Getting my skates on

Getting my skates on

Ah December, what a contrary month you are.  Your dark, freezing mornings (and equally dark, freezing rest-of-the-day!) leave me with a severe case of the S.A.Ds, and wishing I were a hibernatory creature, so that I could curl myself up in a warm, snuggly spot until the spring. But then you lure me out of your gloom with oh so many pretty, shiny lights! You offer me presents, and tell me its more than okay to stuff my face with chocolate at every available opportunity. You make frosty mornings and snowfalls seem idyllic and playful, and I’m sucked in every time. Until, that is, I take my first skipped steps into your wintry wonderland, and remember that it’s flippin’ freezin’ out there, and I don’t like the cold! You’re a sly month, December. A very sly month. And I’m never quite sure what to make of you. But I do know this… I love Christmas :D.

Now, this thinking that Christmas is just for kids – pah! I’m not buying it. Don’t get me wrong, when you’re little, Christmas seems like a very magical time, and it is! But if anything, I enjoy it even more now I’m a (sort of) grown-up. I can buy all the chocolates that I like, and not have to worry about sharing them with my siblings – result! I can cook whatever I want for Christmas dinner – I’m not a fan of the turkey – and totally remove the issue that is repeated turkey themed meals until New Years. I can pick out my own tree and, as is the tradition in my house, name it accordingly (for those of you interested, this year he’s called Sven). I can choose if I want to spend any of my festive time off with relatives or not, which surely has to be one of the main advantages to being a grown-up! And this 31-year-old still insists on an advent calendar every year. It’s a Christmas essential people, regardless of age :).

It’s around this time in December when I start feeling really Christmassy. Our tree goes up around the second weekend of the month, we start receiving Christmas cards, we’ve done the majority of our festive food shopping, and I am wrapping presents left, right and centre, with gay abandon. In Christmases past, this has been enough to make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. But this year – my year of ‘somethings’ – I had plans afoot that would give me some extra cheer… as long as I didn’t chicken (or should that be turkey?) out…

Every year, when I’m out and about, laden with bags full of presents (some for friends/family, most for me…), I see them. White and shiny, teeming with happy, blurry faces. Some are whizzing around, some falling down, and some are holding onto the sides, just watching. But all are having a blast. I envy the happy, blurry faced people. I want to be one of them. I want to ice skate!

I completely blame Christmas marketing for this need. I have little desire to tie boots with pointy bits onto my feet and then go round and round in circles on frozen water at any other time of the year. But come December, I see the open air rinks popping up, drawing me in their pretty pictures of clichéd festive scenes; beautiful people with beautiful smiles skating in beautiful locations. Damn you marketing geniuses! I WANT! And this isn’t the first year I’ve tried to get my skate on. Last year I tried. Twice! Once at Hyde Park, and a few weeks later at Brighton Pavilion. But I only got as far as watching. You see, there is a slight technical hitch with wanting to go Christmas ice skating… I can’t skate! I have been skating before, when I was about 8. I was invited to a skating party where I was given a pair of skates, pointed towards the rink and told to “go!”. Helpful. I spent the entire time holding onto the safety barriers, pulling myself round the edge whilst my accomplished skating ‘friends’ had a whale of a time in the middle of the ice. Nice. So I had a few skating demons to exorcise. Thank goodness for my year of ‘somethings’ to give me the extra push I needed to grab the ice skates by the laces and just do it! It did, I did, and I had a great time :D.

Now, I may be a noob when it comes to skating, but I’m not a complete idiot. I wasn’t going  to completely embarrass myself in front of a load of strangers – hells no! And certainly not at the venue I had chosen for my Christmas ice skating debut – the simply stunning Somerset House. So I did what any sensible person would do; I invited my friends (also skating noobs) along to share in any embarrassment. And to have fun, of course :). Genius idea! Well, it was, until none of them could make it come the day :(. This did slap me in the face slightly, but I’d already booked my ticket, and my skate guide (a-ha! Another genius idea to minimise any possible skating awkwardness!), so there was no question of me not going. And I’m so glad I did! Despite some last-minute nerves when waiting in the skate room – surrounded by families, groups of friends and couples, wondering what the hell I was doing there, Billy-no-mates as I was – once I met my super lovely ice guide Steve and took those first clumsy steps onto the ice, I was too busy concentrating to be nervous. Although not officially skating instructors, ice guides are described as being able to “provide useful assistance for novice skaters who need extra support”. That couldn’t have been more on the money for Steve, who literally was my extra support for my one hour session. Poor guy; his hand must have been so sore, my having squeezed it quite hard for the majority of our time together; oops! He very politely shrugged off my concerns about his hand, telling me hilarious stories about other ‘novices’ (worse than me, apparently) that he’s guided round the ice, none of which I can possibly divulge. But take it from me, they were hysterical!

An hours session seems like an extraordinarily long time when you have no idea what to expect, and the nerves are kicking into high gear. But it really flew by, much like the countless people who attempted to jinx my staying upright-ness by nosediving in front of me with annoying regularity. Hey, people, stop messing up my skating mojo with your falling down; it’s really inconsiderate… 😛

In between avoiding the trippers, the slippers and the over-the-toppers, and on the rare occasion I released Steve’s hand from my death grip, I took a few snaps of my time on the ice:

The official photographer even got a couple of shots of me getting my skate on. Ok, ok, getting my wobble on then… :):

Wow. What a fun way to spend a Saturday morning; effortlessly gliding round the ice, in the beautiful winter sunshine, with that as a backdrop! Well, ok, not quite effortlessly gliding. More like awkward stop-starting, with a lot of help from Steve. But still, I really enjoyed it :).

By the time I had to come off the ice, I’d witnessed several spectacular falls, lots of showboating, and even a proposal (she said yes by the way)! But mostly I’d just seen people having a great time; hanging out with friends and family, getting into the festive spirit and being really friendly to complete strangers. It seems like Christmas really is the season of goodwill to all men :). A guy I’d meet on the way in flew past me at one point screaming “Hey! It’s you! You’re doing really wellllllllllllllllllllllllllll!”. Aw. Thanks Mr Leicester City hat! You scared the shit out of me, and I nearly fell over, but thanks! I even got some compliments on my progress from Steve: “You’re much more confident than you were when we first started. You’re actually quite good… when you don’t think about what you’re doing!”. Hehe. Yup, that’s been said before Steve, but thanks :D.  And I managed to get through the entire session without falling over once – yay!

So, if you can, get your skates on, and get out there! What could be more Christmassy than a spot of outdoor ice skating huh? And there are so many great ones all over the place, so give it a go. And don’t forget, you can easily reason your way to eating that extra mince-pie after all the calories you’ll burn on the ice – it’s hard work trying not to fall down for an hour! So do it. And have that extra mince-pie. I insist :).

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