Hardshake

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When I first started hearing mutterings of a “Pop-up Roller Disco” I instantly knew that at some point this summer, I’d be dragging an unsuspecting friend down to Kings Cross to re-enact Starlight Express and zoom around pretending to be a roller-waitress (my dream job as a child!). Luckily Craig was a willing participant although he didn’t crack out the short-shorts he was rocking at The Color Run, which was disappointing! We started off our Friday evening lurking around the water fountains outside Central St Martins at Kings Cross, watching a perfect sunset appear and fade above our heads as we nattered away for a few hours (considering we had some pretty big news to discuss – THANK YOU for everyones incredible responses and support and enthusiasm, it’s been very humbling and really re-enforced that I am doing the right thing)

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Anyone who’s lived or visited London regularly won’t have failed to notice that King’s Cross is going under some pretty hefty renovations. Kings Cross has always been my station (all London dwellers have this, it’s just the major rail station that takes you back to your hometown and you inevitably spend hours of your life lurking in!) as it is the mouth to the north. KX has never been, I felt, the greatest welcome to London for those arriving. The journey in takes you past some grimy high rises and the slightly battered side of Caledonian Road, and previously as you burst excitedly into LONDON! from the train you would be welcomed initially by two McDonalds, a Premier Inn, an O’Neils and a world of chicken shops. There was also a whole section behind Kings Cross and on the canal that I wouldn’t have dared stray into after daylight hours. But not anymore! It’s a slow slog but now the whole area is a pleasure to visit these days and a perfect warm-welcome to the big smoke. If you haven’t headed down, add it to your to-do in London list in bold letters. There’s a wildlife reserve, a lovely bar called The Filling Station which I have yet to visit but I hear crab burgers and frozen margaritas are their speciality so it won’t be long!, the amazing water feature and a seating area onto the canal covered in fake grass… perfect for sunset reclining on.

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Skate King’s Cross is the latest “innovation” section of the redevelopment. It’s just running for eight weeks, until the 6th September and I’ll avoid making a terrible pun here about getting your skates on if you want to go. I love the concept of a summer roller rink, it’s the perfect antidote to the winter-ice-skating-withdrawal I suffer every year. Tickets are £14 for a two hour slot any time of day from 10am (which includes hire of some pretty snazzy looking pro-rollerskates, non of the cheesy smelling My Little Pony efforts from my childhood here). I think it’s better value though to go on a Friday or Saturday night though, for the disco. Tickets for this are £19 but they are 8pm-late meaning unlimited skate time and you get the added lighting and music and party atmosphere thrown in. Upon arrival we headed straight to the wheels area to get kitted out. The cloakroom is free, which is as rare as a mysterious underwater unicorn in London, and very much appreciated. (Sorry, I had to get that phrase in here somewhere, as three people have found my blog with that search-term this week. What? And… Why?!)

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It turns out, we are both dreadful at roller skating! We barely got from the benches to the rink without breaking something, and as we debuted onto the rink we managed to do a phenomenal falling over/clutching each other/wailing movement that sent anyone in the vicinity racing away! I could definitely roller skate as a kid so it must be a confidence thing. Even putting the breaks down seems so unnatural as you have to practically fall over to get your foot that close to the floor. But despite completely lacking in ANY talent, the enthusiasm was there as we dragged ourself around using the bars around the edge and resembled Bambi walking for the first time; all jelly legs and panicked faces. This in itself at least gave us chance to people-watch everyone else on the rink, and there were some incredibly talented skaters doing all sorts of moves (backwards, trains of people, JUMPS!) that made it really entertaining just being a sidebar saddo. After a few circuits our bravery (and humiliation) kicked in and we graduated to letting go of the edge and doing a few laps without any help. Success!

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The skating was a lot of fun. There was the perfect amount of people on the rink, enough to feel like a party but not so many that it was intimidating for newbies and novices. The DJ played some great music, although towards the later part of the evening it turned a bit mwam mwam funkyhouse which was disappointing as really when you’re wearing neon rollerskates and zipping around under flashing lights, you may as well just go all out and have some serious cheese to shimmy to. After an hour of skating (and surviving with all limbs intact) we sloped off back to our non-wheeled footwear and headed to the bar for some of the much hyped drinks.

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At the bar there is diner food from Disco Bistro N1C and a pretty good drink selection. We didn’t opt for any food, so I can’t really give it a fair review, although the piles of frozen chips on the floor didn’t exactly make the thought of eating that appealing! In a London packed with burger-competition I didn’t think the burgers looked like anything too special (especially if they are cooked from frozen too…) but at £10-£15 a pop, I’d hope they were that price for a reason. They were serving something called pig skin popcorn for £2 which we didn’t sample but is one for a peckish carnivore. The drinks were amazing though. Craig had a hard shake (vanilla ice-cream, spiced rum, banana & rum socked raisins!) and I had a Lemon Pimms Mojito as it mixes two of my favourite drinks into one… so why not. Both were massive portions, but at £10 a beaker I would need it super-size in order to not weep as I handed over my £20 for two drinks. Ouch.

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It was probably as much fun to watch the skating as it was participating. We spotted a few people on dates, and even got some front row action for a couples awkward first kiss (on wheels, so brave!). Again there were some amazing moves to marvel at, and the rink is staffed by a crew of VERY hot (and very lovely) “marshalls” who are mostly ladies and all in a uniform hotpants and footballs sock. They all take turns doing their thing on the rink too which is easy on the eye! I’d definitely recommend getting yourself down to Skate whilst it’s there. You may have your dreams of being an extra in Starlight Express dashed forever, but at least you can drown your sorrow in boozy milkshake. Everyone we met who worked there was so friendly and passionate and having so much fun and the whole experience made me annoyed that I don’t do more with my Friday nights usually (home from work as quickly as possible and a mug of wine in bed has been the previous two’s pattern before this excursion). Head down even if you can’t skate, or don’t think you can, as trying is part of the experience and you’re less likely to lose a finger if you fall over, than you are at the Ice Rinks!

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