Do you ever look in the mirror and say "you know what (insert name here), my face is far too pretty and frankly my proportions are far too well balanced to be viewed with anything but contempt. If only there was some form of activity that I could viciously pummel my body into a less appealing shape and brutally smash my face into a repugnant paste of cartilage"? Well good news masochist! I happen to have just experienced something that can fulfil all your self-harm needs whilst getting you extremely drunk!
I am of course referring to that curiously graceful pile of slapstick, ice skating. An activity which has long been the winter staple of Somerset House (one of those rather beautiful buildings the city is famous for), located deep in the heart of London in the Strand and available between the 16th of November and the 6th of January.
Now, I should state at the start that when friends told me that they had all bought tickets for this rather middle class affair I had my doubts. Having all the balance of a one legged elephant on a beach ball and having so little pain tolerance I howl for mercy when banging my shin on the coffee table, I was understandably sceptical at the possibility of emerging as the next skating prodigy. But as peer pressure seemed to fuel the world, I jovially agreed to book some with them and test my metal against the dreaded rink of cringe worth crunches.
We all headed off, some in high spirits and others praying to any god he could find in the dictionary, that he wouldn't get his fingers sliced off and soon arrived in the Strand with a song in our hearts and the wind valiantly blowing our hair out. We approached Somerset House with barely contained glee and were told that we had an hour before having to lace up our skates, so sat in the cafe and watched more people falling over than YouTube has any right to scoff at. This is where I discovered the joys of freshly mulled wine! If you can imagine getting a friendly cuddle from every stereotypical jolly washerwoman in history, then you have just reached halfway towards what this stuff does to your innards. It was simply gorgeous and my friends laughed as I eagerly went back for more.
But of course, the time would eventually come when we would have to prepare, so we went off to gear up and were met with a handy instructional video of how to skate. Now, I'm not given to abusing inanimate objects, but this video was a complete liar. Upon watching it, cries came up from all around us saying, "Doesn't look that hard!" "I could do that in my sleep!" Upon which we stepped out onto the ice, and as one had to either lunge for the rail to stop ourselves from face planting or try and break our fall by face planting (myself being in the latter category).
However, as much as I have made this event out as a death sport, it really isn't that bad. Your entire group will turn into a very British "oh, isn't it just typical of me to fall over" sort of party which rapidly give you a bizarre sense of bone breaking unity. Even as my arse met with the ice for the third time, someone else would join me, causing us both to burst out laughing, help each other up and begin a friendship to weather any of the storms life could throw in our way until we fall out over a girl and end up having pitched broadsword battles on top of lightning strewn mountains (although I may have made some of that bonding tale up).
Even the falls themselves didn't seem to cause that much damage, partially because of a dim fog of alcohol but mainly because everyone saw it as a laugh and a half anyway, so that as my friend group made our surprisingly fluent stumble off of the rink due to one of us giving the ice a particularly nasty head butt that it won't soon forget, I flexed my various bruises with a smile on my face.
Yes, the falls hurt slightly but if a pansy like me can laugh it off then god knows you can. I don't even exaggerate when I say that you have to try this at least once in your life and I urge you to book tickets for either this year or the next. Drink wine, eat cake, make friends, fall flat on your arse and feel like a king doing it.