“What do you think of Winter Wonderland?” I ask The Other One.
“I hate it,” he replies.
As usual, he is wrong. Secretly he loves it. How do I know this? Because imagining someone who hates Winter Wonderland is as difficult for me as imagining someone who hates Christmas. Or holidays. Or cake.
Winter Wonderland, in Hyde Park, is the only fun fair where people look as ecstatic on the posters as they do in real life. The rides are bigger and better, and they’re not even the only thing there. Yes, they can be expensive, but you really only need to go on one or two. Any more and you might overdose on adrenaline and pass out in a vat of mulled wine or plunge face first into the wood-fired pizza oven. Basically, unless you hate joy, you will have a brilliant time.
In the absence of The Other One, my sister and I go on the Star Flyer; a giant version of a roundabout with hanging seats which lifts you up around 60-metres in the air. “Grown men should not be having this much fun,” she says as a group of queuing Hungarians jump up and down, shouting about how much they love Scotland, and we take off to a cacophony of Christmas hits, Take That and 1980s pop.
Every year I am tempted to buy an overpriced novelty fur hat only slightly different to the one I bought the previous year. AA Gill gave the food there one star in the Sunday Times a few years ago (and The Other One says the whole experience is “as much fun as food poisoning”), but there are some nice things to eat if you look around and like homemade pies, doughnuts and chocolate etc. The German market stalls also have some brilliantly bizarre items. Jurgen Huss, a company that makes tiny little handmade ovens, is one of my favourites. There is also someone selling fake snow. Who buys fake snow?!
Watching people getting off the massive, glittering rides is a real treat and also completely free. Seeing kids’ faces as they stumble from a slalom-themed carousel – which, before it grinds to a halt, goes faster than you could imagine and then faster again – is, I’m sure, more enjoyable than actually going on it. Stand underneath one of the biggest rides – ‘The Blizzard’ – look up, and watch the people on board come hurtling towards your head. Feel fear and dizziness without paying a penny.
Just when you think you know exactly what Winter Wonderland is about, it surprises you with something new and unexpected (“like a bucket of sick,” suggests The Other One). This year there are even more frozen sculptures in ‘The Magical Ice Kingdom.’ And a speigeltent resembling a dazzling 1920s dance hall. There’s even a daily live band – The Disco Flames – doing their own versions of Abba hits (among others) as if it’s Glastonbury, 1978.
Every year, I have high expectations for Winter Wonderland and, without fail, it always surpasses them. It’s impossible to leave without smiling, dancing and/ or singing. I would quite happily go every day. Just as well The Other One is so difficult to get there, otherwise between November and January 5th (when it, sadly, closes) I’d never do anything else.