Sledging could be described as bouncing down a bumpy hill on a piece of plastic in the freezing cold. But that description would completely miss the point. Sometimes a purely factual description of something is just not adequate. Here in England we don’t really do winter sports because we don’t really get enough of a winter; especially here near as we are to Lancashire’s West Coast where the Gulf Stream and the Irish Sea keep everything wet and mild.
Every now and then though we do get the opportunity to get out into the snow and to enjoy the delights of the one thing that is for us English the nearest thing we will get to a winter sport in our home country - sledging. Last year (as it now is) while we were visiting family on the East Coast between Christmas and the New Year we were blessed with some truly glorious snow, crisp and fluffy.
Sledging reveals so much about the English psyche. All that is required for sledging is something that resembles a hill, a modicum of snow and something that can be sat up which will preferably slide on the snow. The ability to slide though doesn’t appear to be completely necessary though. Being an inventive nation we can think of all sorts of objects and places that fulfill two of the requirements the thing we struggle with is the snow.
When I was a child a friend had a sledge which was a converted bike; rather than having wheels at the end of the forks it had some metal guttering. It slid fabulously, the problem was stopping. Anyone who has learnt to ride a bike knows how painful it can be to reach a sudden stop on a bicycle; a sudden stop is inevitable when travelling down a hill on snow without any form of brakes.
Over the years I have had the pleasure of sliding down various slopes on all sorts of objects, each of which I have called a sledge. Some of them have been wonderfully successful; some less so. The simplest has to be the bivy bag, otherwise known as a long piece of plastic sheeting. This particular object requires you to take a little run and to throw yourself onto the floor belly first hoping to slide forward rather than landing in a heap and going nowhere.
As a child we used to have a metal framed sledge which managed to survive being used by both myself and my older brother; I think my younger sister may have also used it but I’m sure it was only occasionally when we boys were around.
The feeling of sliding out of control down a hill is great. Some people grow up never seeing snow and never getting the opportunity to sledge – I am so blessed.