Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Winter Wonderland

An early winter with snow gleaming decoratively on the distant mountains for the second time already this month, bringing a chill to the air, even when the sun shines brightly and coaxes us back down to T-shirts in the middle of the day.

These South African children of mine have endowed snow with a mythical wonder. I tell them of snow in my childhood, a rare delight once or twice a winter even in the South-West of England then. We used to make the most of it, building snow-men, throwing snow balls and sliding down bumpy hill-sides on plastic sacks, getting soaked, muddy and bruised but exhilirated in the process. My son’s eyes were wide in amazement – “Did your parents let you?” he asked wonderingly, the thought of parents knowingly letting their precious children get soaking wet, freezing and muddy on purpose, too alien to comprehend for these children of a warm climate. They would love to experience snow, but I wonder how they’d cope with the being numbingly cold that goes with it?

In a quest for that mythical winter wonderland, I took them ice-skating for the first time ever the other day. The ice rink is at Grand West casino, a Disneyland type fantasy building trying to impersonate a grand chateau, that not only houses the casino, but all other forms of city entertainment: cinemas, fast food, go-karts and other child rides, a mini golf and a plethora of fast-food restaurants as well as the full-size skating rink. There is also a mini child rink in the middle of the food court, where an artificial night sky has stars twinkling down at you and the twilight makes it hard to read a book, should you be able to tear your eyes from your children anyway.

My skating experience being limited to a couple of goes as a teenager, I declined to risk my ankles on the main skating rink and sat on the bench next to the kids’ rink, keeping track of their progress. They started off gingerly enough, youngest having me accompany her round the outside, holding one hand for a couple of laps, but very soon they gained confidence and by the end of an hour and a half’s dogged circling of the perimeter, my son had got to the stage of skating freely around the rink reaching a record of four circuits without holding on, my six-year-old had got speedier and had managed a length holding hands with her friend, without holding the side and youngest.. ..well she had amazed me with her determined plugging around the edge, always holding on but keeping going, despite bigger children pushing past, and every time she came off for a breather and a biscuit, going straight back on for another go. I had to drag them off at the end of the hour and a half session and they can’t wait to go again.

As for making snowmen, we might have to wait a little longer, though my husband’s niece sent photos of several inches of snow and ice on the road last weekend in Plettenberg Bay, which being on the South African coast is a first in recorded history event. This global warming is making it jolly chilly around here. But we have a roaring fire going and our straw bale house keeps the warmth in nicely and we’ll tuck ourselves up with hot water bottles too and not even mention central heating, which is moreorless non-existant here in South Africa.


  1. Now I know I have been reading your blog for a year, because your winter is back just as it starts to get hot again in my town. My girls have been begging to try ice skating, there is an indoor rink about an hour away that we'll have to try.

  2. I love ice skating but must confess I prefer the outdoor ones. I had a most memorable time just before christmas skating at an outdoor rink in a gorgeous town in Germany with my friend Charlotte (from Charlotte's Web blog fame) and her two girls! I cannot believe the snow you are getting there! crazy climate!

  3. Lovely post. I grew up in the south(US). Snow was rare but when it happened it was usually just a couple of inches. We sometimes had enough for a snowman. We almost always made snow cream. Today it would be too poluted. We didn't sled or skate, not cold enough to freeze ponds.

  4. I loved reading your blog last summer and hearing about snow, ice and cozy nights in front of the fire while I was sweltering in torrid prairie heat and drought. Ice skating with the kiddos sounds like great fun!


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