Unexpected sporting connections


I’ve found a sport that the Brits and the Americans both love. Skiing. And we even have the same name for it. Naturally there are some differences in nomenclature. Here, as I understand it, my pants are held up by suspenders.

We’re two days into a 3-day ski trip to West Virginia, and tired muscles are recovering in our overheated condo. This is my first experience of skiing in N America and not Europe, and the Showshoe resort seems great. Speaking to a stranger does not require a preliminary assessment of what their first language might be, and resort staff (and slope users in general!) are considerably more courteous than those in France. It sits at a lower altitude than any resort I’ve been to in the Alps, but there have been shedloads of snow, and all the runs are covered right down to the bottom. Also, despite the lower altitude, it has somehow has been much colder than anything I’ve experienced in the Alps. Two days before we arrived the temperature here was minus 4. Fahrenheit. Today was a comparatively Amazonian 10F. It would appear that this is cold enough to cause beer bottles, left out to chill on the balcony, to explode. This has never happened before to me on previous ski trips. Although that was usually Kronenberg 1664 and this was Corona. Perhaps French beer is more suited to low temperatures than Mexican beer. Hmmm, makes sense.

Anyhow, the result of 5 exploded bottles of Corona (Corona Light, in fact – never shop for beer in a hurry) was a considerable amount of yellow snow. Possibly the only time yellow snow has been worth eating.

I’ve been back in the US for exactly 3 weeks now. My journey and re-entry to the States was pleasantly hassle-free. On the NYC-Nashville leg of my journey I found myself sitting across from a dude with a guitar. This is not an unusual occurrence on a flight to Nashville. He struck up a conversation with me, thus:

“Excuse me sir, are those in-ear-monitors?”

“Yes they are, absolutely.”

“Did you get them in Nashville? I need to get a pair.”

“Oh no, sorry, I actually got them in Edinburgh, Scotland!”

“Oh, wow, ok, that’s a long way.”


(Then after a moment)

“I played rugby in Edinburgh once. When I was 12.”

But of course you did.

“I was at school in England, and we were on tour. It was very cold.”

Yes, that’s the one.

On another trip to the States, a few years back, I was taking a cab with my colleague from the airport into downtown Washington, DC. The cab driver was an enormous black dude. The conversation turned to where we had flown in from.

“Edinburgh, Scotland.”

“Oh.” (Then, after a moment)

“I played cricket in Edinburgh once. In a tournament.”

But of course you did.

“It was pretty cold.”

Yes, yes, that’s the one.. 

The Train

Currently on the train, en route to London. I managed to score a seat in First Class on this trip, which is a great bonus. For those who haven’t sampled the Great British Train Experience, First Class means more legroom, complimentary food and patchy wi-fi, and, perhaps most importantly, a significant drop in the probability of you having to share a carriage with a table-load of Geordie lads who drink steadily, and with gradually increasing volume, from Newcastle to London. I was trying to craft that sentence in such a way that it didn’t make me sound like an effete snob. I think I failed.

Sadly the sandwich choices on this trip are not quite to my taste (when are they ever?), but I have been tucking in to the complimentary crisps and Coke. And shortly after each stop at a station, a nice man comes round offering complimentary bad coffee. But that’s a mistake I only made once.

It’s been a fun few weeks back in the UK. Two weeks in London gave me plenty of time to catch up with the family and, with unflaggingly enthusiastic assistance from my 3 year old nephew, burn off some of the energy I’ve acquired from 3 months of ‘resting’. Then over the last week in Edinburgh I’ve had the opportunity to catch up with many old friends. Inevitably I didn’t have time to see everyone I wanted to, which makes this departure feel slightly premature. I did, however, see Wiseman on three separate occasions, so that particular itch has been well and truly scratched.

There are many differences between the UK and the US, and I realise that I highlight them in my blog ad nauseam. But let me just mention the weather. It’s better in Tennessee. Some might say “it’s just different” but I would say it’s better. Even though the temperatures in Nashville and, say, London are probably not dissimilar right now, there’s a dampness in the air here which makes the cold cling to your bones in a disappointingly consistent fashion. Of course, in Edinburgh, you need to factor in the wind chill as well, which cuts a few more degrees off the ‘feels like’ temperature.  It was in this context, a returning son grown accustomed to sunnier climes, that I feel I had a justifiable right to feel aggrieved about my mother’s decision to switch the heating off. My protests were dismissed with an airy wave of the hand and some comment resembling “if you got up and moved around you’d stay warm.”

It’s hard to text on an iPhone when your extremities have gone numb, but, from beneath a number of blankets, I managed to fire off an SOS text to my sister. Her response I do not recall exactly, but am confident included the words “big jessie”. She seemed to relent later and suggested I phone Childline. She even provided the number, so quickly, in fact, that I suspect she might have it memorised.

At least here in First Class, no heating expenses are being spared. An orange rolled off the table of the nice lady across from me and was heading in the direction of the restaurant car, until I retrieved it for her. She was grateful. That has been the most hair-raising event of the journey so far. Let’s hope it stays that way 🙂