Monday, February 22, 2010


We didn't do much during the day on Christmas eve, maybe we did, but whatever it was has been overshadowed by the evening. I know we missioned out to the supermarket and picked up some food and beverages for the celebrations on Christmas day. I remember asking the guy in the off-licence if he was open for Christmas and being surprised at his glum "yes" reply.

Before leaving the shop we watched as the doorway was cast in shadow and a massive beast of a man waddled through the door who kinda looked like a menacing trucker version of Stephen Fry. I was half expecting some kinda crazy shit about to go down, when all of a sudden the frightful looking man opened his mouth and a soft and gentle posh English accent wafted through the room. Lol, British people.

We had collected enough supplies that we wouldn't need to venture out on Christmas day. I was certain that we didn't have enough alcohol, yet Prue forcefully assured me that we "didn't need anymore alcohol you drunk bastard". Later the next day she was, naturally, proven wrong. So I was glad I'd inquired to the man in the shop about his opening hours. But lets not get ahead.

We bummed around for the most part of the day, needing a bit of a break from the constant go-go of the past days and months. But by mid afternoon the spirit for adventure (and boredom) overtook us so we headed off to Hyde park for a Christmas Eve outing at the fair ground set up in Hyde Park corner.

The Winter Wonderland has a Bavarian theme, you can buy all sorts of Englishised Bavarian treats. There are show rides, side show stalls, music and of course food and alcohol. During the day it is mostly occupied by kids and their parents, but at night, and especially on Christmas Eve the place is packed with young adult revelers, drinking mulled wine and singing "Last Christmas" over and over and over and... Seriously it gets played more often than a Nintendo DS on a School bus.

The main draw card for us was the ice skating rink. What better way to celebrate a winter Christmas than by ice skating outdoors in the middle of London's most famous park, right in the middle of the city itself. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same romanticised idea and there were no tickets available until the last session at 9pm. It was around 6pm so we had a few hours to kill.

We went on a couple of the rides, which were about as expensive as the Melbourne Show. One of the rides was a mini roller coaster that reminded me of the one at Luna Park and which made better use of a small space than a Swiss inventor.

Then we stumbled across an old arcade games area. I'm not talking old like Virtual Cop, Daytona and Sega Rally. I don't mean nostalgic arcade games like Pacman and Space Invaders. These arcade games were made of wood and metal but had no electronic parts, apart from a few with flashing light bulbs, yes bulbs not LEDs.

We traded our show ride tickets for a handful of "old pennies" and proceeded to pump them into the slots of the machines. The arcade was a lot of fun, even though there was no hero levelling or cut-scenes, no quick time events or combo breakers. There was however a classic feeling of fun similar to the one that can be achieved by giving a kid a large empty cardboard box. We got a little hooked trying to bounce the pennies off the shelf into the collection tray and dwindled away our tickets buying more pennies in a vain attempt to win back the lost ones.

We headed to the large Bavarian drinking area. Mainly because it was heated inside and we were very cold. Thus the decision to purchase some Mulled wine was inevitable, and horribly regrettable. We both cupped our hands around the warmth of the mulled wine and took turns pulling faces best described by the word "Byerchk!" The mulled wine tasted like shit, actually it probably tasted better than shit, but was nonetheless disgusting. So we washed down our mulled wine with Steak Sandwiches.

Eventually it was time to head to the Ice Skating rink, so we lined up with the hundred or so others in our session and received our skates. My skates cut into my feet but they were tight around my ankles so we walked over to the edge of the rink as best as anyone who tries walking in skates can and found ourselves among the first people out to brave the ice.

I hadn't skated in a couple of years, last time was at Bendigo's rink where I managed to nearly break my ankle in the last five minutes of the day, and limped around for a fortnight afterward. So with some hesitance I skated out, found my balance, tried a dash of speed and weaved around the first lap to find Prue hugging the boundary ten metres out of the gate. So I grabbed her hand and we skated around hand in hand like a bunch of romantics until she found her balance again.

Then it got chaotic. They only sell a number of tickets so that there aren't too many people on the ice, the problem is there is obviously still a few too many people, a quarter of the people can skate, half of them are terrible skaters and the other quarter never take their hand from the rail as they wind around the loop of the rink for the entire hour session.

The good skaters duck and weave between the masses of terrible skaters, the terrible skaters freak out and fall over, then a good skater weaves to avoid the fallen skater and freaks out another terrible skater who jumps out of the way and into the path of another skater so they both fall over. Then they pick themselves up, wash, rinse and repeat.

Meanwhile on the sidelines the incapable skaters are moving hand over hand along the boundary rail until they reach someone leaning up against the rail taking a break. The incapables freeze and cause a butterfly effect traffic jam through the incapables behind them. The incapable looks pleadingly at the person leaning against the boundary, who then either skates forward to let them pass, or gives them an amused look and watches the incapable skater try to reach around them to get past.

Prue and I manage to skate the hour without any falls, despite being the victim (and occasional perpetrator) of a few collisions. Towards the end of the session the crowd started to leave and ice got choppier. I tried to remember how to do power slides while Prue did pirouettes like a Ballerina. Ice Skating in Hyde Park, London in Winter, a strange and unusual experience, but a hell of a lot of fun.