It’s finally time to sharpen up my blades—I’ve been waiting for over eleven months now. The oldest known ice-skates, 4000 year-old strap-on horse bone blades, were dug up near a Finnish lake by archeologists in 2007. But while ice-skates have been used as transportation for millennia, the Dutch, who call skates ‘schaats,’ turned skating fun in the 16th century, opening up icy pleasure parks envied by their European neighbors. England’s King Charles II, while in exile in Holland during the mid-1600s, picked up the sport, which he imported home on his return.
They skated on the frozen Thames with ox bones tied to their boots, and then, eventually, iron blades. The gentlefolk went for poise, the rest went for speed, women and men, young and old alike.
Charles also brought back a yacht, or jacht, as the Dutch say, a sixty-six foot pleasure cruiser given to the King by the Dutch East India Company, launching the British fashion for boat racing. (See my post from this summer.)
Schaats in the winter, jachts in the summer—not a bad life.