It was a very deep and frozen winters night around 30 years ago……. Tony and I had been up to The Great Western for a few pints with all our mates. It was incredibly cold, snow covered the ground and as we walked back up The Avenue to home our breath froze in the wintry air.
As was our way, we got our two dogs Charcoal and Cutie ready for their night time walk and as was also usual, we took them down the canal tow path at the end of our street so that they could have a good run before bed.
We started to walk along the icy cut, we could hear talking and laughter and a bit further along we could see a quite large group of people also walking along only actually on the canal itself. It looked like a strip of white road and the water was frozen solid, or so we thought……
We decided to join them.
I recall it was great fun walking on water, mind you we were quite happy after the pub. The group of young people were ahead and as we strolled along, the dogs bounding in front of us, we walked past a very pretty, wooded part of Acocks Green called The Vale. We decided how nice it would be to alight so to speak, on the wooded side of the canal and walk home from there. We stepped to the side of the frozen water and as we did so, we barely noticed the sound that ice makes when it cracks.
And then we did.
It was a sort of a high pitched squeal, it`s a very distinctive sound and quite impossible to forget once you have heard it. Too late we realised we were in trouble as the ice gave way beneath us, I saw the whole thing in slow motion, as though I was outside looking in. Tony plunged down in a straight line in front of me and grabbing hold of my arm, he took me with him, I saw the dogs go in the water and just as I was beginning to think my life was unfolding in front of me, my feet hit the floor of the canal. I was alert enough to see that my precious dogs had immediately scrambled out on to the wood side and were busy shaking the water off, so that was a relief.
We both realised straight away how lucky we were that the ice had given way in a shallow part of the canal where the water gently sloped up to a natural sandy beach. Unfortunately for us, we had fallen into a really brackish and smelly part of the water. We scrambled out anxious to get our dogs home and into the warm. We could see all those kids ahead of us, they had turned around because of the noise and were now pointing at us and laughing hysterically.
As we briskly walked along we could feel our clothes literally freezing on to us and becoming more and more stiff. It took us five minutes to get home and by the time we did, my hair was hanging round my head in icicles. I looked like Bob Marley on ice. We made sure the dogs were in front of the fire before we started chipping off our stiffened clothes. You remember when your mum used to hang shirts out on the washing line in winter and they would freeze, like flat statues? That`s how our clothes were.
I said to Tone, “Never mind eh, at least we still have some fags.” I took a packet out of my coat and opened it. The cigarettes were black and soggy and smelt like sewage, so did we, it is the best advert for stopping smoking I have ever experienced. It took us days to wash the smell off ourselves and the dogs and needless to say, we never repeated the exercise……. I still think about those people ahead of us on the canal, they never even got off the ice!