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Many readers of this Blog will remember with fondness one of the key members of The Moodie Report (before it became The Moodie Davitt Report) over many years, a certain young woman named Mandy Sime.
Mandy joined the team in 2002, our inaugural year, and as Commercial Director played a crucial role in our development until 2014 when she retired in Dubai from travel retail publishing to devote more time to her young twins Cameron and Mackenzie (now five) and her husband John (Emirates Airline Vice President Retail Services).
As I noted at the time: “Mandy has been right at the heart and soul of our success over the past 12 years, playing a critical role in our transition from hopeful start-up to clear market leader. Just as importantly, she stood for and embodies The Moodie Report’s values. She has always sold advertising and sponsorship based on a true belief in and knowledge of our products and believed in long-term partnerships, not short-term deals.”
Motherhood is surely one of the most demanding professions but Mandy has proved every bit as adept and passionate about it as she was about the rather more mundane tasks of representing our company. However, with the two Sime juniors now at school, she felt the need for another challenge, preferably of the ultra-testing kind.
Where to find the solution in the desert sands of Dubai? On the ice-rink of course. Believe it or not there are three rinks there, the biggest an Olympic-sized facility in The Dubai Mall.
Mandy was a natural, taking to the ice with all the confidence of a penguin but none of the flapping. So much so that local consumer magazine Aquarius this month sent a reporter out to discover how Mandy had taken up figure skating just six months ago at the age of 52 (admittedly she looks about 28) yet somehow developed the ability (not to mention the confidence and guts) to participate in this month’s UAE Open Figure Skating Championships.
What a story. And what a lovely interview (conducted incidentally by long-term travel retail journalist Faye Bartle, nee Rowe). I’m sure neither Faye nor Aquarius will mind if I quote a few edited highlights.
When I look back now on what I’ve achieved over the past six months I’m very proud of myself . Things that seemed impossible at first now come naturally and I love improving my moves and learning new things. It’s incredibly technical and sometimes I just don’t get it but I’m very determined and I never give up, despite wanting to sometimes.
I’m moving onto spins and jumps now so this time next year I will be jumping and spinning all over the place. It all comes down to practice. The more you do, the better you get.
How does Mandy calm her nerves before a big event?
I talk to myself out loud. I did this just before a recent performance in Abu Dhabi and stood facing the wall talking to myself. I tell myself that I’m ready and strong and that I absolutely love doing this and it’s just for fun.
The funny thing is, I have never been able to stand up and speak in front of a crowd. Even in a business situation I would never ask a question at a conference or in a large group. When we rehearse in The Dubai Mall with spectators practically hanging from the rafters and the other weekend at the Skate Emirates Figure Skating Competition at Zayed Sports City Ice Rink, however, I was surprisingly calm. Both times I was skating after an amazing five-year-old girl called Poppy. Having her skate before me really calms me down and enjoying her performance stops me focusing on my own.
What does her family think of her hobby?
Both our children now skate so we’re all beginners together. I think it’s a great gift for them to learn young and nothing gives me more pleasure than watching them have fun on the ice. We talk about working hard for my competition and that you need to practice to be the best you can. They’re still young but it’s a great lesson for them and I hope it inspires them to also do what they love.
My husband loves the fact that I’ve found something I’m so passionate about. One day he came to the rink and watched me skate for four hours. It was the most romantic thing that anyone has ever done for me. When I told him that he said he wished he’d known before buying me all those handbags and shoes over the years.
If you fall, what does it take to pick yourself up again and carry on?
I fall a lot. I fell on my knees early on and I also fell on my back and it really hurt. Falling is part of skating, however, and the only way you learn is through courage. More often than not I try something and it doesn’t work the first time but if I ask my coach what I did wrong she simply says “fear”. Fear stops us achieving our dreams but I will not let it stop me from achieving mine
And you know what? It hasn’t. As I say, what a lovely story. Inspirational too. Mind you I should have predicted it all along. After all, if we ever had a disagreement, Mandy used to run rinks, sorry rings, around me for years. Even when she was on very thin ice.
Footnote: I feel I must close with a great (but very old) Irish figure skating joke.
It is the Olympic men’s figure skating final 1992 (under the old 6 point maximum scoring system). The Russian competitor skates competently, performs some excellent leaps but lacks any great artistic feel. The judges’ scores read: Britain 5.8: Russia 5.9: United States 5.7: Ireland 5.2
Next comes the American competitor, dazzlingly clad in sparkling stars and stripes, skating to rhythm & blues. He gets the crowd on their feet but technically is not as adept as the Russian. Worse, he almost trips after a complicated spin. The judges’ scores read: Britain 5.8: Russia 5.7: United States 5.6: Ireland 5.1
Finally out comes the Irish skater wearing a tatty old raincoat, a cloth cap and with his skates tied over his wellies. He reaches the ice, trips flat on his face and bangs his nose. Blood flows all over the rink. He gets up, staggers, then slips again, breaking a front tooth and losing more blood. By the time his routine is over the rink looks like an Icelandic seal cull. Finally he crawls off the ice, tattered, bleeding, distraught.
The Judges’ scores read: Britain 0.0: Russia 0.0: United States 0.0: Ireland 6.0
The other judges turn to their Irish peer and demand to know how he could grant his countryman a perfect score. The Irish judge replies “Well bejeezus, you’ve gotta remember, it’s awful slippery out there.”