The snow may have been thick enough to cover the steep slope on Soldiers’ Field in Roundhay Park, but it couldn’t smooth out the ridges. We watched and winced as two men who were old enough to know better hurtled down on their nothing-but-a-few-millimetres-of-plastic-between-you-and-a-serious-bottom-injury sledges.
The second, who arrived shortly after the first, creakily picked himself up in a way that suggested the journey hadn’t been as smooth as he remembered as a lad. He confessed to his companion that once launched, he had to follow, knowing that one bone-jarring ridge would follow another. All punctuated with an ‘ow!’.
Noel asked if they were a couple of inches shorter than when they set off, they didn’t think so, but a flicker of concern crossed their faces as they checked their trouser turn-ups for length. They then turned to each other, with a mutual slap on the back, shouted ‘again, again!’ and headed back up the hill with an enthusiastic but cautious gait.
The park was heaving with every kind of sledge ever made, ranging from the high-off-the-ground Rosebud-style which were as functional as they were elegant, to plastic sheets which lasted one run at best.Hundreds of men, women and children and a couple of dogs tracked out every inch of the slopes in the Leeds park. The air was thick with the sound laughter, shouts of glee, yelps of fear and collisions as plastic hit metal and chaos hit the slopes.
If there were any health and safety warnings being shouted, no-one was listening as whole families were loaded on to sledges made for one and spilled out at the bottom into bushes, trees and the Mr Whippy ice cream van which was doing a roaring trade in medicinal 99s.
In my thinking out-of-the-box moments, I contemplated that If the laughter, fun and goodwill there that day could have been captured, distilled, bottled, shipped to the world’s troubled ones and sprayed liberally over those suffering nations, we could see an end to all wars and strife. If only it was as simple as that.