So apparently when the canals freeze, and the ice is thick enough to support people’s weight, the Dutch become divided into three groups:
1. Those who don’t appear to really give a shit. These are the people still cycling, shopping, functioning as normal.
2. Those who see the ice as a chance to go skating/sledging/walking on the canals.
3. Those who are entirely contented to watch group number two. I fall firmly into this category.
The main reason I am in the third group is because I would never set foot on a frozen canal – I’m afraid of water, even when the top few inches are frozen. In my eyes, those (maniacal) people on the ice are dicing with death.
However, there is another reason the role of spectator, rather than participant, is ideal: our front windows look out on to the Prinsengracht. So while the skaters have to put on layers, brave the cold and put up with all that bracing fresh air and exercise, I get to stay in the warm, drink tea and mock those who fall over on the ice. It’s like a sport in itself, will they, won’t they, will I be quick enough with the camera to catch it on film?
Earlier today I saw a boy of about five running around on the ice while his mum filmed him on her camera. When his boisterous nature led to a quick slip and his feet flying up in the air, his mum carried on filming. YouTube here we come… I have seen a few skaters who deserve to fall over; they know people are watching them and start to get a bit over-confident, then…. slam. Literal depiction of pride before a fall.
Walking home earlier, I happened upon an ice hockey game, a lot of social gatherings and a couple of highly excited dogs.
Even now, at 10 o’clock at night, I can still hear people shouting as they run down the dark canals; some of the skaters are wisely wearing headlamps so they can actually see where they’re, um, skating.
I’m assuming that part of the frenzy which surrounds the frozen canals is linked to the anticipation of the Elfstedentocht (Eleven Cities Tour) which could take place this year for the first time since 1997.
I should apologise for the pictures in this post; they’re not as good as usual because Callum is in Rome and has taken his fancy-schmancy camera with him.