Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Gwiazdy tańczą na lodzie

Ever since I first even thought about coming to Poland, my inner lemming has been urging me to hurl myself over the great precipice that constitutes Winter Sports.
When I first mentioned 'snowboarding' to Car Guy, I was rather hoping that he would whisk me away to Zakopane and proceed to swoop down the slopes like James Bond in the beginning of From Russia With Love. Only without the cello and the pouting blonde chick.

- Do you ski?
- *nervous laughter*
- I thought all Polish families skiied?
- umm... I can... Why do you want to ski anyway??

Sensing a repeat of the dancefloor incident, I backed down.

However, he later confessed to knowing how to ice-skate. I suggested that this was because in the Good Old Days the Socialist authorities would pour water over the roads in winter so that children would have to skate to school, thus saving money on buses for the ministry of education. As revenge for my lack of sensitivity to the traumas of a 1980s childhood we duly went to the ice-rink.

There are two types of ice-rink in the world. The first kind start to sprout up outside shopping malls (Galeria Krakowska, the Rockefeller Center) and in parks (Błonia, Central Park) in the run-up to Christmas. They are full of wobbly occasional skaters, who've come after having a couple of post-work halves (Somerset House), and they often feature kiosks selling mulled wine, hot chocolate and so on (the one outside the Galeria has a Wedel 'Pijalnia czekolady'. It's very near the office, so I'm hoping it's not compulsory to skate before you're allowed to have chocolate...). This type of ice-rink is cutesy, festive, a little cheesy, and the music is soppy Christmas kitsch.
The second type is the Major Year-Round Ice Rink. Normally these are not such pleasant places. They tend to resemble an indoor football pitch combined with an aircraft hangar, and are often frequented by teenage boys (where do these guys come from? I have never met a teenage boy who would readily confess to a love of figure skating), who tear across the ice and slam into the barriers. The first time I went to one of these, aged around fifteen, the ice was evacuated at a certain point so that the staff could mop up several pints of blood (in Gillingham, take note).
Generally the music played is of the techno persuasion.
It is this second type of ice-rink that we went to.

I honestly thought it'd be ok, and that rollerblading would turn out to have been good training: alleviating my fear of slippery surfaces and so on.
Not so.
Although bemoaning lack of training and not having skated for upwards of 15 years (quick mental calculation), Car Guy quite happily managed a couple of easy laps while I was still plucking up the courage to let go of the handrail.

- See, you're getting better, he said after the next couple of laps, by which time I was about halfway round. We skated together for a bit.
- [in the same encouraging voice] Now you'll get overconfident and you'll end up on your arse.
Instantly I started to skid and grabbed at the side of the rink.

You really should learn how to stop now, was the comment a few laps later. I pointed out that I could stop, simply by not moving. And that given that I was travelling slightly slower than the pace of a Kefirek checkout queue, braking was really not a major issue for me. He responded by performing some swishy move and then skating backwards, to highlight my lack of proficiency.
At this point, there was a mysterious coded announcement and everyone starting skating in the opposite direction. Cue frantic sliding and windmilling movements on my part.

You will be pleased to know that we both survived the evening's exertions without falling over. The only major incident was a linguistic one: having learned how to say ice-rink I now have trouble distinguishing it from the word for refrigerator (ice and ice-cream are bad enough).
For example:
- Your dinner's in the ice-rink.*
But worse still:
- On Monday we spent two hours in the refrigerator. **

Thankfully it will soon be the holidays.

Oh and the title is the Polish equivalent of 'Strictly Come Dancing On Ice With Famous Pop Idols'. I don't think we'll be joining them any time soon.

*(twoja kolacja stoi na lodowisku).
(W poniedzałek byliśmy dwie godziny w lodówce).

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