I’m skiing so not really blogging. But, you know, I can’t really not. You understand. It’s just a space I have to fill. How drab would so many lives be if I stopped?!
So what’s happened, here in Austria? Day one, we arrived; magnificent place the Hotel Eden run but Paul (absent with a gall stone op) and Gelinda with suitably stereotypical efficiency and Tyrolean charm. It’s wooden, pitched, sort of fairy-tale proportioned and warm. The six course meals will not help my waist line but the comfort will aide sleep.
There are a few of us, the core of whom have been skiing since we went with our children in primary school, fifteen years or so ago now. None of my family are here; they either have to study or can’t be bothered with all that effort in the cold and wet (the Textiliste) when she could go to an exhibition, spend a weekend in York with her daughter and weave and knit and make felt extravaganzas.
So we aging boys and girls squeeze back into taut salopettes (whose colours are far from on trend but close to vintage) and force arthritic toes into unforgiving ski boots, pretending the pain is the same as when we first pulled on footwear that is the orthotic equivalent of water boarding.
Two of us, Anna and me, decided that, after fifteen and twenty-five years respectively since our last lesson we should perhaps have a refresher. Paul, our local guide and instructor not he of the gall stones above) put us through our paces. The inevitable ‘bend your knees’ and ‘put your weight forward’ admonishments were accompanied by some one foot off the ground skiing – I do a lot of that but mostly not when I want to so this was novel.
He had us discard first one pole then both. If you don’t ski you won’t know how a pole is both a security blanket and, in a very real sense, a crutch. We both whimpered as we handed them over but, to our surprise we enjoyed the sense of freedom than accompanied these exercises.
In one case we pushed one hand into our hips and stuck the other out front, changing hands as we turned. It must have looked like an ancient glee club rehearsing for Saturday Night Fever on skis.
In another we bent to touch first one knee and then the other; so excited was I that I seemed to be doing this right that I skied past Paul and only stopped when he shouted something loud and universally uncomplimentary in German.
Ah, German. Not my first language. Often, after one of us asked if we had done something right or maybe not quite so, fishing for some crumb of a compliment from our tutor, with whom we had already adopted an unhealthy master-servant relationship, he said ‘Genau’. We asked later what this meant; it means ‘exactly’ which in retrospect can be interpreted in many ways. We decided that he was showering us with praise.
I have skied since 1987, on and off. I’m ok – intermediate. I don’t go off piste deliberately. I rarely go a day without some pratfall. But since at least 1988 I have avoided being taken out by some other mental case. Etiquette on the slopes is fairly simple. Ski so you are in control and if you are above someone you get out of the lower skier’s way because they cannot see you. So when first a snowboarder (grrrr: ban the drug-soaked nuzzle-spatchcocks) clattered into my boots – I was stationary at the time – and turned me neatly through 90 degrees I thought harrumph. When not twenty minutes later a skier appeared from my blind disde to send me flying I did a little more than harrumph.
One of the advantages to being a klutz is I have a highly developed self perseveration gene that helps me fall well. So I dusted myself off watched by my nemesis. She stared at me expressionless. Shock? Embarrassment? I have no idea because when she saw me looking she skied off quickly. Not a word. The fact that I was flicking my tongue and slapping my lips like Hannibal Lecter may have had something to do with it.
So I survived and the compensations are a day laughing and learning in clean mountain air in conditions which, if climate change has its way may not be available to my grandchildren. Sorry guys, another Baby Boomer disaster. At least you’ll know who to blame.