Friday, 5 December 2014

Slip Sliding Away - Joan Lennon

I have a cow's shin bone at the back of my freezer.  (I thought of it today* because I slipped on my first patch of ice crossing over the bridge to the train station.  Winter's getting real!)  I mention this old bone whenever I do a school event on my medieval series, The Wickit Chronicles, because someday I mean to make medieval skates with it.

This is what skating has looked like for a long time -

Henry Raeburn's Skating Minister

- with a blade that cuts into the ice.  But the kind of skates my character Pip has made for him don't cut, but glide.

To get a really good idea of the process, have a look at Hurstwic's wonderful site here - but basically, what you do is, you split your bone lengthwise, dig out the yuck, roughen up the flat side to get a better grip with your shoe, tie them on with leather thongs and, over time, polish up the curved side for smooth sliding.  THEN, get hold of one or two sticks with metal points to help shove you along and figure out what way of combining bones and pole(s) works best for you.

"There was a lot of shouted advice, and enthusiastic disagreement among the spectators, and different monks miming different skating styles up and down the foreshore.  It was impossible to follow everyone's advice (and besides, whenever Pip stopped to watch them they were so funny he would fall over with laughter), so he just cobbled together his own technique by trial and error.  At the cost of innumerable tumbles and a sore backside, he ended up with something halfway between punting and a strange walk."

An image of hunters skating from Olaus Magnus' Historia 
(a book which looks like it's full of excellent blogging fodder) 
courtesy of the excellent Hurstwic site

Viking bone skates
Image courtesy of the Jorvik Centre, York

I doubt my cow bone will ever look as sleek as the ones above, but someday I really will give it a go.  Meantime, I'll just do my best not to fall flat in the street!

* When I say today, I don't mean actually today - i.e. Friday 5 December - because I'm not home today and that's because some of the History Girls are meeting up for High Tea and General Frolics in London as we speak and I'm joining them!  3 huzzahs and pass the cake!

P.S.  Oh, and if anyone wants to relive a little more recent history, you can listen to Slip Slidin' Away here ... Ah, nostalgia.

Joan Lennon's website.
Joan Lennon's blog.


carol drinkwater said...

I want to go slip siding away right now. What a joyous post, Joan.
Except for the fact that I am not joining you for High Tea because I slipped over (not on ice) and have torn a ligament at the side my ankle. So, alas, no cake or huzzahs for me. Have a truly splendid time. I am SO sad not to be with you all today xx

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

So sorry you won't be there Carol - would love to have said hello in person.

I enjoyed the post Joan and am looking forward to seeing you today! There is a pair of bone skates on display in The Museum of London and William FitzStephen in his 12th century description of London describes the locals having icy fun exactly how you say!

Emma Barnes said...

I've always loved that picture of the skating minister - such amazing dignity!

Susan Price said...

Yes, he's a man who takes his pleasures quietly, that man.
Have a great time in London, Joan!

Joan Lennon said...

London was great - and no skates required!