In The Frozen Thames (2007), author Helen Humphreys offers up dreamy, brief stories - part real, part imaginary - of the forty times in history that the river Thames was frozen solid.
The tales begin in 1142 with the escape in a snowstorm of Queen Matilda, daughter of Henry I, from her besieged castle. Then come stories of lovers and hunters and skaters. There are the Frost Fairs - whole cities built upon the ice. Merchants have set up booths, fashioned from blankets, filled with slabs of roast beef for sale; a printing press cranks out souvenirs of the event; coffee house and tavern owners serve customers on the solid ice that just months before was a sweeping river.
The ice some years is smooth and is fine for skating and walking; other times, deadly ice floes crunch and move about with malice. It is so cold that frozen birds fall from the sky; wine freezes in its barrels; water turns to ice in a glass left on one's bedside table.
And so it goes through plague years, the deaths of kings, the Great London Fire, until in 1895, the river froze for the final time. The deepening of the channel and the reconstruction of the London Bridge all contrived to keep the Thames flowing swiftly preventing ice from calling a halt to her current.
This is a small book (5-inches by 6-inches, 180 pages) that contains big meditations on love, loss, ice, water, nature, and the lives of everyday folks. There are wonderful images that accompany the text. It is a treasure and one that I will reread, I am sure. A true keeper.