Saturday 5 December 2015

Task 6: Go ice-skating at Somerset House in London

As you'll know only too well if you've been following my blog over the last six months, some of my tasks have gone swimmingly, some have encountered the odd mishap and a few have proved to be ever so slightly calamitous (my trip to Stockholm to meet Anna Ternheim springs to mind).  Prepare yourself dear reader - this task definitely falls into the third category....... 

Allow me to just set the context for you. As a 10-11 year old, an absolute favourite holiday treat of mine was to be taken on the train to London to visit Queens Ice Club for a day of ice-skating. I owned my own pair of white leather ice-skates and I wore a little skating skirt. I could skate backwards and dance a basic foxtrot. I even started doing very short spins. The best part was that my mother always let me take a friend or I would accompany a friend and her mother. When we weren't fearlessly whizzing round the rink, we'd be having snaps taken in the photo booth (cutting edge technology in those days) or we'd be in the cafe eating massive ice cream sundaes.  Two of my special ice-skating buddies were Louise and Annabel, with whom I first became friends at Miss Day's nursery school when we were four years old. I can't find any photos of the three of us at Queens, but here we are as 10-year olds singing at a concert organised by our ballet teacher (Annabel and I are standing first and second left and Louise is standing first right).  

My ice-skating obsession gradually faded as I moved into my teens, but from time to time in adulthood I've found myself hankering to have another spin on the ice. Hence ice-skating at Somerset House was an instant candidate for my sixtyat60 list. 

Fifty years on, Louise and Annabel are my oldest friends and the three of us meet up for annual extended lunches (no ice cream sundaes these days but we still take photos of ourselves). When these two stalwarts heard about my sixtyat60 challenge, they decided to nominate themselves as companions on one of my tasks, and it didn't take long to alight on ice-skating at Somerset House as a very fitting one. I booked three slots for us to attend a twilight session last Saturday and we prepared to roll back 50 years to those halcyon days at Queens Club.

And so it was that after a sustaining lunch at a restaurant off the Strand and as dusk was upon us, the three of us set out for Somerset House. At the rink, things were very well organised. We put on our hire skates and prepared to go onto the ice, along with about 100 other people of various ages, shapes and sizes. 


The gates opened and whoosh - everyone took to the ice.  Any thoughts we might have had about holding onto the barrier for a few circuits were out of the window as at least 90% of our skating companions had the same idea. So we wobbled our way gingerly around the rink and gradually each of us began to regain a smidgeon of that balance, flow and confidence we had enjoyed as 10 year olds.  After about 40 minutes, we were well into the zone. I mean just look at Annabel and Louise - Torvill and Dean or what?

A team of marshalls were patrolling the ice and we got one of them to take some photos of us in the middle of the rink (yes, we were that brave!), against the backdrop of a twinkling Christmas tree.  It all felt very festive. 

Isn't this all fab! You must be wondering why I seemed to be inferring otherwise at the beginning of this post? 

Our session was an hour long. We paused briefly after 50 minutes of skating - 'This is brilliant' we said to one another, 'It's so much fun!' Then just 5 minutes later, in the twinkling of an eye, Annabel slipped and fell (rather gracefully I should add).  And so now the story changes tack......  

Poor Annabel was experiencing a lot of pain in her left wrist, and started to feel very faint. Then she did faint. The marshalls were summoned, emergency procedures were actioned, a wheelchair was whisked across the ice and she was taken pronto to the on-site medical room for an initial examination, whilst Louise and I hovered in the background like a pair of extremely concerned and anxious parents. It was clear to all that Annabel's wrist wasn't looking as it should. Next thing we were in a taxi hurtling towards St Thomas's A&E Department, where x-rays revealed a Colles fracture (a very common injury in old girls like us).  Annabel insisted on us taking photos to document the story properly. Here we are trying to look chipper as Annabel awaits the arrival of a medic.


Annabel was wonderfully stoic throughout the entire episode, both in terms of putting up with various procedures (she was a brave soldier that evening I can tell you) and the potential implications for her work as a textiles conservation/restoration expert (not to mention her 60th birthday celebrations this week!!) Surgery lies ahead followed by many weeks with an incapacitated left wrist. 

How on earth do I sum up Task 6?  Bringing disaster upon myself during the course of doing a task goes with the territory but it feels very different and so upsetting when a much loved friend comes a cropper. I decided the best thing to do in this situation was to ask Annabel for her thoughts on it all and this is what she says:  

I couldn't have asked for 2 more caring companions, either in the fun bit of skating, which was spectacular, or in the aftermath, equally spectacular in its own way.  

We missed the hot chocolate at the pop-up Fortnum & Mason cafe, to which we were going to treat ourselves afterwards, but luckily we had had a tasty and sustaining lunch. 

You know who true friends are when the going gets tough, and Vivien & Louise proved to be just that. Although we generally only see each other on an annual basis, the extra time we spent together that Saturday night, proved what a strong sisterhood we are, and I couldn't think of better friends to join me in A&E. And Vivien's medical knowledge was an added bonus.

We all decided to join in with the skating task as consenting adults, and it will still be one of the highlights of my 60th birthday celebrations, as there cant be many groups of friends who can come together after knowing each other for 56 years, and still have such a ball.

So thank you Vivien for organising it, and I'll look forward to the punting next year!

And PS I'll bring my own life jacket!

I agree totally with Annabel that the unexpected consequences of Task 6 highlighted the quality and strength of our 56 year friendship - we shifted seamlessly over the course of the day from fantastic fun/enjoyment to support/deep concern, with a sprinkling of shared black humour, and that's something to really celebrate. So a huge heartfelt thank you and a big hug to my Miss Day sisterhood for a very memorable day on many levels.

As Annabel says, there's talk of the three of us doing the punting expedition to Granchester (Task 52) next spring. Good idea to bring your own life jacket Annie - and do you know what? I think perhaps we'll let someone else do the punting....


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