Friday, December 03, 2010

The Story of the Icicle

I ventured out today, for the first time since Tuesday. Because it's so very cold, the snow has taken on an unusual quality - it's crumbly. Where it's pristine white, it's like icing sugar. Where it's been trodden down, it's like brown sugar.

The cold air really gets your throat after a while. My comprehensive research into what people are wearing (based on my fifteen-minute trip to the newsagent and back) showed that many people are now wearing scarves across their faces. I didn't and came back with my mouth frozen and hardly able to speak. (Silverback, I can hear your thoughts on this.)

Nearly thirty years ago, it was snowy but just above freezing as we set off from the Green Dragon pub in the Yorkshire Dales, to walk round Hardraw Force.

To reach the waterfall - the highest unbroken waterfall in England, no less! - you have to go through the pub, which is old and delightful - do have a look at its website on the link above.

The path towards the falls was above the river, quite narrow in places and you had to tread carefully. It was beginning to thaw and quite slippery. Above us was a rocky cliff as we walked along in single file - our friend, his girlfriend, Stephen and me. The river was about six feet below us.

I was last in line and the three in front weren't looking at me, of course - they were watching their footing on the slippery path.

Suddenly, a huge icicle from the rocks above dislodged itself and hurtled down towards me.

I had two options, and I had to decide between them very quickly.

The first one was to jump into the river, which was very cold and extremely fast-flowing and even in the split second I had to think about it, my answer was a resounding NO.

The other option was to try to fend off the icicle, which was about four inches across and two feet long and - as I was about to find out - remarkably heavy.

After due consideration of about a quarter of a second, I decided on the second option but was also aware that if I moved out of the way I ran the risk of sliding and ending up in the river anyway.

So I put my hands up in the air to try to fend off the icicle. One of my hands made contact with one end of the icicle, but the other end hit me a resounding clout on the forehead, before tumbling down into the river below and vanishing.

It all happened so fast that I didn't have chance to make a sound and by the time I'd recovered a bit, and counted all the hundreds of stars I was now seeing, and stood up again, the others had got quite a few yards ahead.

They turned round.

"Why have you stopped?"

"Errr - - an icicle fell on my head," I said.

I tried to explain. Big icicle. Fell off rocks above. Hit me on the head. OWWWWW!

"So where's the icicle?" they asked, with what I considered to be an unwarranted degree of suspicion.

"It fell in the river," I replied.

"So how big was it?" they asked.

I did that thing with my hands that fishermen do to show how big their catch is.

I could tell that they really didn't believe how large my icicle had been. I pointed up at the other icicles far above - - but from below, they looked much smaller.

We carried on walking. I did wonder if I should, perhaps, have gone to Accident and Emergency, but it seemed a pity to spoil the day, and all that seemed to remain of the icicle was a bit of a headache.

The next day I had a massive bruise on my forehead. Huge, purple, egg-shaped. I was SO proud. But even at school - I was a secondary school teacher then - when people asked me what the bruise was, and I said "An icicle fell on my head", they still gave me a look of disbelief. Pah.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe you Daphne.
In towns in Austria, they lean long poles up against the walls of their buildings - thereby steering pedestrians away from the icicles (similar in size to what you describe) dangling from the gutters above.

5:43 pm  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

Here in the U.S. these days, if you had showed up sporting that bruise, the local gendarmes would have been obliged to charge Stephen with spousal abuse and send you to live in a battered women's shelter.

When we lived in Omaha, Nebraska, back in the sixties, I remember a few icicles that extended from the eaves all the way to the ground.

Hope you are recovering quickly.

6:40 pm  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

The waterfall is absolutely beautiful. Funny, I have never associated England with waterfalls. Your natural wonder needs a good public relations firm

6:42 pm  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

I once asked a young American woman how her husband had died. Poe-faced she explained, "An elephant stood on him". It's a bit like your icicle tale. Later she added he was a circus employee.

8:12 am  
Blogger Daphne2 said...

I read your blog earlier Daphne, then went out shopping, only to come home to find my husband with what looked like a nasty shaving cut, and yes, he had been hit by an icicle. He had climbed a ladder and was swinging the snow shovel above his head trying to knock down the icicles which are dripping over our backdoor. He didn't understand why I wasn't particularly surprised, but obviously icicle accidents were in the forefront of my mind today.

1:32 pm  
Blogger Grumpy Old Ken said...

Wonderful, what a brilliant weapon with which to do a murder!

4:19 pm  
Blogger Daphne said...

Alicia - hurrah! Vindicated! Thank you!
Bob - when I disussed the story with Stephen just now (because it actually happened years ago) he said "Well you didn't explain very well at the time". I pointed out that this was because an icicle had just fallen on my head! As for the waterfall - England has lots of stunning scenery including many waterfalls.
YP - - ooh, the poor man AND his poor wife having to give that explanation!
Daphne2 - thank you for another vindication! And I do hope your husband is okay.

5:25 pm  
Blogger Daphne said...

Ken - - indeed! I'll bear it in mind - - -

5:25 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

YP: you had me scurrying for the OED. Poe-faced? Had I misunderstood it all these years and it was a reference to Edgar Allan? Perhaps a teacher of English was telling us something...

3:00 pm  

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