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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Frozen Thames

In its long history, the river Thames has frozen solid forty times. These are the stories of that frozen river.
Helen Humphreys creates a brief vignette for each of these occurrences. The river is the central character woven into stories over a seven century timeline. The stories are based on actual events. In
1142 Queen Matilda is forced to flee her besieged castle across the frozen Thames in a snowstorm.  Some years Frost Fairs were held; entire villages were erected on the ice complete with coffee houses and taverns and even a printing press where a person could get a card with their name printed on it as a souvenir of their visit to the frozen river. Lovers find each other on the ice during the plague years, one showing symptoms of the Black Death; nonetheless they embrace. Birds fall frozen from the skies and people bring them into their homes where they nest until clement weather returns. In 1809 a young man rescued 27 rooks, 90 larks, a pheasant and a buzzard hawk by holding them in his hands and breathing on them one by one.
The book itself is a charming little volume with lovely illustrations on glossy paper. I read it in the midst of the coldest Canadian winter I have experienced and the numbing cold Humphreys documents resonated with me. It is understated with not a wasted word and I found it to be a poignant and exquisite reading experience.

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