I don’t know if you’ve ever carved an ice sculpture. Neither had I until last Saturday, when my flatmate dragged me out to the London Ice Sculpture Festival at Canary Wharf.
The large ice sculptures around us gave an overarching impression of grace and majesty, like silent statues of dancers. This did not in any way imbue into our untutored hands, however. Hands, I may add, encased in soaking wet leather gloves. Our technique was, frankly, nonexistent to begin with, which is why it is so surprising that it managed to slide downhill so rapidly as our hands became masses of fingercicles.
We were given small blocks that had been cut in the rough outlines of polar bears. We were supposed to guide and shape these into small, serene statues exquisite in their polar bear-osity. However, there weren’t enough blocks of ice for everyone to get a fresh piece each time, so ours had already been carved by a previous group.
For reasons that remain purely speculative, the previous ice carvers had chiseled a massive groove right in the center of our polar bear’s head. We thought maybe they were trying to make the ears, but all they’d succeeded in doing was making the head concave instead of convex. If you are familiar with the basic shape of a polar bear, you will know that their noses usually protrude instead of receding.
There was only one thing for it, and that was to carve the two misshapen lumps on the front of its body into two separate heads. We frantically chipped away, our limited time at the ice counting down far too rapidly while our fingers became stiff and red with cold.
In the end, we had our two-headed polar bear. An extremely lumpy and largely notional polar bear, it must be said, but in my head it was as majestic as Nanook the Polar Bear God. His two-headed time on this mortal globe was brief, but he left us with an everlasting sense of his cold glory. We reflected upon this. And then we went to the mall for a cup of coffee.