I was showing my children something I’d spotted whilst dog walking the previous day. ‘Wow!’ exclaimed the nine year old. ‘It’s the best thing in the world’ said the six year old. The object of their awe and wonder was dozens of rounded stalagmite mounds on a ledge formed by frozen rivulets of ice running down a four storey building. Like a bunch of glass grapes, glistening and perfectly formed, each smooth nodule measured no more than a couple of centimetres high, formed from fat drops of water falling from the broken gutter above. Next to the bumpy mounds a thin layer of ice coated nearby bricks, from splashes I presume. This could be satisfyingly broken off into wafer thin slices. The nine year old wistfully shared how she wished she could keep the formations, then shouted ‘Wait here’ as she rushed home to get a hammer, returning moments later with a small hammer and chisel. Together we carefully chipped away the nodules which the children eagerly transported home. With boots still on they raided the kitchen cupboards in search of food colouring, then watched mesmerised at the effects. The amazing ‘glass’ nodules simply bathed in a pool of colour, but a thinner piece of ice, with a crackled-like appearance did not disappoint. One drop of vivid red dye formed a ‘blood clot’ which quickly spread across its surface through the capillary-like ‘veins’. Another colour was added at the other end and we watched transfixed by the unfurling fingers of colour reaching towards each other. This sparked a flurry of activity as the children decided to rope in their father to help them bring back more of the exciting stuff. With more crackled slabs and spectators, further experiments yielded more drama and surprise, as well as some unsightly red stained fingers! The precious stained pieces of ice were carefully wrapped in sandwich bags and stored in the freezer ‘for keeping’. Who would have thought that a leaking gutter could spark such a flurry of excitement, satisfaction and exploration? Children and playful adults of course!

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