Ice Circle

From: 13th January 2009

A disc of ice, measuring 10ft across, was spotted in Devon during last week’s freeze, swirling on the River Otter near Honiton.

Ice circles are known to appear in the Arctic, Scandinavia and Canada, but this is thought to be the first seen in Britain. They occur at bends in the river where the accelerating water creates a force called ‘rotational shear’, which breaks off a chunk of ice and twists it around. As the disc rotates, it grinds against surrounding ice – smoothing into a perfect circle.

Both men were amazed by the slowly-rotating 10ft-wide and perfectly circular phenomenon which was stationary in the current. It was about 6ft from the bank near where a stream joined the river.

‘It was about 10ft in diameter and, on timing it, we discovered it was completing a revolution in four minutes and ten seconds.”

Having Family

Since meeting Auntie Joan and Uncle Fred again I’ve been back for Boxing Day and spoken on the phone a few times. Joan will ring and say, “It’s your Auntie Joan,” with a little laugh that I know means how happy she is to be able to say it. I feel just as happy hearing her say it and it gives me a huge warm feeling and makes me smile all over.

I spoke to them (well, I spoke to Joan as Fred doesn’t hear on the phone too well and leaves phone calls to her) this afternoon and we nattered about the beauty and wonder of the world. She was describing an ice circle that formed on a river in England somewhere recently and told me how it is often found in Scandinavian countries but not usually over here. I could hear the wonder in her voice and she said she thinks this attitude must run in the family. Steve is fascinated by the beauty of the world, as am I. I get the feeling that my dad was too.

Fred is 82 on Monday and from what Joan said she is finding ageing a bit frightening. But then she changes the subject and moves on. It’s not the first time she’s mentioned it. I think both of them are older than my grandparents were when they died so I guess the course of time is making itself felt. I don’t know about Fred’s parents yet. I remember how anxious I got in the run up to my 44th birthday. Dad was 44 when he died. And now I’m approaching the age at which my mother died as well. It makes you aware of your mortality.

I must ask Fred about his family when I go over next. I don’t know anything about his side of the family and it will give me the chance to concentrate on him and his history rather than chattering on about my dad. It will also give me more to add to my family tree.

A Bagful of History and the Best Birthday Ever

My father died in 1974. That’s nearly 35 years ago! I’m not sure what happened to all the photographs but I haven’t seen his face since then. All I’ve had is a memory and I’ve often wondered how accurate that memory is. Do I really look like my father? Or at best, do I bear a passing resemblance? I was never sure.

I also lost touch with the rest of my family at the same time.

For the past couple of years I’ve been researching my family history on I use a friend’s login and last year we received a message from someone who said that his friend (the friend is my cousin) recognised names on my family tree and was I related to Christopher Smith? Well, that’s me. So I sent a reply back and never heard anything from them. Just before Christmas I phoned my friend and asked if she could send a message to Ancestry and ask for the original message so I could try replying again.

As she was typing the message she asked me if I’d tried looking up my cousin or my aunt (my dad’s sister) and uncle on or some such directory. I’m sure I tried it before but decided to try again. An address appeared that looked vaguely familiar and I decided I had nothing to lose by writing and asking if this person was my uncle. On the 12th December 2008 I posted a letter at 12 noon. On the 13th December I had a message on my answerphone from my aunt. She started by saying, “Hello Christopher. It’s your Auntie Joan.” I gave a triumphant whoop and burst into tears.

I had to phone my friend and cry all over her before I could muster myself to phone my aunt back and the following day I went to visit them.

It was almost as though 35 years had never passed. Both my aunt and uncle are now in their 80’s and have all their faculties about them but they are still my aunt and uncle. They’d often wondered what had happened to me. My cousin came over as well. He was about 13 the last time I saw him and he’s now 48!

My aunt brought down the obligatory boxes full of photographs … and there was my father. My father as a young man. My father with his parents (I hadn’t got any photos of my grandparents either). My father and my mother on their wedding day. My father with me as a baby. We only went through one box of photographs and there are many more to look through yet.

I came home with a bag full of photographs and I haven’t stopped looking at them since. When I left my aunt and uncle I told them I felt as though I’d had a hole in my life that I’d covered in sticky plaster and sellotape and didn’t really know it was there but now I felt as though I had something to fill the hole with. I felt more complete. I feel as though I have an identity, some solid foundations.

The day of the visit was the weekend before my birthday and 2 weeks before Christmas. It was the best birthday and Christmas present I could have wished for. I went back on Boxing Day and have spoken to them on the phone as well.

I’ve kept 2 of the photographs of my father in my wallet and must have shown them to everyone I know. The VERY BEST part is that everyone I’ve shown them to has said how much I look like my father. They’ll never know what that does for me. I can feel myself swell to bursting with pride.