Get Your Skates On!

Yesterday, because it's school holidays, we went ice skating at Docklands. It's the first time I've travelled through the Docklands by tram, and I was startled by how huge the area is. How did this whole massive section of the city spring up without my knowledge or consent? It wasn't a great place to be yesterday, with its howling winds, swirling dust and empty plazas. But the skating was fun! Someone in my family thinks she might like to take up lessons… someone used to love rollerblading (before she grew out of her rollerblades) and she flew across the ice with immense confidence, while others (me) inched around the edge, with grim determination rather than grace.

But it got me thinking about skating in literature, and here, in no particular order, are my favourite books with skating in them.

1. Winter Holiday, Arthur Ransome
My favourite Swallows and Amazons book involves no sailing at all. The Blacketts and Walkers, and new nerdy friends Dot and Dick, find themselves on an extended winter holiday due to the great good fortune of one of their number contracting mumps, which means none of them can go back to school. So, as you do, they mount an expedition to the North Pole… This requires lots of skating across the frozen lake, as well as igloo-building, fur hat and mitten-making, and sledging. The Ds gain entry to the expedition purely on the strength of their skating, because they are endearingly hopeless at just about everything else, which was a relief to me after the brisk competence of the Swallows and Amazons in the other books.

2. Tom's Midnight Garden, Philippa Pearce
Though most of the book takes place in summer, the last section features a particularly cold winter, where the river freezes over, and Tom and Hatty skate home by moonlight together. This part of the novel haunted me, and the way in which Tom gets hold of skates to use gives us the biggest clue about the truth of the midnight garden, and Hatty's identity.

3. White Boots, Noel Streatfeild
From the author of Ballet Shoes comes another 'showbiz' story, with Streatfeild's characteristic eye for technical detail and shrewd psychological insights. It's the story of a friendship between rich Lalla, daughter of skating champions, whose aunt is determined she will follow in their footsteps… (skate tracks?); and the timid, poorer Harriet, who is instructed to take up skating to strengthen her after a long illness (hm, I wonder if any doctor today would issue the same prescription!) The see-sawing relationships between the girls, as Harriet at first idolises Lalla's skill, then matches, and at last overtakes her, are beautifully handled.

4. On the Shores of Silver Lake, Laura Ingalls Wilder
Okay, it's not actually skating, because Laura and Carrie are just sliding on the frozen lake by moonlight (what is it about moonlight and skating? it's such a magical combination). They slide almost right across the lake before they notice, on the far bank, watching them in the moonlight, an enormous wolf… The girls turn and skate for their lives.

Now, that's an incentive to not fall over.

1 comment:

  1. The skates weren't bone like the Sisters of Antaris have, I bet.