There’s somethings that are essential parts of becoming a long term resident of St Albans. I’ve lived here (near enough) all my very nearly 37 years and can rat-run through the back roads with the best of ’em. I have memories of ‘how it used to be’ and lived next door to people who’ve shared their memories of the City over the best part of a century. Some elements of living here are an unofficial curriculum – you’ve not qualified as a proper Snorbensite until you’ve completed a variety of, well, things.
Many of these ‘things’ revolve around the lake in Verulamium Park. This man-made lake of duck poo and murky water is next to the picturesque River Ver. It’s also on the walk home from allegedly the oldest pub in England which, in the past (and I’m talking dim and distant), has perhaps not been as strict on checking the age of its drinkers as it perhaps should have been. Alcohol + expanse of water = falling in. Except I fell in as a child when no alcohol had been consumed. My mother pulled me out.
Being man-made the lake isn’t actually that deep (as a child it is obviously sold to you that it is so deep that if you go even a little bit too near the side you may be sucked into the centre of the earth) and as such will freeze pretty fast and very solid. So ice-skating on the lake is also on the list – or at least sliding over the island to see what levels of heron poo await you. For those of you sucking your teeth about children being allowed to ice-skate on the lake, be assured my parents checked first to see that the regulation depth of a good 3 feet of ice had been reached.
‘Down the lake’ is where you go to show off your latest birthday/Christmas gifts, feed the ducks, in my case develop a slightly too comprehensive knowledge of the waterfowl of this country and learn a healthy respect for the larger birds who choose to make their homes there. Namely swans and geese. The herons keep themselves to themselves (and to be honest with that beak, would you go too close?) however the swans and geese are greedy, temperamental creatures that think nothing of removing the entire bag of food from your (or your small child’s) hand. Thankfully there’s a bridge where you can feed them with a much reduced chance of loosing a finger and terrifying a child.
Moving on… now is the advent of the camera with an excellent zoom function. Instead of seeing the swans as a genuine threat (have you seen their wingspan?) I can now see them (from a distance) as a rather beautiful bird that, in the right light, casts a rather lovely reflection.
As for the geese – I still don’t like them!