Tuesday, August 02, 2011


I am the veritable gazelle, the antelope and leopard of the ice!
Well, not quite Kristine Tsuya Yamaguchi, but darn close.
And unlike her, not a figure skater.

When I was in fifth grade it froze long enough that the local fens glazed over.
One of my friends sold me some blades which he no longer used.
After cleaning them up I learned how to skate.

My mother, as was her wont, wailed doom and gloom about the entire project.
She was sure that I would fall on my rump so often that I would come home black and blue, possibly with broken bones, or at the very least bumps, contusions, and a twisted ankle. Why, I might even plunge through the ice! My frozen corpse would not be found till weeks later! A massive search party would fail, miserably and utterly, to locate the missing boy. There would be prayers! I should NOT think that I was in any way Houdini – and HE never came back either. Ice-skating was incredibly hard. Sheer hubris to think that it was easily mastered.

Though eloquent, expressive, and poetic, she enjoyed such horrible predictions far too much to take them seriously.

I came back four hours later just about full of beans.
Hadn’t fallen. Nothing broken. Enjoyed myself immensely.
Now I shall fix myself some delicious hot cocoa and tell you all about it!

What made it incredibly easy was the style of skate.


Also called the Friesche Doorloper ('Frysian long runner'). You can read all about it here: "in houten reed mei ien izer". It is best to wear two layers of thick woolen socks if you're tying them under your shoes, and contrary to what the article implies, clogs are not such a good idea. Neither are gum boots.

As it says, "tsjintwurdich binne der keunststof farianten op de âlde Fryske trochrinner".
Which is darn good to know. Treehuggers take note.

Thereafter I spent many hours on the fens, happily speeding along in a sere white landscape, usually alone. Flat ice, bumpy clumps of frozen vegetation sticking out here and there, brittle reeds still erect from autumn. The freeze lasted a few weeks.
That year the ice did not last long enough to organize the alvestêdetocht, unfortunately. But there was much excitement at the prospect that indeed, it might still happen. First time since the sixties.

Each year I looked forward to a good freeze. Usually it stayed only a day or two, and sometimes the ice was not even thick enough.
One year after several hours in the Malpy, I had myself a little picnic near the Dead Spaniard.
Hot coffee, cheese sandwich, and a pipe.

Last night I dreamt that I was skating, smoothly gliding for hours through a deserted fenscape.
Glorious! I even saw a barn owl.

First time in years that has happened.

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1 comment:

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