Dec 092009

Uncle Frank "enjoying" Cork on Ice It’s official… I still have all of my extremities. I know this because I’ve counted them. Two arms, two legs, eight fingers, two thumbs, and ten toes.

Three weeks ago it had seemed like such a good idea. My wife was browsing the Cork on Ice website and asked if I’d be up for going ice skating with the gang. Sitting at home in a warm living room saying yes had been easy. Now the day had arrived though I was feeling a bit less assertive.

Me, blades and a large expanse of cold, wet slippery stuff… not a good combination.

I’ve been ice skating maybe three times in my life. The first was as a child, when we were taken to a huge Ice rink in North Wales on a school trip. As with most unpleasant experiences, my mind has obscured most of the details. All I remember is clinging, white-knuckled, to the edge of the rink, making my way inch by painful inch around the perimeter. In my mind’s eye all I could see was images of bloody skate-blades and severed fingers. From the moment I stepped onto the ice I remember praying for the experience to end.

The next time was a friend’s birthday party. When I found out we were going ice-skating it was all that my parents could do to convince me to go. This time I was a little braver, and actually let go of the side. Big mistake… I spent more time spread-eagled on the ice than I did actually skating. Cold, wet and miserable I vowed never to set foot on an ice rink again.

The third time wasn’t really skating, as such. We took the girls to an outdoor public ice-rink in Sweden a couple of winters ago, and I walked beside them in big, grippy snow boots as they got the hang of balancing on ice skates. They loved it… and I was quite happy out on the ice in my boots.

Now, as I sat in the marquee on Cork’s docklands strapping ice-skates to my feet, childhood memories of scything blades, flying shards of ice and severed fingers came flooding back. I tried to dismiss them as I helped the little one on with her skates. The children were excited, and jabbered nineteen to the dozen… I was silent. My wife, who’s as accomplished on the ice as I am, chickened out last minute, opting to take photographs from the sidelines. She gave her ticket to her brother, who couldn’t skate either (see photo), and we headed for the ice.

Uncle Frank gets to grips with a penguin at Cork on Ice We started off on the kiddies rink, a smaller, more manageable-looking expanse of ice next to the main rink. Here the kids could hold on to weeble-like sliding penguins with handlebars to help them find their feet. Unfortunately there didn’t seem to be any giant penguins for incompetent adult skaters. I clutched the side and hung on for dear life as my feet headed in opposite directions.

"Dad, will you help me," asked the little one, tugging at my arm and almost pulling me to the floor. Help her? Who was going to help me?

All around the ice I saw parents in a similar predicament… children, with the fearless abandon of youth, were taking off across the ice pulling terrified mums and dads in their wake. It would have been funny if I hadn’t been one of them. The little one was completely fearless and before long she was out on the big rink, heading off across the ice without giving it a second thought. My heart was in my mouth as I watched her head for the middle of the rink, wondering how on earth I’d reach her if she fell. Amazingly, she didn’t lose her balance once during the entire session. She was having a ball. The twins, perhaps because they’re that bit older, were a little more cautious than their baby sister, but after a while they too were letting go of the side and properly skating.

They were showing their Dad up…

I’d just have to get over my fear and take the plunge. I let go… and didn’t fall over. Gingerly at first, but with growing confidence, I started to skate. While I don’t think I’ll ever be much of a skater, I actually started to enjoy myself on the ice, which is frankly amazing. Cork on Ice was a great hit with the kids, and is a fantastic thing for the family to do together. It’s running until the 17th of January 2010 — you’ll find all the details, times and prices on the website.

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