A first timer’s guide to… Ice skating
SKATE AT SOMERSET HOUSE
Hey, I’m not one to brag, but there was a 10-year-old boy in my ice skating class who fell, like, six times. And one eight-year-old girl cried her eyes out after she hit the deck; her mum went to help her up and she wiped out, too.
I didn’t fall once in the whole hour.
So what? I guess I’m just gifted.
OK, I confess, I am not a gifted ice skater. I’ve probably tried skating every four or five years for the last 20. The last time I tried it I ended up holding on to a 2ft high polar bear, a toddler’s training aide. Other parents looked aghast.
HAVE A LESSON FIRST
There are plenty of places to try ice-skating this winter. Tower of London has a rink with spectacular views. The one in Broadgate looks great, too. I was at Somerset House on The Strand with a fabulous teacher called Natalie.
The key, it seems, is to look straight ahead and relax. ‘Don’t look down,’ Natalie kept saying – advice that works just as well for surfing, rock climbing and pretending you aren’t gutted when your girlfriend dumps you. You could book a session and just skate but, unless you are one of those who can just do it, I’d really recommend a lesson. Natalie actually had me skating, well kind of. I went forwards, backwards, touched my toes, I even did a spin – a tottering, teetering, stuttering spin but I turned around while moving, so we’ll call it a spin.
Channeling my inner Torvill and Dean is all well and good but it’s the setting that makes skating at Somerset House so special: the 40ft Christmas tree; the beautifully decorated neoclassical courtyard; the cosy café with tasty gingerbread men and hot chocolate for the adults, stollen and Jägermeister for the kids. Even if you do fall on your tush time and again, you’ll still have a lovely time at the rink.
HAVE A GO!
Suitable for everyone
From £22, excl booking fee
Isle of smiles
If you were to design a whole island for yourself, a place that had the specific purpose of helping you feel as calm as possible, what would you put on it? What would it be like? Revisit this place whenever you feel stressed, embellishing the details and adding new calming features over time.
Calm by Michael Acton Smith is published by Penguin Life, £6.99