We had the day off on Friday for Good Friday. In our family if we do anything twice it becomes a tradition, so it has become something of a school holiday tradition to have a day out in Oxford to go ice skating. It is supposed to include having panini for lunch, though last year the place was unfortunately closed. Tish, M and I left early, because we have to go to the park-and-ride and then get the bus into the city centre. It is part of the experience because the bus route takes us through Summertown and we have to look out for the road with the Hornbeam trees (this is where Will finds the 'window' into Cittagazze in The Subtle Knife. It's not a real road but it is described in such detail that you come to believe it is and so we always discuss the book as we take this journey.)
I like ice skating for several reasons. Firstly nostalgia; I used to go regularly to Deeside Leisure centre when I was about 12 or 13, we lived across the water in a little place called Neston, and going there to skate remains a very fond memory. Then there is the people watching; families having fun together, people being just that little bit vulnerable, looking silly when they fall over but not minding and the pleasure of watching people who can skate really well. I don't mean twirls and jumps, just watching them glide around the ice, looking relaxed and unconcerned where I am concentrating really hard on not falling over. And that was what I was thinking about while I took one of my 'ankle breaks' (I have to undo my boots every now and then or my legs stop working.) When I watch the skaters, usually the ones who hang about in the middle practicing fancy moves, I am reassured to find that I have no desire to be able to do that. I like to potter round the edge just making my own steady progress, enjoying the cold air and the sensation of sliding, albeit non too gracefully, around the rink. I like being an amateur. I don't want to be better than I am. I don't want to take classes and learn how to go backwards or stand on one leg. I have a lots of skills, things I can do, but things I wish I was better at, things I wish I could learn more about. Skating isn't one of them, and it occurred to me that sometimes it is important that you can just enjoy something at whatever level, without needing to be 'good' at it.
Tish took a bit of a tumble and the nice young man in the 'First Aid' found her some plasters for her elbows, but we managed the morning relatively unscathed. We had our panini in a cafe in the covered market, and they were just as good as we remembered. Then we dodged between the shops while the rain drizzled on us for the afternoon, and we even found the girls some new clothes in the sales. It was one of those good days out. We all had a good time, nobody got upset or angry and we had doughnuts on the bus back to the car.