Monday, March 03, 2008

One Upmanship

Many of the European American bloggers are inundated with cold weather, snow drifts and a chill in the air right now but here, even though we have had our coldest February in 25 years, a hot day makes me want to hire Snow Dogs or Snow Upon Cedars just for the scenes in the great outdoors. Oz is the sort of place that makes you want to be warm on the inside with frozen extreme ties. Hot days ironically, take me back to living in Cheshire when the first snowfall to actually stick became an event. Tobogganing! Although we called it 'sledging' which means something quite different out here.

My father wasn't a great handyman but he would put his hand to anything. Our neighbours gave their daughter a fantastic shop bought sledge. It looked like something out of a Christmas card and not at all like the flat wooden table tops with runners made from copper pipes stolen from local building sites, that Dad lovingly made for us in haste because we were impatient and wanted to get out into the snow. It was a 'sledge' a proper one. I thought he was wracked with guilt because one winter he decided to make one. I don't think he had a template to work from. Again we raided building sites for offcuts and copper piping but this time, he took the good wood left over from balustrades and flattened the copper pipe to form sturdy and slippery runners.

He spent ages on it in the garage, to the point where we lost interest and took out the old table tops. He laboured for days, it was almost a frenetic passion. We'd be long off the slopes and sipping hot tea and eating egg and cress sandwiches whilst watching Juke Box Jury and Dr Who but he was still grinding and planing and hammering . . . eventually it took shape . . it was indeed a thing of beauty. Still not satisfied with it, he French polished the wood. Yep, super sanding, French polish. Stain, polish, buffed, more polish, more buffing and all by hand.

Finally completed, it was tethered with good quality rope. We lived adjacent to Romily Golf Course and had a little gate at the top of our garden. We rugged up, woollen mittens, wellington boots, parkas, scarves. None of this high fallutin' Gortex weatherproof stuff, we were soaked by the time we'd finished frolicking in the snow. The sledge was stupendous. We lurched it up the 15th Fairway and onto the flat square tee. (Much to the chagrin of the greenkeepers who simply couldn't keep people off this slippery slope once the snow had fallen). It launched itself with glee from the tee and sailed what seemed to be a mile down to the back of our garden fence. It went the furthest. It went the fastest.

Guess who never got to have a turn on it . . .us, the kids. We didn't get a look-in. It was Dad, with mum screaming on the front and legs outstretched that took this work of art onto the slope. It was deemed too fast for us litt'luns and we never had the chance to ride the fantastic piece of furniture.

My dad however, after the last run of the day, dragged his masterpiece behind him, walking side by side with Maurice Hall and his shop bought piece of ostentation. His face beaming with self-satisfaction. He was replete, satisfied, proud. His little sledge was his crowning glory. We limped home with our flat, slow tabletops with copper pipe runners . . not really caring cos once home, it was a warm bath, tea and egg and cress sandwiches, David Jacob's Juke Box Jury and Dr Who.

Ah well, over here the closest we get is sliding down a sand dune on an esky lid!


Thriftcriminal said...

Excellent post! Thanks Baino, brought me right back to when we used to get snow that would stick. I lived on the side of a mountain (such as they are in Ireland) on 2 acres of sloped lawn (normally cropped short by deer and my pony). I used fertilizer bags to slide on, no fancy sleds for me (bloody sore on the backside if you hit a hidden rock though). When it snowed I was out there all day long.

Thommo said...

Aahh you know how to bring back the memories....there was a fantastic slope at Woodside Park in Garston with swing sets at the bottom - and yes my brother's little friend careened headfirst down the snowy slope on the sledge with fairbilis shiny runners straight into the swing set!. Lots of blood from a gash on his head and every winter for years my mittens would make the snow pink! Also remember Julie trying to walk on the lake at St Albans which was frozen over....but not thick enough............!

Emperor Ropi said...

I used to like sledges till I lost control over it and I collided with an iron pole.

Baino said...

Thrifty: If only you guys had Esky lids!

Thommo: Haha, I used to go to St Albans with my Granny. Nothing like frozen woolly mittens to numb the extremeties!

Ropi: You would need a long sledge!Because we were on a golf course, the worst crashes were into the icy stream on the 15th green!

ian said...

Hi Baino,

A flurry of snow here in south Co Dublin this evening (the first of the winter and it's already spring) and I've just seen the Co Council gritting lorry go past, so a frost is forecast.

The sledge story brought memories of the German bloke who told the story of his sledge at our Christmas celebration ten years ago - I'm glad yours was happier!

Anonymous said...

HAHAHA, I really enjoyed reading this story, the sled must have been a sight to be seen! Unfortunately have only experienced sliding down sand dunes on beer cartons. Quite a long time ago!

nonny said...

“Guess who never got to have a turn on it . . .us, the kids. We didn't get a look-in. It was Dad, with mum screaming on the front and legs outstretched that took this work of art onto the slope”

Ahh ha ha, that was a most excellent post Baino. I can imagine how annoyed you little nippers had felt, but better imagine how good your mam and dad felt together. Very good piece indeed.

Babysis said...

Guess of us got a ride!~I've got it on film too!...Guess I was just too little and had to go down with can really see my face for parka!

Baino said...

Babysis: You did? Wish I had a scanner, I'd love to post the photo. Given that you were 2 at the time!