It’s funny how small, insignificant things can trigger a series of memories. This happened to me a few days ago when I left home for work. The UK has been gripped with heavy snow fall in parts of the country and I have to admit that out of the 7 years I’ve lived here, this is the coldest it has ever been this time of year. What brought back so many memories from my child hood was in fact the weather, particularly the cold.
I might whinge and moan that it is cold and people tell me to be quiet as I’m Finnish and I’m used to it. Yes I admit it is a lot colder back homehome, but the difference is that we dress appropriately for it. In the Finnish temperatures we normally wear good three to four layers of clothing outside to make sure we are warm. There’s nothing sexy about going to a night club when you know that under your flashy clothes and all that you are wearing long johns.
However, back to the main trail of thought. The cold air and the feeling of the cold air on my nose and in my lungs took me back to the first signs of frost and the anticipation that came with it. The local school had long before then closed the tennis courts and taken the nets down and put up the boards for the rink. Upon the first signs of frost and sub-zero temperatures you could see that the maintenance guys responsible for the sport facilities in the council would come out with hoses and start laying water down after it was confirmed that the freezing weather would continue.
From here it was just a question of time before they opened the rink to the public. Of course the process was delayed when some knucklehead took their dog out and let it run on the brittle ice that had formed. The opening of the rink was always a BIG thing for the kids and my friends. It was like the social event of the year. Plans would be made on how long we’d be out there playing shinny, what the teams would be, if we’d play with a puck or ball. It was great. You had people there from grown adults, to high-school kids, to us middle school folks and some kids that had just started first grade. Everyone playing together, having fun. There was no bullying of anykind on the rink. The bigger guys would step in to support the smaller kids, let them score a few goals.
Thinking back on it, it is feels slightly absurd. I’ve been living abroad for 12 years now and doing something like that again would be awesome, but the prospect of the cold is a bit daunting. When I was growing up and I went to play hockey there, it was usually between -15 and -20 at the heart of winter. We lived about 5km away from the school where the rink was and I’d do that trip on my bike. I don’t even want to think about the wind chill figures.
The other thing the cold reminded me of was of tying your laces for your skates or tightening them. By the time you got your skates out of your back-bag, the laces would’ve gone stiff from the cold. Doing them up bare handed was always going to be exotic. You learnt to do it fast so your fingers wouldn’t freeze. Then the next challenge was putting on your frozen shoes and freezing your toes off as the shoes would’ve been laying in the cold bag for good few hours.
The rides back home were also interesting, given that all the layers you’d worn were sweaty and you wanted to get back home quickly to have a cup of hot chocolate and go to the sauna.
Like I said, it’s weird how a small thing like weather can bring back some many memories. I’m happy that I have memories like that and it makes me smile, as back then the order of the day was school, get home, dump your books and homework and go play hockey. Homework was something that could wait.
It was a simpler life back then and when no amount of snow or cold would stop you from doing what you loved.