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The Skating Diaries: The Beginning

I can still recall the first time that I went ice skating. I was about ten years old and it was a friend’s birthday. We were at that age where games of pass the parcel and picnics on the lounge carpet in the traditionally rainy British summer were no longer thrilling enough. Trips to the swimming pool and bowling alley were gradually becoming the norm for our parties, but a trip to the frozen world of an ice rink, well that was something else entirely. 

My friends and I huddled together on the wooden benches, shivering in the unaccustomed cool climate, and yet basking in sheer delight. Even pulling on the ugly heavy hire boots somehow added to the fun.

With my shoes stowed away behind the counter and my new footwear strapped awkwardly to my feet, I eagerly tottered across the rubber flooring towards the icy surface.

I grabbed the handrail, cautiously stepped onto the ice and then... Nothing. My excitement and enthusiasm melted away in an instant, despite the freezing temperature. The practical cautious woman who lived within my ten year old exterior took control, as I realised one small detail that hadn’t occurred to me in the midst of my earlier excitement. This was dangerous.

I've no idea how long I stood there clinging to the barrier like I used to cling to my favourite rag doll. Childhood memories are rather like dreams that fade in the morning light. They become blurry fragments that knit together, often randomly, with no sense of time or accuracy.

At some point though I was coaxed reluctantly away from the barrier and escorted around the rink by the birthday girl’s mother and sister. It took both of them holding my hands to persuade me that it was safe.

I clung to them in terror as they built up speed and my friends became a colourful blur as we passed them. Yet it never occurred to me to ask them to stop or even just to slow down. Despite my fear I was having too much fun for that.

They towed me around for a few circuits before encouraging me to try on my own. That cautious part of me was still present though and I made tentative strokes that lacked the speed and stride to replicate my earlier exhilarating experience. I didn’t really mind though as this time I was doing it myself.

I don’t recall how the party ended. In my memory I am still gliding around that rink with the cool air stinging my eyes as we gained speed. My childish laughter and squeals still echo in my mind through the years.