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Friday 24 October 2014

Claire Byrne: Why it took the sound of a backside smacking into the ice to kickstart my Christmas mojo this year

It's a bit of a struggle isn't it? Getting that festive motor running seems to be taking longer than ever this year and having been accused in work of being a right old Scrooge, I set out over the weekend to find my inner Jingle Bells.

It's often a sound, a smell or a memory that rekindles the Christmas glow inside and makes you feel as though buying presents, sending cards and braving the cold for the drinks parties is less of a chore and more a welcome pleasure.

For me this year, the unusual, but unmistakable sound of buttocks on an ice rink was the kickstart I needed to start believing that Christmas is just around the corner.

My strategy for Saturday was well planned. I would head to the Arts and Crafts Fair at the RDS and before long, the plethora of stands selling the perfect gifts and the food hall with heady aroma of homemade Christmas pudding would almost certainly do the trick.

But of course, my best laid plans were knocked sideways by a necessary Saturday morning lie-in, followed by a late cooked breakfast.

It was just about afternoon when I switched on the telly and saw that the BBC was showing the first match in the UK snooker championships. The wind swirled and howled outside and the fire was lit. Christmas would have to wait.

No such sloth on Sunday though. My nephew Dean arrived on an early train and we met for our almost traditional Christmas day out. I hadn't the heart to tell him that I wasn't feeling in the least bit festive, unless the foamed milk topped with sprinkles of chocolate on my morning cappuccino belied my humbug form. We were going to Top Gear Live at the RDS to reprise the enjoyment that we had last year. Dean is 15 and cars mean more to him than life itself. We arrived early and so decided that the Arts and Crafts Fair was worth a visit. Despite the wonderland of presents and delicious artisan food, I still found myself smiling on the outside, but cancelling Christmas in my cold, cold heart.

It was time for Top Gear and, as was the case last year, the boys put on a great show, with fire, lights, stunts and loud music revving up the petrol-head audience. But they insisted on talking about the recession -- a lot. Then they mentioned Thierry Henry and the French football team -- more than once. The show ended and, despite my best efforts, it was past four o'clock and still I hadn't found Christmas.

We still had some time before Dean's train took him back home, so walking past the 7up Christmas on Ice event, we took the notion to give it a go. Neither of us had skated before, but reckoned there couldn't be much to it. After all, little munchkins a quarter my size were whizzing around the rink with glee.

Not until I set foot on that ice did I realise that I could cling quite so hard to the barrier that fenced the skaters in. At least I could stand still though; poor Dean slipped and slid around the entrance like a spinning top. Within minutes, we had descended into peals of laughter. Every time I saw another skater fall, I erupted from my toes and belly-laughed until the tears rolled down my face.

After 15 minutes, we were tentatively making our way around the ice. I am proud to report that I didn't fall, but my method of staying upright resulted in the capitulation of two other men who I distracted with my hysteria. Anytime I felt myself wobble and sway, I roared and shouted like the girl that I am. At one point, these two men, who were skating with some degree of proficiency , turned to witness my hollering skid and promptly landed on their bums, while I managed to stay vertical.

We left the rink an hour later, red of cheek, and I skipped to my car, happy in the knowledge that I had finally found Christmas.

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