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  • Writer's pictureJerri Ryder

Winter returns

The weather this month has been bizarre. We've had more snow in March than the rest of the winter here in Cumbria.

When I was a teenager, the winters in England were cold enough so that the large pond in our garden would freeze enough to skate on. Our friends called it a lake, but it was a pond, and how we loved it when it froze over.

My mum had brought her original ice skates from Maine when we moved, and she’d picked up some extra pairs – perhaps from yard sales or jumble sales? I don’t remember where she got them, I only know that we had enough so that several people could skate together.

My dad would go out first, walk all over the ice to check it was safe (and, alarmingly now, would say “This part is all fine, but don’t go under the tree!”). We followed instructions and no one drowned.

Anyway, I know I have a tendency to ramble when I tell stories, but this next bit is important. My dad had carp in the pond, great big things that we rarely saw because the pond was deep and murky. Now, the carp were very attractive and delicious to the local heron, who would stand at the edge, in the shallows and pluck them out.

He usually didn’t actually eat them, maybe they weren’t all that delicious after all. But they were often gouged and left to die. This was tragic for my dad.

He tried everything to dissuade the heron. One of his tactical strategies was a length of wire, quite low, around a foot or so from the ground, around the entire perimeter of the pond. It was difficult to see, and that was the point – it would trip the heron and he’d give up and find a less tricky pond to fish from. I don’t think it worked, but the wire stayed.

Fast forward to winter. The heron’s in the Bahamas. But remember, the wire stayed.

There we are. My sister and I, sitting in the snow under the tree, lacing up our ice skates. She’s determined to get on the ice first, but I’m quicker this time. I get up and stagger as fast as I can to the edge of the pond. I’ve picked up speed, and I step onto the ice. I win!

The wire gets caught in the open front of my blade, and I slam down onto the ice, knees first, then spread eagled. The cold is seeping through the fabric of my jeans, and I can’t get up because the wire is still threaded through the blade of my ice skate.

The first thing I notice, once I recover from the shock is that my sister is doubled over, speechless. She can’t breathe for laughing. She’s trying to be kind, but she can’t quite get the words out. ‘Are…you…oh……are ….you okaaay?” she finally gets out, but the words are somehow less effective when she’s having to take deep breaths between the words so she can laugh some more.

Thanks, Stacey – I know you love me really.

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