Monday, 7 January 2008

On becoming less incompetent

The festive season may be over, but it's still feeling pretty wintry, and this weekend my thoughts turned to ice skating. An internet search revealed that Warwick Castle had an 'ice trail' over Christmas, which was about to end- it must be fate. I don't think I'll be saying anything too controversial by stating that the entry prices to the castle are pretty scary, which is why we haven't been already, but this seemed like a special occasion. Tickets were duly booked, and excitement duly mounted.

I'd booked us a 6pm skating slot thinking that it would be nice to see the castle at night, and it really was. It's a very impressively intact castle, with its earliest origins in the 11th century. We wandered about, viewed a few of the exhibitions (it's owned by the Madame Tussaud's people, and there was a lot of high-tech visual interpretation going on, and even some waxworks of Queens Victoria and Elizabeth for you to have your photograph taken with). What particularly added to the experience though, was the Christmassy steam fair, and being there in the evening with not many other visitors. Our ticket included a go on one of the fair rides, and I managed to entice The Scientist onto the carousel (he seemed to have suspended being an adult for the sake of one last shot at Christmas. I suppose that explained the bag of popcorn which was bigger than his head as well). I think that we were the only unaccompanied adults on the ride, but I had the broadest grin of anyone on it - especially when I looked over at The Scientist and found that he was calmly and seriously riding his gaudy wooden horse as though it were a perfectly normal thing for a 31-year-old university academic to be doing.

The skating was also great fun. It was an ice trail rather than a rink, so you skated round a short route which had been laid in one of the gardens. It was definitely the best setting I've ever skated in, and we were accompanied by Christmas carols all the way round (I dread to think what the energy requirements to keep it frozen are, though The Scientist would have me believe that it was cold enough anyway for it not to be too bad. I'm hoping he's right). The brilliant thing about skating is that you quite quickly become slightly less completely incompetent than you were originally. Within a few minutes you can pretend that you're gliding along as gracefully as Torvil and Dean, blissfully ignoring the fact that you're almost certainly actually flailing about with the grace of an overweight drunken snowman and being overtaken by four year-olds. Perhaps we glided; certainly we flailed, but we had a damn good time.

It was too dark to take many good photos, but I do like the way this one of the portcullis looks as though there's a beady-eyed sinister presence watching us from the other side.

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