`Well, have you thought of renting a penguin for half an hour, madam?`
I must confess I never had before, but if you think…
The beaming (surely not smirking) bloke behind the counter gestured to a clutch of bright penguins in the corner – high-viz, perfectly stable and sturdy handgrip at the back. Anyone could maintain their equilibrium leaning on the like (couldn`t I?).
George and Brian enthusiastically refused to try one but seemed very keen for me to and I don`t know what they meant about less danger to everyone else.
`Do many beginners use these?` I asked the man hopefully. `Mmm, quite a lot,` was the unconvincing reply.
I decided to launch back onto the ice without one. And with a change of skates – it could well have been their fault.
I blame certain winter TV programmes for the fact that we were here at all – the thrill of the speed-skating, the utterly beauteous figure-skating, the soft crunch of ice beneath swerving skate… so tantalising.
And Caroline had received a discount voucher in the post.
So four of us gathered at SpeedySkate for our first venture, clad in layers of Vest and Woolly (tights and tutus having but briefly been considered) and grinning rictusly.
We stood trembling while our enthusiastic trainer Steve bombarded us with vital tips to get us started and keep us upright. His finest achievement was of course making us let go - of him as well as of the side.
For the blades don`t carve a gentle furrow – they skid uncontrollably about on top, because only diamond could penetrate that cold, evil surface.
`Don`t worry,` smiled Steve as we skittered about, `Everyone falls over sometime – you just get back up!` Obviously, he`s never seen Bambi. And his youthful bones wouldn`t be left on the ice in a trillion agonised shatterings.
As the tutoring session wore on, we did manage to inch forward by means of the lemon maneouvre - Bend knees-Toes out-Glide-Toes in-Knees straight.
In the nick of time we also learned to STOP!, to look where we were going (always prudent), and to attract the attention of a merry gang of under-tens as we attempted for some reason to navigate car tyres.
"Please can we watch?" they giggled. "Sod off" I snarled. To myself.
Soon we`d collected quite a crowd of schoolchildren, which I`m sure helped us relax into the terrifying uncontrolledness of it all. Specially when they started explaining to us where we were going wrong and that awful accident their brother had had when he kept doing exactly that.
Annoyingly though, a lot of their advice began to make sense, particularly after Our Trainer had departed. We found ourselves following their lead, imitating their bendy limbs and... having fun! – we could do Anything!
Look out for us on certain winter TV programmes next year.