Unspecified

In the summer heat, head for somewhere that's really cool.

Walking into the arena brings it all back. The slap of a tassel across the cheek; a skate cutting the ice with the sound of a knife unsheathed; the floor as white as heaven; skaters like angels; sequins glittering like stars in a Lycra sky.

Upper Dungworth ice rink in the mid-1980s: unforgettable. An oasis of grace and beauty surrounded by a desert of pork pies and pickled-onion burps.

Bin men, farmers and lollipop ladies - all were equal because the ice forgave no one; the blades favoured only the laws of physics. The judges, OK, well they could be bought with a black pudding and a six-pack of Stones Best Bitter but every man's got his price.

With unemployment and race riots ripping the heart out of the nation, at least we had Torvill and Dean. At the 1984 Winter Olympics, they were more inspiring than Winston Churchill in 1940, though it's said for a big man he did have a decent triple salchow with twist.

Fast-forward (even if the Bolero routine does lose a bit of its sensuality when performed too quickly) 20 or so years to a shopping centre half a world away. In similarly troubled times, with terrorists threatening to take away our right to pursue life, liberty and mastery of the catch-foot layback spin, Macquarie Ice Rink in North Ryde is providing a refuge today.

Here, in Sydney's third-oldest suburb (Windsor was settled fourth, despite what I wrote a couple of months ago), a dapper gent in a beret shrugs off the aches and pains of life on foot to become young again as he sashays around the ice, his movements embellished with disciplined flourishes, like a Tai Chi master on skates. It's his birthday, says the announcer, and he celebrates with a waltz jump. Or was it a toe loop? Too quick to tell.

A young woman - a former professional ballerina, it turns out - twirls in the centre of the ice like a whirling dervish. Toddlers potter about like they were born on skates and beginners cling desperately to the barrier as their legs try to find safe ground by fleeing in opposite directions.

The centre's Kiddies Klub is a creche on ice - with a lesson thrown in - while at the other end of the rink, parents join in the adults' lesson known as the Coffee Club.

To the soundtrack of Herb Alpert, Mantovani and Billy Ocean's Suddenly, we learn to "penguin walk". The Frankenstein walk might be a better description, as it involves stumbling forward clumsily with your arms stuck out rigid in front of you and a look on your face like you're being chased by a posse of angry villagers with pitchforks. (You needn't worry; Tonya Harding retired years ago.)

It's followed by a lesson in how to fall down (not as easy as it sounds) and then the moment of truth, the two-foot glide. Four quick penguin steps, then you're off. Feet close together but not touching. Head up, eyes forward. It's like gliding on air, floating on sunshine, skating on ice.

Clouds part, bluebirds tweet. Suddenly / Life has new meaning to me. Mrs Daytripper, whip me up a sequined jumpsuit on that sewing machine, loveyducks. I'm making a comeback.

swebster@fairfax.com.au

TRIP NOTES

Macquarie Ice Rink, Macquarie Shopping Centre, corner Waterloo and Herring roads, North Ryde. Coffee club, 9am to 11am, Monday to Friday during school terms, $16 plus $3 skate hire. Kiddies Klub, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during school term, $16. Phone (02)98881100. See www.macquarieicerink.com.au.