Day 175: Achievement 86. Go ice skating at Somerset House.

Tickets to skate

Tickets for ice skating.  Photographed in summer. (Above.)

Nat is one of the most awesome people I know.  She used to come to a pub quiz I ran in central London but, for some reason, decided she’d move to Australia for a couple of years.  And then she came back and came ice skating with me.

As is a lady’s prerogative, Nat showed up to Victoria about 20 minutes late.  She’d got the coach up from some city with a cathedral and ended up stuck in a traffic jam all the way into central London.  Undeterred that we’d miss the start of the skating session, Nat bounds over to a sushi stall (the one by the toilets, Victoria station fans) and proceeds to select from a variety of raw fish.  She’s one of the most awesome people I know, though, so can get away with wasting valuable ice time in this manner.

To the Misery (nee District) line!  Except, it being a weekend, there’s some sort of added complication.  On this particular Saturday in January, there was no service east of Embankment.  So, like all good BTO fans would, we took what we could get from the tube and legged it down the Victoria Embankment on foot.  Except we didn’t leg it, because Nat was eating sushi (the rammed Misery Train was not conducive to lunching) and I was carrying Nat’s mentally heavy bag.  But Nat can get away with wasting valuable ice time in this manner, and no doubt causing my back a later mischief, because she’s one of the most awesome people I know.

Once we finally get up inside Somerset House, Nat decides she needs to find the toilet.  I go and pick up the tickets and drop her mentally heavy bag in the cloakroom.  Then I wait.  And wait.  And walk around the ice rink.  And wait.  And wonder where the hell she’s got to.  Turns out there was a queue.  I’m told, from a good number of sources, this always happens at ladies’ toilets.  What I don’t understand is why, then, they don’t put more toilets in ladies’ toilets.  I don’t want to be accused of standing and sniping on the sidelines, so I’ll even offer a suggestion about how to do it: take some floorspace from the gents! As a double bonus, I have a gut feeling that forcing men closer to the toilet bowl would also serve to bring about more sanitary conditions.

I digress.  Nat, being one of the most awesome people I know, has got feet like a normal person.  She knows her size and the acts of picking flippers at the swimming pool, choosing bowling shoes at the alley, and ordering ice skates at the rink are straightforward affairs.  Not so for me.  Three different pairs of skates later, and a few tibial tendon-related yelps of discomfort, I’m sort of sorted.  Sorted, that is, for the half second between standing up and falling over again.  Great start, made even better by the sniggering of a six year old.

My last time at an ice rink (this one, in fact) had involved drinking mulled wine and taking photos, then visiting the India Club for a curry.  It didn’t, for reasons that might already be apparent to you, involve wearing blades under my feet and careering around on a hard, yet slippy, surface.

So, we get out on the ice.  And, I can tell you now, it’s not a sport for those who feel the need to be emasculated.  Not only will an entire Spanish school party shoot past you as if they are direct descendants of Jayne Torvill (there’s your T&D reference, should you be playing cliche bingo), but so will the elderly and the infirm, the very young and those with a white stick and a dog.  Depending on the time of day, the dog might or might not be wearing a high visibility tabard.

Clinging to the side for dear life, and using the handrail as a method of propulsion, is a technique fraught with problems.  I’d go so far as to say that, between them, lollygaggers and children ensure it’s not a way the uncoordinated young professional is permitted to travel.  Forced on to the ice, straight lines are the thing to conquer first.  Well, not falling over, then starting to move, then moving in a straight line.  After that, it’s time to master stopping.  Then stopping using something other than the rink-perimeter rapid deceleration technique.  Then going around corners.  Then putting it all together.  Then avoiding people.  Then falling arse first on the ice.

Set up for a fall

Me, mid-fall.  Nat really captures the moment.

Great fun, though.  See you there next year.  More pictures on flickr.

(Note to readers: I do actually like Nat.  She’s one of the most awesome people I know.)