A SPRINKLING of fairy dust Christmas madness descended on a corner of Teesside yesterday.

While Lewis Carroll's Alice played croquet with flamingos and hedgehogs, office workers went curling with Christmas presents, instead of the more usual curling stones, in the centre of Middlesbrough.

Sanity flew out of the window as Cleveland Police battled for supremacy on the town's open air ice rink with tax officials, firefighters, supermarket workers, office workers and weekend soldiers.

Of course they were not real presents bashed around on the 80 tonnes of ice which used to be Middlesbrough's central Victoria Gardens.

Those in the know also whispered that radio station 96.6FM , which fielded a team in yesterday's free-for-all, had put in some secret practice.

A total of 11 teams took part in the knock-about, Lunchtime Challenge. Barbara Wren, the town centre manager, said: "The Lunchtime Challenge is an initiative designed to persuade office workers to take a break at lunchtime."

Councillor Chris Robson, Middlesbrough Borough Council's Commissioner for Culture and Sport said: "We want to show people that Middlesbrough ice rink really is for everyone.

"We've had skaters aged from three right up to a lady who was 82 We want to see the whole of Middlesbrough on ice."