For her birthday treat Victoria has chosen a trip to Ice Arena, generally known as Mount Thebarton. Victoria has never been skating, but she has seen Frozen, and she knows what you do on an ice mountain. You swoop and glide with snow sparkling on your eye lashes. You weave in and out of giant Christmas trees with icicles hanging from their branches. You laugh and play and throw snowballs as you zig-zag back and forth through ice caves and palaces.

Victoria’s anticipation is so great that she can’t wait quietly between her two grannies in the ticket queue. She has to bounce up and down and squeak.

Gran laughs. ‘You know I’m not going to skate?’ she says. ‘It’ll just be you and Julia. I’m going to wait here for you and read my book.’

That’s fine with Victoria. Different grannies do different things, she has discovered. She doesn’t ask why.

She is a little puzzled as they move further into the vast dilapidated shed. She can’t see any pine trees, nor any sign of a mountain, though the ceiling is high enough. She asks Julia about it while they wait for their skates.

‘Oh,’ says Julia. ‘They don’t have it anymore. It was a ski slope with artificial snow.’

Artificial snow?

Julia looks more closely at Victoria. ‘You don’t mind do you? I thought you wanted to skate, not ski?’

Victoria nods decisively. Skating, that’s what she wants. There was skiing in Frozen too, but it wasn’t as graceful.

It’s hard to walk on the skates. They are stiff and clunky and they make Victoria’s ankles hurt, but no doubt it will be different once they are on the ice.

The beginners’ rink is not crowded except for a cluster of kids around the entrance. Victoria is glad of Granny Julia, who pushes firmly past them. Victoria steps onto the ice, ready to swoop, but something goes wrong. Her feet slide away from her in different directions. She lands on her bottom with a bang and bites her tongue. The ice, it turns out, is very hard.

Julia leans down smiling. She doesn’t seem surprised that Victoria is sitting on the ice, so perhaps it’s meant to be part of the fun. Victoria hauls herself up Julia’s arm and clutches her around the hips. Julia grabs the rail and they both draw breath.

‘How would it be,’ says Julia, ‘if you let go of me, one hand at a time, and hold onto the rail instead?’

Victoria manages this, with great caution. She sees a boy who is sliding along the ice, legs stiff, by hauling himself hand-over-hand on the rail. She sets off in imitation, with Julia skating along beside her. By the end of one circuit Victoria’s legs are trembling with the effort and she has fallen over twice more, once on her bottom and once on her hip.

‘You’re doing great,’ Julia says.

Victoria thinks about crying.