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Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Going Downhill Fast. Again. But in France

I’ve put the wrong thing in the chilli and it smells weird so am up here in denial.
We can blame a jar of something that needed using up (by which I mean throwing away about a month ago). And when I say we, I mean me. For I fear I’ve spoiled it, and since I am being good, and not drinking in the week, I can’t even slather my palate with vino and not give a damn-o.

Suspect housewifery made so much worse by our having returned from France on Saturday after a fine week’s skiing.

My prowess recedes each year and I am possibly as good now, after a total of 8 weeks on skis, as my eleven year old was after just his second day, back when he was 5.
Both the children are horribly good, tipping themselves down black runs like James Bond villains while I, the Nan of the piece, wobble and fret and nurse my joints, shaking my poles at snowboarders. It comes of starting too old and indeed I can only really bank on being better than learners on their very first day.
But even the cat needs someone to kick and a most cruel pleasure I take, I freely confess, in swooshing past those timorous souls clinging to the slopes and so very obviously hopeless, scared to their inner core with “I Am New To This (and I wish I were at home…).” There is always a black day – or several when you are actually learning to ski – where your soul comes up against your resolve and both are found wanting, a depressing glimpse of unpleasing character. A form of schadenfreude exists, mefears, where it is not enough, to be a little bit OK at something but there must be serried, too, the ranks of the truly inept. And they must watch you fly past, and something approaching awe must cross their desperate faces. God, it’s good. Not too, too close. I stopped short of quite slicing over the back of their skis lest my guardian angel took umbrage at such boastful folly and made me tumble, a yahoo thing in padded orange, arse over tit and firmly put in her place. Couldn’t have that.

So by day it was early rising, and practising being old.
A kindly physiotherapist at our chalet lent me a serious knee brace: part Hannibal Lecter rubber and part scary metal. It took some hauling on and left parched summer river bed creases deep in my chubby leg come night time when finally it was peeled off. My left knee gained a renewed and cocky juvenilia while my right knee sulked and took refuge in envy. Other limbs and joining bits, elbows and things, creaked and all the myriad moves of the day before replayed in reverse, the stretches and leaps and thigh-trembling horrors cruelly recalled in the reduction of movement remaining now. Walls were clutched to steady the progress down to breakfast. Chairs were hard to sit on without a sudden collapse through the last free-falling inches.

Skiing occupied each morning. After the laying on of the necessary armour: the imprisoning of each foot in brutal ski boots, the zipping and tucking in and velcroing of layers, the snap of the goggles, the bustling with hats and straps and tugging on with teeth of gloves, the cumbersome underwater movements, the doing the same for your children, one is almost too exhausted to stamp into skis and take off.
Mindful of the pleasure to come, and the emptying of the bank account to have got there at all, one does shift arse and get going, but it’s tough pursuing unnecessary enjoyment and I expect pity.

Lunch was basically raw meat which T11 and I tore at greedily, choking down the iron of blood, all but snarling as we grappled with our salad and chips while E winced painfully, delicately, at our primeval excesses and sipped virtuously on some grim vegetable soup, which he felt duty-bound to declare delicious. Ie: wholesome, ie: disgusting. F9 ate compulsive pizzas, skinny and stretched and clearly moreish. The coke of both wobbled on too-small tables.

More skiing in the afternoon, made marginally more reckless fuelled by a steadying petit pitcher du vin blanc. Reward for survival.
Moments perched perilous high on chair lifts swaying from their cables when stopped without warning. Metallic shrieks of untrustworthy machinery and the buffeting of alarming winds to contend with before the relief of the take up of speed again as inexplicable as was the stop. We could picture poor souls (bungling variety) in a heap of poles at one end or other of the chair lift: we’ve all been there, glamorous it ain’t.

The lifts begin closing at 4.15 and there is a final rush to time it all right: to maximise their use without stranding oneself the wrong side of a mountain and a hefty bill charged by a taxi driver. And then home to shortbread and a cup of brown liquid, called in misplaced optimism, “coffee.”
Somehow the next three hours are what it takes to change, to transform oneself from ageing, shagged-out teletubby lumbering in unseemly quilty infantile clothing into something which can be tickmarked adult human, where legs are shown, and faces revealed and hair sort of brushed. To shower in a tiny enclosure, to knock back a comforting glass and to slide into a chair and chomp on surprisingly delicious food, chalet food generally being an unreliable thing.

Too much wine later was bed time and an unfolding of the thing called our bodies onto small hard beds to dream and feel the swoosh continue through the soles of our feet before morning came too soon.

Morning actually came in the middle of the night on our final day, at 3am when we woke in haste to catch our coach. But snow in the night had caused a domino effect of trapped coaches up and down the mountain road and we were abandoned to the limbo of a hotel seating area, anxiety about catching our plane gnawing slightly at the tiny bits of us which were awake. Apart from the children who just quarrelled over their Nintendos and were horribly hearty.
Rescue came, late, in the form of a delightful girl, very ra and very rude and very un-pc, who cannoned us down another road in her Kanga van-cum-car and thence to another bus which confidently started driving us to the wrong airport. Mercifully I said something. Usually, I wouldn’t have bothered, having an utter trust in the competence of others, particularly with regard to things useful like driving buses. I hazarded a query. Which the bus driver ignored but when I repeated it again, she reacted insofar as to flounce and roll her eyes and stab at her phone buttons and nod a lot, and then turn round.

Can I say it’s great to be home?
Let’s consider the evidence.
There: sun, snow, a feeling of achievement, staff.
Here: boiler going haywire, endless laundry, house a tip, bills rolling in, week-time wine a thing of the past, Lolly still bald as a pipe-cleaner, the chilli in chaos.
Whaddya think?

19 comments:

@themill said...

Crackingly funny blog, Milla.

Revolting children who do things so well - last year was youngest son's second week of skiing and as his father and I thought we were coping quite well with a nasty red, the little bugger zoomed past us, backwards, and in total control...

So impressed you're still out there at 4.15 - I've usually retreated to a comforting vin chaud by then...

LittleBrownDog said...

I fear my skiing days are a long way behind me - surely the outfits have improved since the days of unfeasibly long skis, face-encapsulating goggles that mean you come home looking like a panda in negative and those funny padded dungaree-type trousers? And surely the coffee's ok? This is France we're talking about.

Glad you had a good holiday, but surely Lolly's fur has grown a bit? Well, at least she couldn't get it all knotted up again at the kennels.

Bill said...

She's a self-deprecating soul, is Milla. Most of the holiday I spent with T11 and F9 in the SnowPark, where they practiced their jumps and I practiced my first aid (F9 managed to exit a jump onto a rope under his chin - I leave imagining the consequences as an exercise for the reader). Milla was well out of it, cruising down her runs past the inept and the terrified. On the last afternoon we skiied together, and we decided to go to an area that she knew and we didn't so had to follow her. I tell you, she was going like Franz Klammer - T11 was MOST impressed (and my thighs were, as the young say, well burning).

Great blog as always, natch. And to LittleBrownDog - the coffee's ALWAYS horrible in France, at least the stuff I've drunk!

Fennie said...

Great blog Milla! Brought back memories by the bucketful. Horrible how children are so much better than the parents, and quite without fear. You sound though to have had a really good time despite everything. Can you just borrow knee braces? I could do with one of those I suspect. Not given to lateral resistance, my knees. Still I've just charity shopped my salopettes. If I ever go skiing again (most unlikely but one never knows) I'll have to buy new. I was pitifully feeble really but it's a great feeling when things a going well and you swish graceful curves; and your blog makes me nostalgic.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

shuddering with fear and utter revulsion ...couldn't do that in a million years .....it involves SNOW...yuk ...but brilliany blog...now what happened to the camera ...patiently waiting for pictures Milla ....pictures of Lolly.....mountains.....whatever

elizabethm said...

Fabulous blog as always. I think I have just accepted that skiing is something i will never do now. Younger son and daughter are both pretty good having started with school and got the bug. I'll just stay sitting down as opposed to falling over I think.

KittyB said...

Golly, Milla - you ski morning AND afternoon? But when do you do shopping and sitting in warm cafe sipping vin chaud or chocolat and having a nap? I'm coming over all faint just thinking about two bouts of skiing in a day.

Expatmum said...

We're off to Colorado weekend after this and I'm having the same mixed feelings. However, I have a few safety nets up my sleeve (so to speak) - a genuinely dodgy knee. Condro malatia or too much ballet as a youth knee. And a 4 year old who can do greens very well. Since no one else has the patience to ski with him, well....
My older two are now doing black moguls and bowls with the hubby, (my knee precludes moguls you understand), so I spend a lot of time "meeting them at the bottom". Oh, and on the way up from Denver airport there's a really good outlet mall. I spend quite a bit of time there.

Woozle1967 said...

Oh those memories came flooding back! J tentatively suggested another ski holiday if we ever manage to pay for this extension but I think I'd rather crash out with a book and a chilled something or other by a pool in Tuscany or the Dordogne....... Last time I went skiing I came back with a husband and I can't stand the smell of mulled wine now having overdosed one afternoon post piste...........x

Potty Mummy said...

Hi Milla, thanks for visiting and that was a fantastic summary of all that's good and bad about a ski week. Am off with the family myself in a few days and have to say, had quite forgotten to search out my knee-brace, or book post holiday surgery for the results of having left it behind. Which is it to be? Hmm, decisions, decisions... Am just off to unpack a few boxes in a futile effort to locate the brace and avoid expense consultants appointments...

Omega Mum said...

Your joy to be home shines from every sentence....

A Mother's Place is in the Wrong said...

That skiing sounds great, despite the creaking joints. Glad you're home safe. There's an Award over at my Blog for you. Regards, Margot.

IrishEyes said...

Feeling decidedly weak at the knees here...skiing, in snow, on snow, anywhere near the horrible stuff...God you ARE a brave woman, or totally bats. No, snow is not my favourite of the things that droppeth from the heavens! Nice firm green grass tho'
lovely blog - but then when did you ever post a bad one?

CAMILLA said...

Great Blog Milla,

Serious skiiing envy here though, yup, know I am 60 going on 30, but a gal can still show them what she is made of. Never been skiing though, but it seems appealing.

Pleased that you are home all safe, brilliant writing by the way Milla.

Camilla.xxx

Cait O'Connor said...

Just catching up and your blogs are just the thing to read first thing in the morning.
I admire you, I could never ski, far too scared. Love snow though.
Great blog.

softinthehead said...

Great blog, it totally encapsulates my feelings about skiing, the actual act is great, but the logistics are painful (truly). The before, transporting skis, poles, stuff on the truck up, and the agony afterwards. I must admit we now ski until a late lunch because there is no way my body works after lunch. Rigor has sent in after a hearty chilli and a couple of glasses of wine. I need a transporter from Star Trek that beams me to the top of the slopes and then back to the chalet once the thighs start burning (unfortunately usually half way down).

Swearing Mother said...

Great pic Milla - a dog with a comedy lampshade collar, naughty to laugh but just couldn't help it.

What a great blog you have, and thanks so much for commenting on mine. Will be returning ASAP for a proper good read, you sound so much on my wavelength, it's scary!

Swearing Mother said...

Don't know how I managed it, but the above comment should be on your most recent post, i.e., with the pic of dog in comedy lampshade.

I'm not properly functioning today, obvously.

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