Howard Schultz, the Starbucks CEO, was interviewed in the Guardian today. I learnt of how he was inspired to build a chain after his first visit to Italy in 1983. Seriously? How can a visit to the home of beautiful coffee have spawned such a monster? How much better the world would be if he’d restricted himself to building daisy chains.
I read of how he’s planning to refit 100 UK stores this year, making their interiors more individual and in tune with their local area. Oh, the irony. Starbucks, the destroyers and growth-stunters of bona fide independent local coffee shops the world over, are to copy their approach. Stick to bland, bitter homogeneity Mr Schultz, it’s what you’re good at.
I also read how Peter Mandelson, responding to some derogatory comments from Schultz regarding the UK economy, launched a foul-mouthed tirade in his direction back in February. I found myself developing a soft spot for Mandelson all of a sudden. Perhaps I should stop reading the Guardian, it’s becoming unhealthy.
Still feeling the post-holiday blues after skiing, and wondering if I’ve maybe overlooked several hundred pounds in my current account somewhere that would allow me another trip this winter. I fear not. I have eulogised enough about the delights of skiing before now, but something new struck me on this trip – the uniqueness of each run down the mountain.
On Friday, we were making our way down the valley via a series of runs and lifts. Mel, one of the more talkative hobbits in the party, had fond memories of a particular run called Jerusalem, and en route to it, we found ourselves on a chairlift, ascending directly over a blue piste which was (a) groomed, (b) sunny, (c) virtually empty and (d) looking like a lot of fun. “Looking like a lot of fun” means it had a lot of bends which looked like they might like to be taken at high speed. So we postponed our pilgrimage to Jerusalem, temporarily, and bombed down this run instead. Twice, both times without stopping. Strictly speaking, I did come to something of a stop first time round, having misjudged the racing line somewhat through a bend, and slid horizontally off the piste, over a ridge and out of sight of MacRae and Kirsty, who claimed to be hard on my heels. Now, it being a fast run, and there being boys involved, it had developed into something of a race, without anything being expressly mentioned to that effect. When MacRae saw me crash and slide off the piste out of sight, potentially surrendering my hard-earned lead, he was (a) delighted, and then (b) momentarily concerned for my welfare. So he stopped, as did Kirsty, or so they tell me, and called out to see if I was alright. I did actually hear them call out, but considered the fact that I was back up on my feet and skiing on to be an adequate answer to their enquiry, so didn’t visibly acknowledge it. I didn’t realise they had stopped, and so as I got up, dusted myself off and skied back on to the piste, still in the lead, I quietly congratulated myself on being so far in front that I’d had time to fall over, laugh for a bit, and still be in front when I returned to the ‘race’. I didn’t hear MacRae loudly calling me a fascist at this point, but took all his abuse on the chin once we’d got to the bottom, and got our breath back.
It should be noted at this stage that Mel would have destroyed all of us in a race, real or imagined, had he been strapped on to his customary snowboard. However, he had chosen that day to temporarily reject the dark side, and use skis instead. I believe he had a grand old time, burning quads notwithstanding.
So the point of all that was to explain that the next day we went back to this piste and it wasn’t nearly so much fun. There were more people on it, which meant we had to ski more circumspectly, it wasn’t as sunny, and the piste wasn’t in quite such good nick. Every day is different, and the same run is different on different days. Which means that each time you do a run it’s a unique event, and adds to the joy of the experience such as we had on Friday, as you know that it’s not always possible to recreate those conditions again.