People #2 – Jayne Torvill OBE

MF: First, I’d like to thank you for talking to nonBeige and what a pleasure it is to meet you.

JT: Thank you very much.

MF: My research shows you have been skating for approximately 48 years.

JT: Oh really? That long.

MF: Yeah.

JT: Wow, I must have been very, very young.

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MF: Unless all that information was lying. Now that “Dancing on Ice” is over, have you finally hung up your skates and if so, are you going to retire or do you have any plans for future work and what would it be?

JT: We have not hung up our skates and we are not retiring. We have a couple of projects on the go at the moment. We felt it was the right time to finish “Dancing on Ice”. We had done 9 series and for us personally, it was 30 years since we had won the Olympics so that seem to sort of round everything off for us and a good time to finish and leave it on a high while it was still going well. But at the moment we are working on another project, actually a documentary working with children in Nottingham who come from an estate that has had some bad “rap” the past and they are now coming through it and the community is pulling together to get the children off the streets and in to projects and in to school. Chris and I are helping. We’ve gone in there and said “let’s put a show on, on your estates”. I don’t think they believed us at first but we are about half way through filming and we are going to make it happen.

MF: Do you know what network it is going to be on?

JT: It will be on ITV.

MF: And coming out when?

JT: I believe it will come out in January or February of next year.

MF: Sounds really exciting.

JT: 2015. It’s something very different for Chris and I; you know, taking a group of children, lovely kids who wouldn’t of had this opportunity to learn to skate, learn how to work together as a team, take responsibility for the show. We keep saying it’s your show, what do you want to do in it. You know, some of them have struggled with the skating but they’ve really worked hard and some of them are beginning to shine.

MF: From what age to what age?

JT: They are 12 to 17 year olds so a difficult age for anyone but we just hope they are going to have a great time doing it.

MF: You get plenty of attitude from them?

JT: Oh, of course, yes.

MF: I bet you give it back as well?

JT: Yeah. Yeah, I mean Chris is a stronger figure than I am but no, there are some really nice kids amongst them. We’ve enjoyed getting to know them.

MF: It sounds like it has been fascinating for you and a bit different for you obviously.

JT: Yes, very different. It’s quite hard when there’s like 30 or 40 of them on the ice at the same time and we’re trying to herd them together to do a group number and they’re all over the place like little ants and you have to herd them. We are used to working with professional skaters who stand and listen to you and do what you ask but this is slightly different.

MF: Irrespective of the speculation regarding any romantic involvement with Christopher, which I understand never involved much more than a snog, do you continue to have a close friendship and socialise with each other’s families?

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JT: Chris and I have a really close friendship. We have been together for years, since we were teenagers and we’ve grown up together and we will always be close and people find that hard to understand. We work closely together but we do socialize off the ice as well.  Over many years when we have been travelling the world it’s just been Chris and I quite often so when we finished our work we’ll go and eat together. I think the only thing is, we never got married and that’s why we are still really good friends.

MF: Talking about close relationships and pair skating, have you ever seen “Blades of Glory”?

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JT: I have seen “Blades of Glory”, yes. It’s hilarious  I really enjoyed …  actually, funnily enough, Chris and I were in Sheffield, we were on tour and we had a day off and we went to watch it at the local cinema and it wasn’t particularly fullbut it was so funny that the people that were in there kind of did this double take seeing both of us, sitting therewatching.  It was really funny.

MF: Who has been the biggest influence in your life at any particular time, whether in childhood, early career, currentcareer? Have there been different people, is there anybody in particular? Do you feel motivated by any one person?

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JT: I think during my career I’ve gone through different people at different times  that have been a real inspiration and motivated me and I think someone who comes to mind is our coach, Betty Callaway who coached us through the Olympics. She was someone who taught us an awful lot and we looked up to her. Not only skating wise but just maturing and growing up as people, she taught us an awful lot. Then during that same period we came across Michael Crawford who was a real inspiration and taught us such a lot about performing and the thought process that goes in to performing and that to make the audience believe you, you have to believe it yourself.

MF: Anybody else you can think of?

JT: When we first went to Australia as professional skaters someone introduced us to the chap that was in charge of the Sydney Dance Company. His name was Graham Murphy. He was another person that came in to our lives  at the right time as we were just starting out our professional career and we started to become very creative and we watched the work that Graham had done with his dance company and it was very, very different. We had never seen anything like that before and we were keen to work with him and indeed we did. He worked on our very first professional show which opened in London later that year. Just as a character in life as well, he made it fun. We had just come from the world of competition and  you have to be focused, but you tend to be very, very serious and he just made light of lots of thingsand sort of opened up our lives a lot more.

MF: That sort of led in to my question that I didn’t actually have down . As you talk, it’s intriguing me. When you were going through the whole professional skating  thing when was “light-bulb” moment when you realized you actually had become entertainers or was it always in the game plan? Because as you said, it’s a big change from competitive skating to something being, for want of a better words, a variety performance. It’s a variety show, isn’t it, skating?

JT: Yes, I mean Chris and I were lucky that the sport that we were in does have a cross-over from sport to entertainment.

MF: Yes, of course…Robin Cousins successfully crossed over

JT: Yes, you know for us it was like stepping out of a small room in to a big mansion of what we could do, because there was no restrictions with rules of competition or anything so from our point of view anything new and creative, we just wanted to pursue and learn.

MF: It must have been fun to have actually made a mistake and knowing you weren’t going to get marked down for it?

JT: Well, that’s the thing, when you are performing  7 times a week for instance, you can’t expect every performance to be the best you have ever done so you have to … that was another thing that we had to get used to, that performing so often maybe 1 in 5 of those performances you think, ‘oh, that felt really good tonight’ and it would not be the same number, if you are doing like 6 or 7 numbers within the show, some numbers might feel good one night and others good another night. So you had to kind of mentally prepare yourself for that, that for you it didn’t feel the best, but actually it was fine and an audience member who’s never seen it before thought it was great anyway so you have to  know that in your head otherwise you sort of beat yourself up all the time.

MF: Obviously Ravel’s Bolero represented Chris and your skating career. Thirty years on, do you still enjoy hearing it or does it make you want to wreck the sound system?

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JT: No, Bolero has become like an old friend really. It’s been something that has been part of our lives since we won the Olympics. We didn’t ever imagine we would still be performing it 30 years on. When we were competing, each season after completing all our other routines, like Mack and Mable etc, we stopped doing them and then moved onto the next thing so when we had done the Olympics with Bolero and turned professional and went to Australia first of all, just to do a series of exhibitions and we hadn’t planned to perform Bolero but the promoters there were  up in arms, like “oh no, we’ve got so see Bolero, that’s what everyone wants to see”, and we, as new professionals didn’t realize that. We thought, ‘oh, they will want to see new things’, we were used to doing new things but that’s what they wanted to see and indeed, have wanted to see for the last 30 years.

MF: When you won gold you were catapulted from relative obscurity to international celebrity, how did it affect you personally and what were the best and worst parts of being in that position?

JT: When Chris and I won the Olympics you suddenly realize how much more the Olympics is watched around the world and  there was one time I remember being in an airport somewhere in Europe not long after and people kept looking and stopping us and saying “oh, congratulations” and you kind of think ‘oh, wow, they recognize me’, but I have to say in those days there wasn’t the “celebrity” status going on as there is now.  There was always press at the airport when we came back in to London but it wasn’t the madness that there is nowadays and there certainly weren’t all the magazines that there are now. I think in a way it was a good thing because it would be so easy to get caught up in all of that and not stay focused on what you’re actually doing.

MF: Do you enjoy participating in other sports and do you watch other sports?

JT: I do enjoy other sports and in more recent times I’ve done more in the last 5 years than I’ve ever done before and I think part of that is when you’re competing and as a professional skater, you’ve got to be very careful about doing other things. If I go to Spain there is a place where they do tennis courses so I always take the weekly course when I’m there; I love it and my son plays tennis now so he’s actually good enough to have a game with. I also like running. I’ve been doing marathons recently.

MF: Oh really?

JT: Yeah, I have one coming up in just over a weeks’ time and it’s the Four Parks marathon so it’s Hyde Park, Sir James Park, Green Park and I think, Kensington Gardens and I’ve never done a half marathon before so that should beinteresting.

MF: It shouldn’t be hard for you.

JT: I’ve trained regularly with 10k but this is almost double that so…

MF: Do your kids skate and if they do, do you encourage them to be competitive or are they totally disinterested? I just think of you turning up “en famille” at the local ice rink and embarrassing the hell out of everyone.

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JT: My children both have their own skates but we don’t get to go very often because where we live in East Sussex, there’s no ice rink. Sometimes there’s opportunity in the winter, they do a few pop-up rinks in the area so we usually try and go at least once, to there. Then sometimes  in the summer holidays I take them up to Lee Valley ice rink which is about an hour and a half from here but it’s just too far for them to go … I mean I would love my daughter to do it because I think she would be quite good.

MF: How old is she?

JT: She is 8. She’s a good age but she does gymnastics instead.

MF: Are they good skaters at this point?

JT: No, not great but they can go around without me holding them up. My son, he’s been doing it longer obviously but I wouldn’t force them in to it. My son is fiercely competitive so if he were to take it up properly, he would be in to the competition.

MF: It’s just the comedy sketch of all time isn’t it?  Torvill and family get onto the rink and all the other little families are running around doing their thing and you all go in to a full routine and they go “oh, no!”. Do you stick to a particular diet and have you got any guilty secrets?

JT: I do. I try to eat where I don’t mix proteins and carbs together, so it’s like a food combining thing. I started doing that some years ago; its call the Hay Diet and sometimes I stray from that but if I needed to lose weight again I wouldstick to it religiously because you actually don’t feel like you’re on a diet because you can eat 3 meals a day, but you just don’t mix the protein and the carbs and in all of that there’s lots of fresh vegetables and fruit. If I have vegetables, I try and buy organic or indeed, I grow some of them  in my garden. I don’t boil them, I steam everything and the same with fruit. I like fresh fruit; I always have fresh fruit in the morning and anything I can buy organic, like meat and so on I will buy.

MF: So just really a healthy diet?

JT: A healthy diet. I do like a glass of wine; I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I don’t smoke though; I’ve never smoked.

MF: Wish I didn’t

JT: I have just never liked it really. My dad and mum use to smoke and as a youngster, I hated being in a room filled with smoke…because people used to just smoke anywhere.

MF: Everywhere, in offices in the cinema…

JT: It was probably a good thing for me because it put me off. Then of course all the fitness, just keeping your body in shape.

MF: What about guilty secrets? What do you sometimes crave?

JT: Not crave but I love butter on things so I’m not afraid of it and sometimes if I’m having cereal and fruit I’ll put cream on it instead of milk

MF: Oh, you evil woman. There’s nothing wrong with that.

JT: There isn’t, there isn’t and it’s good for you anyway so it is pure. It’s a lot better to have pure butter than margarine…

MF: So it’s not the chocolate or ice-cream thing ?

JT: No, I use to like ice cream but I’m not so keen on it at the moment and I don’t like puddings very often, I don’t like desserts after I’ve eaten. I’m more savoury.

MF: I’m more savoury too.

JT: I suppose if I like anything naughty, I like crisps once in a while. That’s a bit naughty isn’t it?

MF: You can get organic, really good crisps now too.

JT: You get better ones now that they are not fried, they are whatever…

MF: Baked…

JT: My parents owned a sweet shop and I used to eat a lot of sweets when I was a kid. Sometimes I will have wine gums once in a while but no I don’t crave them. I use to like nuts but I’ve got an allergy now since about 2 or 3 years ago which is weird, a peanut allergy so …

MF: Wow, how did you discover that?  An anaphylactic fit?.

JT: I did. I was just about to go to bed and you know how you walk around with your glass of wine and a bowl of nuts so I set them down and I was eating them and then I sat on the bed and then I thought, ‘oh, I feel a bit funny’ and my hands started to go bright red and my legs came up in a big rash, red and itchy, but burny itchy and I was like, ‘oh, this is weird’ and then I thought ‘okay, I’m just going to get in to bed properly’. So I went to the bathroom to try and brush myteeth and I couldn’t … my legs were going from underneath me and my head was going “boom, boom, boom”. I thought that this was weird because I thought I’m not drunk and I know exactly what is going on, but my legs were going; collapsing so then I … my husband was downstairs, in another room and so I slid and went downstairs on my bottom because I couldn’t stand up. I was like, wobbly and I just walked … then I had to walk through the kitchen and I shouted at him, I said, “I don’t feel very well” and then I went “booph” and I passed out on the kitchen floor. The next thing, I woke up. I wasn’t out for long because he was carrying me upstairs and he said “what happened? What happened?” He thought I was drunk. I said I wasn’t drunk because I only had 2 glasses of wine . I said I knew I wasn’t drunk, I showed him the rash and everything and then I started to feel a little bit nauseous and stuff and I just went to sleep. I started to investigate it and there was nothing conclusive.  I went up to London for tests and they didn’t really know and I had never had an allergy before and they didn’t specifically say it was peanuts then. Anyway, I tried to avoid them for a while but I know I ate nuts and I wasn’t seriously looking at ingredients on things and I even had  almonds and things. I tried to avoid peanuts but I still had nuts over the course of the next couple of years and then about a year ago, a similar thing. I had bowl of peanuts, I started to cook a meal. I felt it happening again and I had been given a pen just in case it ever happened and I could feel myself going like “burrr” and I got my son to go and get his dad from  the barn and he said “oh, yeah in a minute” and I said “no, now” and by the time he had come back in and I had already passed out and it was a lot worse than the time before and they say that, they get worse.

MF: But you obviously worked out, it had to be that?

JT: Yeah, I started to get my pen out and I … but I passed out. You are supposed to do it before you pass out and then my husband did it … when I came around he put me in the recovery position, bless him. I went to the hospital and I just stayed in there the night and you recover really quickly after. Somebody explained to me that sometimes in peanuts, there’s a bacteria on them from the factory … from where they grow or whatever and I think that’s what it was because I’ve eaten nuts my whole life but maybe at a certain point you get affected by some toxin in this bacteria or in a certain brand of nuts but it was enough, I thought ‘you know what, I’m not going to …’

MF: Yeah, just leave the peanuts alone.

JT: I do, I love peanuts and stuff and it takes … when you’ve never had it before, it takes a while. Sometimes my friends will say “are you sure you can have that?” And I’ve not checked,  because  it’s something I’m not use to but I’m gradually getting used to it.

MF: Obviously with a successful career comes natural success financially, apart from  a lovely home, what’s yourother indulgence?

JT: It’s usually  clothes really.

MF: Clothes and shoes?

JT: I was lucky enough to get lots of shoes when I was doing the TV shows so I do not need any more shoes for the rest of my life, certainly not with heels.  Lots of lovely clothes as well but I do like to treat myself once in a while if I feel that something’s nice because sometimes you walk away from a shop and think ‘oh, I really wish I had of bought it’, kind of thing. But then I enjoy treating my children as well.

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MF: You’ve probably been all over the world by now?

JT: Most places

MF: Not withstanding that, are there favorite places to go for holidays?

JT: Yeah, I mean I’m not one of those people that have regular holidays; it’s all a bit last minute, of course. One of my favorite places I went to in recent times is Dubai. I loved it there because I love hot weather and the sunbathing but as I said, I can’t really sit still so it’s nice as they have lots of sporting facilities as well and I really like an amazing gym.  The hotel I stayed at they had a room there that was for altitude training as well. I had never seen that before.

MF: Did you train in there?

JT: No, no because I didn’t need to and no one was in it at the time and you weren’t allowed to go in on your own, obviously, but years ago that would have been so helpful.  Chris and I trained at altitude in Obertsdorp in Germany but sometimes we would go in to places that were really higher up like in Europe and stuff and that facility then would have been great to use.

MF: Did you really notice the difference then, sort of going to altitude and trying to exert yourself, was it a lot harder?

JT: Yeah, oh God yeah and I remember as professionals we toured with a company; it wasn’t our own show and we went to Denver and everyone was saying, “oh wait till you …” because the arena’s is called The Mile High Arena and you just so notice it. Especially when you just pop in like for a week and then you’re gone and they always had oxygen tanks back stage because everyone would be gasping.

MF: Did you like training in the heat or a different climate?

JT: No, it’s just that  it hurts your chest because you can’t get enough air in but Chris lives in Colorado Springs so he’s used to that and the air  is very, very dry.

MF: It’s a nice place to be.

JT: Yeah, I remember once after Germany we were coming back to England you really noticed how fit you were having trained at altitude and I remember once  Chris and I  had 2 week period in Colorado Springs, we were training and I can’t remember where we were going after but it was definitely lower and you just feel “phew”, really loads of energy, so it’s worth it. I knew it was so hard but I thought I’m going to persevere and you get headaches and everything but I knew I’d feel good when we got to the place where we were doing the show.

MF: Apart from obviously your kids and your husband, what are 3 things you could never live without?

JT: Oh, let’s see. I would say coffee, music.

MF: What is your favorite music?

JT: I like all kinds of music because it’s part of what we work with all the time so it’s very important.

MF: Do you listen to lots of new music or do you listen sort of standards or middle of the road or whatever?

JT: A bit of anything. When Chris and I are working on a new routine, you’re playing that music over and over again so you get to know every single note of it. Over the years we’ve used a lot of classical music and even opera music as well for various pieces but then lately, more contemporary stuff with Dancing on Ice ‘cos that’s what the people like to hear. But I do like music. I don’t think there is a day goes by when I don’t listen to music.

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MF: So we’ve got coffee and we’ve got music, what’s the last one?

JT: What I couldn’t live without? I guess my phone nowadays. Everyone can’t live without their phone can they?

MF: Unfortunately it’s true.

JT: It’s true and if I go somewhere and I’ve forgotten it, it feels a bit strange I have to say. Part of that is if something; touch wood, if something  bad happens or in an emergency then people can get hold of you whereas years ago they couldn’t.

MF: Jayne Torvill, OBE, thank you for letting us into your world today and on behalf of nonbeige, I would like to wish you all the health and happiness for all the things you do in the future

JT: It’s been an absolute pleasure.

 

  • David

    Never seen Jayne Torvill so relaxed and cool

  • Rachelle

    love the format of the interview, refreshing to see something with minimal editing feels much more natural

    • Nonbeige

      Thank you for your kind words. We are always on the look out for new contributors and stories, so please get in touch if you want to get involved.

  • Rachelle

    although saying that the white balance and sound are dramatically off in some places especially towards the end

    • Nonbeige

      Hi Rachelle! I accidentally left the camera on auto, which meant that it took matters into it’s own hands. When I watched the footage back, I was horrified.I am new to video and struggled a little to find a universal fix across the whole interview. With regards to the audio, I think you are talking about background noise? We only had a table audio recorder and we filmed in a little cafe. We probably should have stopped the interview on a few occasions. Bear with us, it will get better!