an Italian lady and another novice Canadian. The first exercise was to walk up and down (without deploying our sliders) on the bobbly ("pebbled") surface of the ice to see what it felt like, and then to repeat the walk sweeping the tee line on the ice with our long handled brooms: Women with Brooms in this case, not Men with Brooms (with Paul Gross as the Skip).
|The rock is made of polished granite|
Apparently there's a way to vary the delivery that gives you an even better sense of balance: having the slider under the right foot instead! However I have only discovered this since coming home and browsing the Internet.
The last exercise before we could begin to let fly with the rocks was to move the sliding foot back as a prelude to our slide, keeping that foot flat on the ground, which is only possible if one sticks one's bottom in the air, brings one's left knee to its full bend and has one's right knee well behind one's centre of gravity, practically scraping the ice. It's not as easy as it looks! I thought of all the Chinese people I'd seen last year, squatting flat footed in the parks of Hangzhou to chat to one another. They'd have had no trouble with this sport.
|The male curlers enjoying their Spiel|