When I was about 7, I went to an ice skating party. These were very much the fashion for birthdays at the time, and were something of a living nightmare: a bunch of faintly vicious pre-adolescent girls, hyped-up on sugar and rivalry, vying to be the queen of the ice and not afraid to spike a fellow competitor in the process. Think Mean Girls but with lethal blades and you're pretty much there; indeed, as someone who possesses neither a competitive spirit nor any sense of balance, I've remained highly traumatised by the whole experience ever since.
So when an invite came to try the ice rink at Spinningfields last night, I was pretty tempted to say no. Still, it's amazing what you'll agree to once you've got a few drinks inside you, and after a couple of glasses of red and a splendidly-girthed hotdog at The Long Bar (in its new winter guise as Bierhaus, a Bavarian-style beer hall), I found myself teetering on a large expanse of frozen water as my far more talented friend (and let's face it, a load of very small children) sailed off confidently and gracefully into the distance. And actually, although I was rubbish, and held onto the edge most of the time, it was really quite a lot of fun - no-one pushes or goes too fast, AND there are plastic seals and penguins that the less talented Torvills among us may cling onto for dear life.
I was also very impressed with The Long Bar, or Bierhaus as it now is - I was never really keen on this pop-up in its summer form, finding it a little lacking in atmosphere and rather full of suits for my liking, but the venue has been transformed into somewhere snug, welcoming and friendly, with good music (on the evidence of last night) and a roaring trade in pies, frankfurters and pretzels. There is no pretence here - the hotdogs come out of a shiny foil packet and the sauerkraut from a jar - but you can't really argue at £4.50 a pop (and an extra quid for the pretzel necklace that I proudly wore and consumed on the bus on the way home, much to the envy of my fellow passengers). Indeed, had it not been a Wednesday night, my friend and I agreed that we could have essentially remained happily ensconced here until physically ejected at the end of the evening.
In fact, Spinningfields looks as if it's really got its festive act together this year, as tomorrow sees the launch of the Spinningfields Christmas Market, which will run every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the run-up to Christmas and will rotate an impressive roster of 82 traders as well as featuring street food collective Guerilla Eats. There is also a helter skelter which looks fun, but as I have a fairly irrational fear of my bottom proving too big for the slide and me becoming wedged halfway down as a result, I won't be going on this any time soon. After all, these lifelong fears can only be conquered one at a time, and whilst I feel the ice may still have the upper hand, at least I didn't fall flat on my backside in front of a load of sneering children...
- Full details of Christmas at Spiningfields can be found here on the website. I received a free drink at The Long Bar and a free skate session, but paid for everything else I ate and drank. I'll just leave you with another picture of, ahem, me showing them all how it's done.