Monday, December 28, 2009

The Festival of Falling Over

It's been a while since Leeds has been able to hold a Festival of Falling Over but today, in the huge and stately Roundhay Park, the Festival was in full swing.

The paths were like ice.

Actually, the paths were ice. I had rashly thought that yesterday's thaw would have melted the paths, but no.

The snow that had fallen had thawed a bit, been compacted by people's feet, and then frozen into ice again.

It's very slippy, ice, I should like to point out. I was wearing my walking boots which have good grippy soles and even so I was tottering along in some places like - well, like someone who didn't fancy spending the rest of the day in Accident and Emergency along with dozens of others.

So really, Stephen and I were rather spoilsports and didn't enter fully into the spirit of the Festival of Falling Over. On the other hand, we each still have two functioning ankles.

Others had realised that if you really want to take part in the Festival with an open heart, what you need is a large and bouncy dog that's never been trained to walk to heel. Something like a labrador is good, one that's about a year old if possible. Then you put it on a lead and all you have to do is wear smooth-soled shoes and as soon as it sets off you'll be flying through the air in no time. Wheeeeeeee - - - BANG! All round the park.

One small boy, however, ran at full pelt down the frozen path, on purpose. He didn't fall - he came to a neat halt and shouted "Hey, that was scary" to his Dad who was following.
"I bet it was, lad," said his Dad lugubriously.

I don't think I've seen so much of the lake frozen for decades.

It's very big, and very deep. Parts of it had been broken and refrozen, making for interesting and very chilly-looking patterns in the ice.

In the very very long cold winter of 1962 - 1963 (when I was very very young, I repeat VERY VERY YOUNG), the ice on Waterloo Lake was so thick that the Communist and I walked right across the lake, along with many other people.

I don't think this would be permitted now - thinking about it, if the ice had broken we'd almost certainly have died - but I'm glad, in retrospect, that I did it. And the Big Freeze then lasted from December to March - we've had nothing like it since.

Round the far side of the lake the path was even slippier and the only way to avoid falling - and possibly sliding straight into the lake - was to climb up the leaf-covered slopes beneath the trees. It wasn't easy. At one point, surrounded by steep icy slopes in all directions with the lake at the bottom of them, I did wonder whether staying put until the thaw might be an option, but Stephen didn't seem keen.

As we rounded the end of the lake on our journey back we thought that walking across the snowy field might be easier - but even the snow was frozen so solidly that it too was slippery. I produced some bread from my bag and the sky filled with hungry crows. Lots of people were feeding the ducks, so I thought it was fair to give it all to the crows.

The Victorian park furniture looked rather good in the snow, I thought:

That's the frozen lake in the background.

As we slithered across the car park back to our car the sun was already low in the sky.

A walk which would normally take just over half an hour had taken us an hour and a half.

It all looked very pretty, granted.

But, in truth, I think that's me done with the investigations of the Great Outdoors until the Great Outdoors becomes a bit less white. It's not that I'm against exercise, you understand. Tomorrow I plan to go swimming. In a pool with no ice on it. Lovely.


Anonymous Ruth said...

There's a patch of common ground in North Oxford called Port Meadow, it regularly used to flood and freeze. When I was a child, people used to go skating on Port Meadow. I regret never having done it.

However, Port Meadow didn't used to have any real paths which is probably why the Festival of Falling Over was never properly established.

I'm glad you and Stephen visited Roundhay Park to participate in this significant event. Fab photos by the way, they made me dig out some of mine from Pearson Park in Hull in the mid 80s. Pearson Park aspired to such festivities but I don't think it had a lake and so didn't quite achieve Leeds standards. But Victorian park furniture does indeed look gorgeous in the snow.

5:10 pm  
Anonymous Milo said...

I liked the photos, pretty! We have no snow down here in SE, unfort. That said, apparently there is another cold spell coming next week... so who knows!

Glad you didn't fall on the ice!

6:12 pm  
Blogger WendyCarole said...

Great photos the park looks lovely in the snow. We visited our local one on Christmas morning here in Bradford.
I well remember the winter of 62-63 my first at secondary school. My dad got his Post Office van stuck in a big snow drift ion the way to little Kent village.

It was also the March that we got our first fridge!

1:56 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I walked right across the university lake at York one February - 91, I think. It was G&S production week and I was feeling cross (so very probably 91, quite possibly the 14th too...) and it cheered me up considerably.

(recognition word is ounionst)

Julie paradox

10:57 pm  

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