The Grand Match Bonspiel at Lake of Menteith may be cancelled, but all over Scotland, the cold snap means local communities are reviving the old Scottish tradition of outside curling. See Bob Cowan's Skip Cottage Curling blog for some great stories and photographs. My daughter does a lot of skating, (also developed in Scotland, where the first pair of skates with all iron blades were made is 1562) but has never had the chance to go outside. Taking a lead from the curlers, I walked down to the nearest body of water, Bingham's Pond at Hyndland, and found it frozen solid. It was in fact designed as a skating pond, and was the first home of Glasgow Curling Club, founded in 1830. A man in his seventies walking his black lab told me he skated there each winter as a boy...the water is only three feet deep. So we got a bunch of friends and neighbours together on Saturday and set to work clearing the ice of snow. After three hours we had out very own curling rink, and a couple of stones - but absolutely no idea of the rules. My neighour Edward Brooks showed a bit of initiatve and hired skates in bulk. Soon lots of local people were coming down with their kids, socialising, plucking skates out the back of Edward's Smart car, eating sausages and drinking hot chocolate.
Some people questioned our sanity before we began. Don't you have to ask permission? Won't the police move you one? Is it safe? What about health and safety? ( This is why the Lake of Menteith grand match was cancelled despite the thick ice. I have written about that here in the Sunday Times today) It does make me wonder what has happened to individual initiative. We expect the authorities to clean our pavements, instead of getting out with a shovel. We assume someone else is always responsible for our own safety. We think fun has to be officially organised too...otherwise...what about the insurance?
Well it's our community pond and it's for the recreation of local people. We very seldom have real winter in Scotland - this dry cold weather offers us an opportunity to socialise, exercise and revive an old Scottish tradition. We even got a visit from Ged O'Brien, the sports historian and former curator of the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden. He heard the pond was being put to the use its Victorian creators had intended. Look out for some photographs in his forthcoming book on winter sports...
We will all be back tomorrow afternoon (Sunday Jan 10) ...you are very welcome, especially if you bring hot food. Hopefully we will a table crammed with hot food, a brazier and a few steaming toddies. And for any health and safety chappies reading this, we had an engineer test the ice....his drill wasn't long enough.
Thanks to Marjorie Strachan for the photograhs