memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

The Ice Lantern

WOMAN WITH BLUE SCARF

One of the things that stand out in my memory is the great winter of 1963 which held most of Europe in its iron grip. We still lived in Cologne and the Christmas holidays were most enjoyable for us children. The climate of the Rhine valley, so enervating during the summer, came into its own during that cold winter, being freezing but dry and windless. At Christmas our father organized us into building a snow-mountain in the middle of the lawn and then carving it into a plinth about two feet square and about four feet high; he artistically finished it off by smoothing the snow so exactly that it resembled a stone fit for an Egyptian pyramid. He then fetched some (matching) low, flat baking trays from the kitchen, filled them with water and laid them on ground beside the plinth. In about an hour they were frozen into little slabs of translucent ice which he then delicately prized out of the tins and placed on the plinth in such a way that they formed an ice room with an ice ceiling and with one of the walls left open. Finally he placed a lighted candle in the ice lantern which burned serenely in the cold dark night.

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