Time Out’s Executive Editor Michael Hodges has been dallying with danger so you don’t have to. This week’s thing not to do in London, No 568 – go sledging with children.
‘We want a snowman!’ shout the children. I look around the field. ‘There isn’t one.’
‘No, you can make one.’
‘Yes, make a snowman,’ they insist.
‘The snow! The snow!’
‘But what about its face? There’s no coal for eyes. And its nose? I haven’t brought a carrot with me.’
‘We could use a Satsuma for its nose,’ says one.
‘Have you got a satsuma?’
Arguing with three small children, much like listening to Olly Murs, is a game of diminishing returns. After two minutes the sane adult has had enough, but unlike an Olly Murs CD, small children cannot be taken off the stereo, placed in a case and then put back on a shelf where, ideally, they will never trouble you again. They must be engaged with and accorded the minimum of warm understanding and friendly attention. This applies even if they are not your own offspring and you’re not sure how you came to be in a snowbound field with them, other than a vague memory of a show of hands being taken around the time you opened the fifth bottle of special-offer rioja. This vote then decided that the rest of the adults would continue to enjoy Sunday lunch, but you would take the kids out to ‘enjoy’ the snow before it got dark. And all this despite your pleas of ‘But I haven’t been CRB checked. I could be anyone!’
So here I am, at the top of a hill in south London. At the bottom of the hill there is a dog and a tree. Around me the three small children are screaming with what might be happiness but, equally, might not be. Between me and the screaming children and the dog and the tree there is what can be reasonably described as a terrifying slope. At the top of which is an abandoned red plastic sledge. Like many Londoners, I simply don’t know what to do when confronted by snow. Some groups of Londoners, however, do not have this problem. For example, the people who are in charge of our trains, tubes and buses know exactly what to do when inclement conditions bring public transport to a halt: they simply look up from ‘Fifty Shades Darker’, lower their Wayfarers, catch the eye of the poolside waiter, order a second bucket of Planter’s Punch (and perhaps another platter of lobster and chips) and congratulate themselves on having had the foresight yet again to book off the better part of January and February for a Caribbean break. Likewise, London’s younger adults know what to do when things get chilly. I have been watching them from the window just this morning, gathering snow into little hard balls of ice which they hurl at passing cars in the hope that one will drive by with the window wound down far enough to allow the projectile to enter and hit the driver in the face, causing a crash, and trapping the occupants in a blazing vehicle where they will die agonising and screaming deaths beside a World of Leather on the South Circular. But, apart from that, what else can you do in the snow?
The answer, I realise, is right there in front of me. The red plastic sledge. ‘Right kids. We’re going to sledge.’
‘No, it’s too scary,’ one whines.
‘Honestly, it’s fine. Let me show you.’ I get on the sledge and push off. Immediately I realize why the sledge has been abandoned: it’s cracked down the middle. The crack opens and then closes to trap an inch of my inner thigh, causing immense pain. I fall off the sledge and tumble down the rest of the slope, coming to rest by the tree. The dog walks over and pisses on my foot. The children laugh.
Also NOT recommended…
Four more slippery slopes in London
SHOOTERS HILL Avoid at night if you believe in ghosts. In the 1700s, the corpses of executed robbers were hung on gibbets as warnings to local highwaymen
RICHMOND HILL Its irresistible vista of field and river inspired JMW Turner. But do resist it: the fields are grazed by cattle and you won’t avoid the evidence.
PUTNEY HILL An ideal route for 2012’s Olympic cyclists, but less so for amateurs on rusty three-speeds who’ve spent four hours in the Green Man at the top.
PRIMROSE HILL Walking among locals is guaranteed to cause self-esteem issues in all but the impossibly beautiful. The Beckhams were seen sledging only last week