Given that I am one of the world’s least sporty people, (being built more for comfort than for speed), it does sometimes come as a surprise to those who know me well that I actually partook in physical exercise on a very regular basis as a teenager. I went to one of those independent all-girls schools where there was pretty much an hour of timetabled exercise every day (and sometimes, gasp, even MORE), from hockey to netball, gym to tennis, depending on the season.
Although the pinnacle of my sporting career was playing backstop on the second rounders team and, for one hideous match, Centre Forward on the 1st XI, because someone was clearly smoking crack at the Sixth Form hockey trials for new girls, what I discovered was that, even though my Dyspraxia means I have little or no hand to eye co-ordination, if you play sport that often you reach a certain level of competency, whether you like it or not.
(If by competency you mean not falling over, occasionally hitting a ball, and knowing the offside rule, that is.)
Anyway, all that enforced sporting behaviour means I am also borderline competent at random things like dinghy sailing, riding and ice skating. The latter has proved extremely useful at several points of my life because, let’s face it, crawling around the perimeter of a rink, watching your legs refuse to obey orders for 45 minutes, is a particularly soul-destroying way to spend an afternoon. Especially if you are in charge of children who you are supposed to stop from maiming themselves.
My best friend Miss P is one of those people who weren’t just competent at sport, they did things like CAPTAIN their school netball teams (the horror!) and row at Cambridge, so when I was kindly offered a bunch of tickets for the ice rink at The Natural History Museum, I offered to take her and her two step-children, the lovely Nicholas and Sophie, for a Christmas treat on the Sunday before the Christmas break.
Miss P was very gung-ho about the whole idea, so imagine my shock (and utter glee) when I arrived to find her clinging to the barrier, unable to move unless in the manner of a constipated pigeon.
Sporting superiority NEVER happens to me. So forgive me for gloating, Miss P, because I suspect that will be the first and last time this will ever happen.
But, because I am a nice person, (and, okay, it was quite fun to be able to teach a sporty person how to do something), I taught Miss P and the children the basics — how to push off, propel themselves forward, and most importantly of all, how to stop without falling over, and within minutes they had all grasped the essentials. We had such a lovely time after that, with Miss P and I towing the children around the rink, avoiding the wobblers, and not falling over AT ALL.
(We were at an 11am Sunday session, and expected it to be rammed, but it was just nicely busy with about an equal mixture of Londoners and tourists, with none of the whizzy pros in their own skates that scare me rigid at indoor rinks.)
By the end of the session everyone was able to skate unaided, and Miss P was whizzing around the centre of the rink. So my sporting superiority lasted all of about ten minutes.
But, it happened for the first time ever, and for that I will be ever grateful. Thank you Gillingham Ice Bowl: my Grade 2 ice skating certificate remains one of my proudest achievements.
And it also proves that pretty much anyone can skate if they are just shown two minutes of basics…
A big thank you for the tickets to Starbucks, sponsors of The Natural History Museum Ice Rink, which is open until 6 January 2013.