Clearly the muscle memory involved in cycling has little to do with ice-skating. The boy, you understand, is an expert cyclist. So is his father. Ice-skating, we found, is another thing entirely.
We took the boy the other day to the Tower of London where part of the moat has been converted to an open-air skating rink. For the princely sum of £12.50 each, we managed to get an hour's worth of skating practice. The boy fell more times than he stayed up. Throughout, he remained cheerful. Inordinately wet, but cheerful.
This is nothing like the rink in Kuwait, moaned the wife. Why is there so much water on the ice? She had been dragged into the cold water when the boy fell for the fifth time. While she was back on her feet in a fraction of a second, he was content to flap about like a beached walrus. Then he flailed his legs and caused nearby learners to shy away and fall as well.
'Stand up!' I roared.
'I am trying!' he roared back.
He flailed some more and amputated the feet of some skatersby.
Presently we were following the rest of the learners who, like lemmings, were moving in the same direction. Anticlockwise we shuffled, good Borg that we were. The experts whizzed about expertly around us, executing stylish flourishes and curtsies. Occasionally the wife would nip away ('I learned to skate,' she said, 'in Kuwait.' She likes to talk in rhymes.) When she got back to join us, the boy would screech, 'Amma!' and fall again.
In the last ten minutes of the allotted hour, the boy managed to make small shuffling steps on the ice. 'Success!' he announced.
Now it was my turn to shine. I shimmered off into the centre of the rink to practice my balance. A mother and daughter pair, holding hands and keeping each other aloft, suddenly materialised in front of me. I couldn't brake in time. 'Excuse me!' I yelled. They reared up like startled rhinos. Aghast, they watched me looming ever closer, my arms askance, my feet proceeding in different directions. A desperate manoeuvre caused me to spin 180 degrees. My left foot shot up and my right hand scraped painfully against the ice. A second before I was going to plough the rink with my nose, I righted myself, scarcely an inch away from the mother's face. It was a dance move Flawless would have approved.
'Wow,' the mother breathed.
'Minty,' I thought.
'Impressive,' she said, clutching at her equally frightened daughter.
Self-deprecating as ever, I staggered off.