Sport · Travel

Week 48: Bouncing and Skating at Alexandra Palace

I spent most of the week flitting between the GSCR, Real Tennis and our new house. I managed to arrange for the internet to be connected to our house, but it wouldn’t be installed properly until early September. Mostly, I was working on matters relating to Orientation. The new scholars would be arriving in less than a month, and I was heavily modifying a script that allocates activities for everyone to do on the Lake District trip to Ambleside. Mostly, I was just ensuring that everything would be in place, or at least enough to run with should something go wrong.

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The exciting part of the week came on Friday. After I had seen an ad online, I had suggested to Jacqueline that we make yet another trip to London, this time to head to Alexandra Palace. For a few weeks, the world’s longest bouncy obstacle course was set up in the main hall of Alexandra Palace. We headed out on a train from Cambridge. Although the station at Alexandra Palace is on the line between Cambridge and King’s Cross, no trains run direct, and you have to change somewhere. We initially planned to change at Welyn, but our train was running late, so we changed at Finsbury Park, only to discover that there had been an incident further down the line at Moorgate and the train had been cancelled. We had to wait around for another one, but eventually arrived at Alexandra Palace.

The palace had been initially built as a “people’s palace”, but had later found use as the home of the BBC, with the first British terrestrial television broadcasts being made from its large antenna tower. Today, it serves mostly as an entertainments precinct. We had tickets booked online for bouncy obstacle course, called “The Beast”. It was set up in the main hall of Alexandra Palace. We were booked in at 1:45 pm, so we hung around and grabbed some food from the nearby food vendors and hung about on the hill in Alexandra Park

Eventually, our time on The Beast approached, and we queued up. They were letting people on six at a time. The first obstacle was a climbing wall, followed by a series of connected ‘rooms’, each of which was basically a bouncy castle in its own right, with things to bounce off or climb over or crawl under or jump through. The course snaked backwards and forwards four times, so there was plenty to do. I insisted that I could jump over the climbing walls without the use of the supplied ropes, which I managed to do. But continuous bouncing meant that we pretty soon exhausted ourselves. We were on The Beast for over half an hour.

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We went outside to catch our breaths momentarily, before heading into a different part of the palace: the ice rink. Jacqueline, having grown up in Canada and being used to Canadian winters, had been missing the ice and snow that is not present in the cool English winters. So as a compromise, we had agreed to go skating. However, as an Australian, ice skating is less a way of life and more something that one might do at a friend’s birthday party as a kid. So we both came with very different expectations.

Jacqueline explained that in Canada, ice rinks are plentiful and kids learn to skate soon after they learn to walk, so she found it odd to see the large number of tepid older kids out on the ice. Being one of the few rinks in London, there were also a few people practising their figure skating at the same time; something which greatly confused Jacqueline but roughly met my expectations. As an Australian not having grown up on ice nor supporting ice hockey, my skills were vastly inferior to Jacqueline’s, but I decided it was largely a confidence game, and quickly brought myself up to a level respectable for most of the kids and adults on the ice. I did fall a couple of times, owing to my lack of ability to stop and tendency to dig my skates into the ice when lifting my feet and an instinct to lean backwards to regain balance. This was much to Jacqueline’s amusement, but she, kindly, did not make fun of me.

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Finally, after an hour on the ice, we headed back for the station; I had to make an Orientation committee meeting back in Cambridge. However, after I checked the timetables, I realised we only had a few minutes to make the train, which meant a full on sprint down the hill of Alexandra Palace.

Finally, on Saturday, I packed up a suitcase full of things in preparation for my next trip. During the day, I went out to the gardening store to get some supplies. Our new house comes with a raised garden bed in the back garden, and I was determined to grow some edible plants. Armed with a trowel and fork, Jacqueline and I took to pulling out all of the old plants, some of which had absurdly deep roots. For our small section of garden, this took most of the afternoon. Mission accomplished, I had a quick shower, and headed out to the train station. I caught the train to Stansted, and then caught an evening Ryanair flight to Copenhagen, Denmark.

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