And the sting in the tale is that you’re meant to be thrilled about it, even though, unlike the Olympics or the World Cup, it comes around every year.

Fortunately, in London, there’s still plenty going on during the festive season to take your mind off the sheer bloody chirpiness of it all. And the activity that grips the capital most tightly at this time is ice-skating.  Why not make this your year to become king or queen of the ice? Like Nancy Kerrigan before Tonya Harding went to work on her. Like those guys from Blades Of Glory.

You’ll be the very picture of graceful athleticism. Like a cat. Like a cat who can ice-skate. You may have noticed already, but pretty much any space in London has had a rink built on it over the past month, but the most spectacular may be the one at Somerset House.  Located between The Strand and Victoria Embankment, Somerset House is one of the city’s snazziest arts and cultural centres and, until January 22, you can get your skates on. Be careful, though. When Somerset House is lit up like, dare we say it, a Christmas tree, you may find yourself getting all gooey about the ‘magic’ of it all. “The atmosphere is really festive and magical – especially in the evenings when the lights around the building and the Tiffany Tree are lit up,” Mel Green, the rink’s manager, says. “We programme a range of activities on ice for everyone – skaters and spectators, families and friends – from Club Nights and free storytelling for children and families to Teatime with Tiffany and Skate School.”

Mmmmm… can’t you just picture the beady-eyed little darlings all rugged up, ready for their next Christmas story? It’s enough to make you want to get your tubes tied. But hey, surely it’s fertile ground for your festive misanthropy – sitting on the sidelines, laughing at people falling over, hoping that maybe that lovey-dovey couple skating along hand-in-hand will collide horribly and shatter each other’s pelvises.  Apparently not. Bah, humbug. “Surprisingly, it’s easier than it looks,” Green trills like an excited chipmunk on Christmas morn. “And our fantastic ice marshalls are always on hand to give skaters handy tips. For under-eights, we have the ‘penguins’ for use in the training rink.” Those fantastic ice marshalls. They’re the real heroes. Seriously. This sounds like hell.

But there’s more – some people are just so doggone zany and funtastic that they show up in costume.  In costume! Just imagine. “Last week, as part of our regular Thursday to Saturday programmed Club Nights,” Green recalls, the hysterical memory dancing in her voice like a Christmas elf who’s taken too much LSD, “we had a whole group of skaters dressed up for Tayo’s Tracksuit Party – clad in garish ski jumpsuits, shell-suits and tracksuits!” If, after all this, you still want to go ice-skating, there are shitloads of rinks in London. Get online and check. What? You want me to do it for you?

Words Tom Sturrock

For more humbug alternative activities, click this way….