When I was 10 or so I had my own white leather skates ( second hand but much loved), very occasional lessons at Richmond Ice Rink and could even travel a couple of metres backwards.
As a teenager we used to go “down Richmond” for the day, smoking in the railway carriage there and back ( it was legal then !) and alternating between skating round and sitting in the cafe eating crisps and … smoking. You might think then that despite the distractions, I’d be reasonably good at skating. But the last time I went to an outdoor rink a few weeks ago, with a child pulling on me each side, I found myself clutching the side barely able to stand up let alone move. So I was delighted when I was invited to bring the children to skate at Westfield and make use of the penguins they provide for younger children.
The advantage of Westfield over an outdoor rink is you don’t get the problem of surface water (though you do lose some of the romance of the trees and night sky!) And an advantage over a larger indoor rink is it’s much warmer. The disadvantage is it’s smaller and there are far more people on the ice who can’t skate. Not a problem for most of us – though clearly not a place for professional skaters to practise their routines – something that used to go on when I skated at Richmond as a child.
The highlight for me though was the penguins! These are the skating equivalent of walker trollies which teach toddlers to walk. And they are just as brilliant an idea. Having despaired of family skating and felt I’d definitely lost my mojo, we all had a fantastic time. Admittedly I left behind my non skating OH and traded him in for a sporty German girlfriend of mine who is great on skates. That helped get the children started, but having the penguins gave them the confidence to skate independently and move away from the edge. It also gave me the chance to go round the rink a few times on my own. It’s not as big as a professional rink of course so you are never far from the children. But without the kids pulling me off balance, I discovered I could actually still stay on my feet and skate – even if with the grace of an ugly duckling rather than a swan. But it was lovely to remember that skating can be enjoyable rather than a penance.
Of course penguins don’t teach children about balance and if you want them to skate properly they are going to have to step away from their penguins quite fast.
But as a way of making sure you all have a good time and no-one falls over too often, I would say they are well worth the extra £4.50 as you will have twice as much fun as you do with them pulling you over !
For smaller children you can hire sit on seals. The kids are strapped on and you , the “groan -up”, push them around. The secret advantage of this of course is if you can’t skate very well you have your very own walker or stroller to keep you upright. It’s almost worth borrowing a toddler.
For more information on timings and prices at Westfield London’s indoor rink ( at Shepherd’s Bush). If you live out East there is an outdoor rink at Westfield Stratford City.