When Nasty Jen lost her Mr Darcy

“Is he safe and well?” read the text from Nasty Jen.
I didn’t know, actually.  I’d left Jen’s new prized possession, her Mr Darcy keyring, in a plant pot at The Orchard, our local establishment just down the road from the church.  For all I know he might have taken root and been well on his way to germinating into a Mr-Darcy-keyring-tree.
I decided not to reply.
A bunch of us, including Nasty Jen and Kenny D, had popped in to the Orchard the night before , to plan our Easter Monday St Andrews trip.  Jen was showing off her Mr Darcy keyring, so when she passed it round, I thought it would be hilarious to remove it from her keys when she wasn’t looking.
The next day after work, feeling the guilt, and mentally branding the word IDIOT on my forehead, I entered the Orchard and headed straight for the plant pot.  I sidled awkwardly up to it, embarrassingly close to a sofa containing two women deep in conversation.  When are two women on a sofa not deep in conversation?
“Um, I left something in here last night… nope it’s not here now” I explained, eloquently, as one of the ladies looked askance at me.  I shot out of the room without looking back, feeling a little like Mr Bean.
Confounded cleaners.  Which meant I had to ask at the bar.  I approached it sheepishly, and asked the genial curly-haired barman if anyone had removed a keyring from the plantpot in the corner.  He didn’t think so, but he asked the manager, who disappeared down the hatch behind the bar.  He reappeared a few minutes later, looking pleased with himself.
“Just to be sure it’s yours, can you tell me what’s on it?” he asked loudly, and somewhat triumphantly.
“Errr. Mister Darcy” I muttered quickly, hoping the regulars propped up along the bar wouldn’t hear.
“Yeah!” he laughed, and handed it over.  I mumbled my gratitude and tripped out onto the pavement as fast as I could.  Am hoping we don’t find ourselves back in the Orchard too soon.
The sun shone all Easter weekend, perhaps an unprecedented occurrence, which gave Jen at least three opportunities to claim sunstroke, none of which she passed up.  I destroyed DC over 18 holes at St Andrews on Easter Monday, albeit it was the ‘Himalayas’ ladies putting course.
Kenny D has undergone something of a transformation since I last wrote.  After a few exploratory runs at the turn of the year, he has turned into a fully-fledged card-carrying fitness-obsessed Action Man, scoffing at those of us who use motorised transport for distances under ten miles.  Ken now prefers to hike instead, making light of such obstacles as rivers (he just goes through them) when they get in his way.
F… has been in Ghana for the last six weeks, and blogging furiously.  Should one look away from her blog for more than a minute one is likely to look back to find it has been updated at least once in the meantime.  She has now likely made more posts to her blog than she has made decisions, and as a result has out-blogged me 25 to 1 since the beginning of March.
Wiseman has been strangely quiet, nursing his coccyx perhaps, although that has never been a quiet occupation in the past.  Perhaps he’s been taking time out to read F…’s blog, or possibly he’s just been ashamed to show his face recently, having forgotten my birthday again this year, and then snubbed my party.  Pfffff.
I apologise for this lengthy hiatus in my blogging effort, and am grateful to those of you kind enough to have encouraged me to write again.  I am currently en route to visiting my sister in London, to admire my new nephew Sebastian, who, in joining myself and Hamish the cat, evens up the gender imbalance in the household somewhat.
The lady currently beside me in the departure lounge has been talking non-stop on her mobile phone for 45 minutes now.  It appears that a sofa is not a pre-requisite to inane female chatter…

Back to work…

A week after returning from Les Arcs, the dust is settling on another fine holiday. There are remarkably few injuries to report, with Kirsty’s faceplant on the halfpipe remaining the most serious (witnessed) accident. She had a shiner for a while to show for her efforts, and I feel this made it all worthwhile for her.

In the first week, I came down a large percentage of the Refuge black run upside down gathering snow and ice in my nice new Christmas hat. Going back up to try again was born of stubbornness, but I was doubly rewarded by completing it successfully AND witnessing Tom falling on the moguls and sliding down on his belly, legs and skis up in the air behind him, rising and falling over the bumps in a manner vaguely reminiscent of someone floating on the ocean on a choppy day.

Not content with this crash, Tom then headed up the Aiguille Rouge in a cable car. With him were a group of doctors from Edinburgh, who regaled him with tales of two professional skiers who died skiing down some off-piste on the Aiguille Rouge. Unwittingly (he says), Tom headed straight down into the same area, had a fall, lost a ski, and slid for 150m. Somehow he retained his life, his limbs, and even had his ski recovered by the same Edinburgh doctors, who were following.

Mandy has been loudly pointing out to anyone who would listen, that I kept falling over. I keep protesting that I only fell over while attempting silly things, which is mostly true, but doesn’t shut her up. I did nearly clock a tree at one point, but managed to divert just in time. One of my skis came off in the avoidance manoeuvre and carried on to hit the poor tree.

Carol, our newbie snowboarder in the group, flounced out of her lesson with a petulant toss of her head only a few days after F… had done the same. *&?@#* snowboarders. I presume the instructors weren’t winsome enough for them.

The return to Edinburgh proved relatively uneventful, despite checking in only 15 minutes before the flight was due to take off. There were, inevitably, delays, although thankfully not due to Kirsty this time. She elected not to bring a penknife in her hand luggage on the return trip, perhaps because she no longer had one after it was confiscated by the nice security people in Edinburgh on the way out.

Back at our favourite harbour haunt on Friday night, Wiseman confided that he had been welcomed back to work with a six month ban on him even mentioning his coccyx.

“Apparently I went on about it a bit last year,” he explained ruefully.

While we were away, the gang have been in good form. Kenny D has been spotted going for a run, sometimes more than once a week. The times they are a-changing.

Nasty Jen was playing hockey when a girl in the opposing team swung her stick into Jen’s head, whereupon she crumpled to the ground in pain. She then realised that the stick had actually connected with the head of the girl beside her, and quickly scrambled back to her feet, hoping no-one had noticed.

DC was at an old friend’s for lunch today. His friend had just had a brand new bathroom fitted. For some reason DC decided to sit down on the toilet lid while putting some eyedrops in, and went straight through it. He has confirmed that he wasn’t even trying to get purchase at the time.

Plus ça change…

Leap Year’s Day + 1

It’s not every year you get a chance to blog on 29 February, so it seemed a shame to miss the opportunity.

However, I did. So here I am, on 1 March instead. The 29th passed off peacefully, with no proposals needing deflected. Nasty Jen had hatched a proposal scheme which involved the payment of a large fine should the poor unfortunate have the temerity to reject her offer. The amount was reputed to be in the region of £10,000. Frankly, as escapes from captivity go, it seemed cheap. I haven’t heard yet if anyone was significantly lighter in pocket this morning.

Jones will be dismayed to discover that my turntable count has risen to two this week. I had been becoming more aware of the limitations of mp3s, having discovered that when played at higher volumes, the distortion is irritatingly noticeable. So when an old friend’s dad called to say he was jettisoning his Rega Planar 3, I resolved to dust off my vinyl collection, and begin enjoying analogue music again. Having already in my possession a Planar 2, bought second hand years ago from some guy in Albion Road, the arrival of a second deck might finally herald the birth of my DJ career. Or perhaps not.

The turntable, I was informed, needed a new stylus. No problem, I thought. Until I really did think. Where on earth do you buy a needle for your record player these days? I searched online, but only succeeded in bewildering myself with the types of stylus that were available, having no idea if they were suitable for the cartridge. And then the Admin Supremo’s Apprentice stepped in. His dad, he explained, used to “mess around with” turntables. So, on the recommendation of the Admin Supremo’s Apprentice’s dad, I found myself descending into a basement emporium on Leith Walk, a room lined with speakers, valve amplifiers, turntables, and even, gosh, the odd CD player. Four days later I had my P3 back in residence and was listening to the unadulterated purity of analogue sound – no jitter, no quantisation errors.

Digital sound has its uses. iPods rule when convenience takes precedence over sound quality. I have been putting some of my dad’s favourite old tunes onto my iPod the last few days, and playing them to him. He’s been in a coma for over a week now, since suffering a brainstem stroke following a fall, and I have no idea if he hears the music or not. But I hope he does, and it brings him some comfort. Alison and Maggie were scrambled from London within hours of the accident, and Maggie’s presence has been a joy in a difficult week. I have been fine-tuning my role as the mischief-making uncle, winding her up to levels of excitement at all the wrong times. Just before bed-time is ideal for chasing tennis balls down the hallway, I find.

My dad has had a difficult few years lately – having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease just over ten years ago. It has played havoc with his mobility, sleeping, stomach, speech, his dignity, and more. At times his frustration has been obvious, but mostly he has remained gracious and a model of Christian love.

On one occasion we were on holiday at Rossnowlagh in Donegal. I was about 7 years old, and made some dismissive comment about dad’s age (he would have been 57 at the time) and his running ability. Whereupon he pointed to a nearby sand dune and offered to race me. I remember being stunned at how such an old man, in my eyes, could outpace me so easily. Twenty-six years on, I was staring at his feet one evening while I was visiting him in a nursing home, where he was staying while mum was in London. They were swollen and misshapen through heart valve malfunction. I recalled the Rossnowlagh race, and silently grieved over his loss of mobility. Age takes its toll on everybody, but Parkinson’s steals so much more.

I have often cried out my frustration to God that Dad has had to go through this. Never more so than recently, as he lies in a hospital bed, awaiting the end. Why? I know not.

But though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?

The return from Val d’Isère

“Everything hurts,” moaned Wiseman early one morning. “Perhaps we should take up colouring-in, or something.”

We, the walking wounded, hobbled and limped back into Edinburgh yesterday after a 5 hour delay in Chambéry.

Ladies and gentlemen, a message for those flying to Edinburgh on flight BA1961. Unfortunately your aircraft has landed at Lyon.


Please expect a delay to your flight.

No kidding.

Lynne managed to use the time wisely, lying down in the medical room after refusing to go to hospital with 3 firemen in their fire engine. When will she get another chance like that? Perhaps she’d had her fill of men in uniform for a while, after being attended to on the slopes by men in red and yellow ski suits.

Myself, DC and Kirsty had skied over a crest yesterday afternoon to discover Lynne sprawled unconscious on the snow. She came to after a couple of minutes and before long was being stretchered down into Val d’Isere. It was all very exciting, albeit slightly worrying, and I daresay she would rather not repeat the experience.

Filipideedoodaa had her own adventures the day before, cartwheeling down a red run and injuring her ankle badly enough to rule her out of skiing/boarding for the rest of the holiday.

Aside from that, we sustained a few twisted knees and one or two bruises. Val’s twisted knee was much worse than mine, but I complained more. Wiseman is currently walking like John Wayne, and now that we’re back I have been perfecting my dual limp (both legs hurt so I can’t favour one over the other). With four physiotherapists on the trip, sympathy and compassion were in desperately short supply, so there was no point in looking for any before now.

Managed to conquer my T-bar demons, on Thursday. Neither run was without incident, however. When on a T-bar with someone they should ideally be of a similar height. The first time up was with Mandy, who only avoids being officially registered as a dwarf by a couple of inches. I am over six feet. We began with the bar at a comfortable height for her, and finished at the top with her skis barely touching the snow. On the second run I was sharing the bar with the Haxtonmeister, who is of a more similar stature (although somewhat more rounded), but somehow managed to cause him to wipe out at the top regardless.

Much hilarity has been had overall. Siobhan’s name proved too tricky for her French ski instructor, who insisted on calling her “Cheval” (translation = “horse”) throughout the week. Our instructor, on the other hand, spent several minutes calling out “leeean, LEEEAN” to us as we were cruising down the piste during a lesson. We were doing a leaning exercise at the time, so we duly tried to lean even more. We were virtually falling over before we realised that he was trying to get Lynne’s attention.

The same instructor, who demonstrated an admirable ability to not only smoke on a wind-blasted chairlift but actually roll his own, was exhorting us to “caress the snow” and “embrace the gravity”. He explained that we needed to be more “fairy-like”. I felt the need to point out that behaving like a fairy was not a good thing for a British bloke to be doing.

The pranking shenanigans continued through the week – when Wiseman and I arrived back in the chalet on Monday night after posting the last blog entry, we discovered our room had been divested of its beds. I asked Mark if they had been put out on the balcony.

“Nope, I’ve checked.”

Turns out he had stuck his head out briefly (“it was cold”) and decided they weren’t there. We then proceeded to search the entire chalet, or at least the bits we could access, before returning to find them … on the balcony.

On another day Ken went to relieve himself, and lifted the toilet seat, which promptly exploded. Jen’s bed started laughing when she lay down on it, her famous red coat went missing for days, and several people’s toothbrushes also disappeared. The latter thief remains unidentified despite Ken training his video camera on the bathroom door to try to catch the culprit.

Mental Mo and Nasty Jen organised a ceilidh on the final night, attendance at which was more or less compulsory. Mysteriously, Ken found it took him several hours to pack for the journey home, despite having a rucksack only marginally larger than Jen’s handbag. Even the chalet staff – Osh, Tom and Liam – were invited. One really can’t blame them for running away and hiding downstairs for the entire evening.

The presence of most of these reprobates made the airport wait that bit more enjoyable, and when we finally got on the flight, Broon fell asleep, which allowed me to steal her meal. You snooze, you lose.

And so, a great holiday is over. I will miss so much about it over the next few days. Like the early morning routine with Wiseman.

“Mark, are you awake?”


“Good Morning.”


The formalities completed, I pulled the duvet over my head for extra sound insulation, in preparation for The Clearing of the Nasal Passages.

Actually, I might not miss that. But I will miss the skiing. Not going to be taking up colouring-in just yet, bruises or not…

Val d’Isère, Day Two

And to think we were concerned that there might not be any snow this early in January. It’s been snowing almost non-stop since we got here. The Haxtonmeister had to dig his car out yesterday morning, and employ his snow chains for the first time.

Consequently the skiing conditions have been tricky, with low visibility and great piles of powder on the pistes. As a result, everyone had a less than ideal first couple of runs yesterday. Blue skies are forecast for tomorrow, with the snow to return on Wednesday and Thursday.

The chalet is absolutely outstanding, and the food matches it. Each room is ensuite. I am sharing a twin room with Wiseman. The gap between the beds is not what it could be, and the beds themselves are fairly narrow. I woke up this morning and engaged Wiseman in an early chat.

“There was some encroachment last night, mate.”



He just shrugged, obviously underestimating the distress it caused me. Such are the joys of sharing rooms with insensitive people.

I went to have a bath this evening after skiing. Took one look at the bathtub and popped my head back round the door to satisfy myself that there was any hair left on Wiseman at all. Quelle surprise, there was. I spent 20 minutes cleaning the bathtub out. Wiseman declared that I was making a bit of a meal of it.

“That’s what I do, Mark.”

“You do it very well.”

“I’ve practised.”

James popped in to our room sporting a mohican.

“Ooh, it stinks in this room,” he announced.

Actually it had been smelling fine until James arrived and dropped one. We exited the room to find some clean air, and found Nasty Jen lurking in the corridor. Fortunately I had a small bag of snow in my hand, and thereupon commenced a small snow fight, which was fairly evenly matched, until James entered the fray. James, being five years old, knows no boundaries. She nearly lost her trousers, poor girl.

The pranks proper have begun. Broon, whose birthday it was yesterday, opened her wardrobe to the strains of Cliff Richard singing “Congratulations, and celebrations…” They (Broon and Jen) worked out how to turn it off disappointingly quickly. (One imagines that it was Broon who figured it out).

As for the skiing, Wiseman has been finding himself “becoming one with the mountain” fairly frequently. As for me, I found myself becoming one with a random skier on the slope who was surprised to see me skiing up the slope straight towards him. We embraced briefly and then collapsed in each other’s arms. Disappointingly, it was a bloke.

I also had a disaster today while attempting to get onto a chairlift. I skied into the correct position in the middle of a group of three, and then, well, carried on skiing really, right off the front of where you’re supposed to stop. Overbalanced to the right in front of Filipideedoodaa, who completely failed to haul me back into the correct position, and instead kicked me so hard that her ski came off and she collapsed in a heap. The liftie, showing a remarkable amount of restraint, refused to give her a good telling off for her actions, and simply helped her retrieve her ski. Very gracious, these French.

Both the Haxtonmeister and Mental Mo have acquired new ski jackets and trousers, which means that this year they won’t be wearing their all-in-one romper suits on the slopes. This is most disappointing, and the photos will be all the less entertaining as a result.

Finally, quote of the day.. from James to his mum as she shepherded him back from the slopes:

“Ah… it’s good to be alive.”

Did I mention he was five years old…?

Wiseman’s Back, and Broon the Parsnip

The Northern Ireland trip passed off peacefully. It was great. In fact it was dead-on, so it was. There have been some changes since my last proper visit (where a proper visit is defined as lasting more than 24 hours). The now relatively well-established peace (I describe it thus with some caution, as our Admin Supremo, volatile enough to spark a civil war in Switzerland, is actually holidaying VERY NEAR to the province at this very moment) has caused house prices to sky rocket. However, some things remain the same. You still get offered a choice of chips or rice with your Chinese takeaway.

I made my escape back to Scotland and drove straight to the Strathclyde Hilton, where an old friend was having a ceilidh to celebrate her recent marriage. Needless to say, with dancing to be had, much of the chatroom was present. Jen, on her way rather predictably to the bar with a couple of friends, where she was no doubt planning to convince someone to buy her a drink, was accosted by an older gentleman and his mates.

“It’s alright, ladies, I’m HERE,” he announced.

“YESSSS!” replied Jen, rather more audibly than she might have planned, while punching the air triumphantly. Whether the trace of sarcasm in this response was picked up or not was unclear, and she spent the rest of the night looking nervously over her shoulder.

Wiseman, out of circulation of late due to spending time with the missus, no longer has a missus to spend time with, and hence had to make do with our company instead. Having booked some rooms at the hotel and stayed overnight, I got up early and sneaked into the gym the next morning to watch the great man at work.

A picture speaks a thousand words, they say.

Tonight I made my yearly visit to my mum’s GB Display. The GB is an organisation for young girls that gives them something to do besides buying shoes and talking about Big Brother, namely playing games and learning about God, and their Display is the annual end of year show. I realise that openly admitting that I spent the evening watching young girls cavort about a hall might not do any good to either my credibility or my status with Disclosure Scotland, but I can only protest my innocent involvement as the musician. Don’t shoot me, I’m only the piano player. I might hope that Broon, who was also present, would back me up here, but realise that my acerbic character profiling might just come back and bite me on the bum. Oh well, such is the lot of us satirists.

Mum, who is captain of this particular company of girls, waited until halfway through the minister’s opening prayer before deciding to check if the radio mic was working. She switched it on and blew hard into it. It was working, what’s more it was turned up quite high. After the subsequent explosion she turned and smiled, apparently pleased that the whole hall now knew the PA was switched on.

We moved on to the first song, during which my music book made several attempts to pitch itself headlong onto the keys. My playing wasn’t that great, I’d be the first to admit, but I didn’t consider it so bad that the music book itself would seek to intervene and call an abrupt and atonal end to matters.

These evenings tend to include games with audience participation. Early on in the night we witnessed a game which involved one of the leaders “making soup” by waving her arms vigorously as a number of girls-pretending-to-be-vegetables ran round her at speed, before they shot off back to the corners whence they came.

“You got the idea?” she asked the audience, confidently. I chanced a look across to Broon, skulking in the back row on the opposite side of the hall. Broon clearly had as much idea what was going on as I did. Which was unfortunate, as shortly afterwards she was deemed to be a leek and was summoned onto the floor. It wasn’t long before she got confused and tried to pass herself off as a parsnip (no-one was fooled), and ended up back in her seat red-faced.

And that’s about it. Colin Eye informs me that the pesky IT people at his workplace have blocked his ability to make comments. Perhaps they have read your comments, Colin. One can only surmise how long you can remain in the Cabinet without being able to make comments… shame really, since you’ve just made it in. And it’s such a nice photo…

Healthy eating at Easter

Went to give blood on Good Friday, a little apprehensively since I’ve had a cold recently, and am still coughing from time to time. The nurses at the Blood Donor Centre in Edinburgh take a fairly relaxed approach to your suitability to donate blood. About as relaxed as an SAS admissions officer. If you’ve so much as recently walked past someone who sneezed, they’re liable to shake their head sadly and ask you to come back next time. Woebetide you if the person who sneezed as you walked past might have once had sex with someone in Africa. Then you’re for the high jump. You can see why I was apprehensive. Not only have I coughed recently, but I know a man with a Kenyan wife. So when I mentioned that my plane home from Australia in January had stopped off at BANGKOK… the eyebrows were raised sharply and she disappeared to ascertain my fate. I glanced nervously upwards, half expecting a hermetically-sealed container to drop from the ceiling and insulate me from society until I was safe.

I protested that I hadn’t left the airport in Bangkok, and had purchased nothing more than a book while I was there, but all to no avail. Apparently the plane even touching Thai tarmac knocks blood donation on the head for 12 months. Malaria hotspot, it would seem. So that’s that. Still, I came away with some mini-eggs courtesy of the Blood Donor Centre.

Easter Monday brought an expedition to St Andrews, after breakfast at the incomparable Indigo Yard. Kenny D, Broon, and Jen all made the trip, among others less infamous to the readers of this blog. We were all careful to suck on sweets as we went over the Forth Bridge, after Jen’s public assertion that her ears pop when she goes North.

The sun shone, the wind blew, and we had fun. The sun shone so much that Jen went slightly pink and declared herself to have sunstroke. The wind blew so much during our time on the beach that we all experienced exfoliation by sand-blasting, and are still finding sand in various bodily crevices. Actually, I can only speak for my own crevices. A long and satisfying game of beach cricket was marked by the usual events: dropped catches aplenty and Kenny D muttering darkly about the uneven surface every time he got bowled.

Dining in Zizzi’s that evening, I took a moment to read the advisory notice on my glass bottle of Coke. It advised me that 330ml of Coca Cola, ie one glass bottle or a can, contains 39.5% of an adult’s RDA of sugar. I pondered this for a moment, considering how I’d started the day with a breakfast soaked in maple syrup, and reckoned that with the syrup and Coke alone I must have been close to sugar saturation for the day. I looked up to see three year old Lewis polishing off the last of his own bottle of Coke, and breathed deeply. What percentage of a child’s sugar RDA, I wondered…

My sister and her partner were up over the Easter break, which meant I finally got the chance to meet my 11-week old niece. We got on reasonably well, I feel. She seemed to tolerate me when I kept moving, as if this held promise that I would soon hand her over to someone more competent. Childcare, at that age, seemed refreshingly logical and uncomplicated to my bachelor eyes. If she was crying, she was either hungry (hand her to my sister), or tired (hand her to my sister), or had a loaded nappy (hand her to anyone in sight. Except perhaps, my dad). If she wasn’t crying, carry her around for a bit for bonding purposes until she started crying.

On Saturday at our church’s music practice, two of the band, by necessity, brought their young kids along. Surveying the carnage in the church at the end of the practice, and the fraught look on the faces of the parents in question, I was reminded that childcare doesn’t stay logical or uncomplicated for long.

The weather was glorious in Galashiels today, which is where my job took me. Sitting outside at lunchtime, drinking my way through 60% of my sugar RDA, I looked up to see a bus with a question plastered over its side: “SALT. Is your food full of it?”

I checked the bottle. 0.0g salt.

Phew. Still eating healthily.

The Day of Reckoning

I promised Jen (and her associates) that there would be a day of reckoning. And there was. Very early on Friday morning, Jen, thinking she’d heard a cat miaowing at the end of her bed, sat bolt upright in bed and clutched her covers to her. She had heard a cat. Earlier in the evening I had sneaked my Airport Express and a small set of portable speakers into her room. At shortly after 1.30am I sent the miaowing cat, and just as she was on the verge of waking up the Haxtonmeister to come and do something about it, I followed it up with a sheep baaing and a cow mooing. At this point, two rooms away, I was also clutching my duvet – to my face to prevent myself losing it. In Room 4 meantime, all attempts to remain quiet had been thrown to the wind. Just before the farmyard arrived in her room, Jen, having lain down to sleep and felt things were not quite right, had discovered DC’s copy of the Times spread carefully underneath her bedsheet like some sort of incontinence sheet for the cognoscenti. Added to the sudden disappearance of four of us earlier in the evening, and subsequent very sudden reappearance outside the front door as she came through it, I think the poor girl was beginning to think we had it in for her. Which we did, obviously.

Friday was the perfect last day. Thursday’s heavy snow and poor visibility had given way to bright blue skies, sunshine and groomed pistes. It was a glorious way to end the week. Phyllida, Tim, Colin and I headed over to Val Thorens, where Mr Haxton left us to return to collect young James, and the three of us skied down to Les Meniuères for lunch. Mandy should have been with us, but had been somewhat thwarted by a lack of ski pass, having taken it out of her ski jacket the night before, for reasons still unclear. So after a couple of blue runs, we headed up to the top of Mont de la Chambre, where Mandy was to meet us.

On the second of these blue runs, Tim and I crested a rise at speed, only to discover a French Ski School for kiddies winding its way gently across the slope. Tim veered left and carved safely through the line of kids, whereas I held my line down the right hand side of the piste, thinking I would straight-line it just inside the piste marker. However, the kiddies’ ski instructor, bless ‘im, decided to ski right out to the edge of the piste before making a turn. I had only time for one thought. Children. They’re the future, and the only future we’ve got. So I veered right and flew headlong, Superman-like, into the powder off the piste. I trust the little tykes appreciated the sacrifices I made – my dignity, and the chance to beat Tim and Phyllida to the bottom.

This was not my only Superman impression of the week. On Wednesday, after I had negotiated almost an entire day without falling (save for one unmentionable incident when Haxton clipped my skis and sent me shooting down a red run on my back), I skied down a short section of green run (yep, green = easy), attempted to stop beside the rest of the crew, managed to plant my skis into some snow and fly over the front of them. Sadly this proved too much excitement for my poor camera to withstand, and I subsequently discovered it in 2 distinct pieces in my pocket. To compound its misery, I had left my pocket unzipped and it was covered in snow. A sad and damp end for a hitherto useful and trusty friend. Remembering to zip one’s pockets up before descending a slope is imperative. With my brand new ski jacket, this was not straightforward. It has pockets all over the place, perfectly-sized for all of life’s skiing necessities – ski pass, mobile phone, sunglasses, Twix.

Having managed to convince Mandy via 2-way radio on the way up the chairlift that she’d come up the wrong mountain, we arrived at the summit just in time to stop her skiing off to find us. Oh, how we laughed.

Skiing back towards Méribel, we collected the senior Haxtons and DC halfway down the mountain, and had a great final run back. Mandy led me astray into a section of off piste so deep that my poles kept disappearing from view.

There was just time to dump Kirsty headfirst into a snowdrift one last time, stop off for one last £4 Coke, and then we headed back to the chalet.

So, it’s goodbye to Méribel. Tim and James, who got along famously, will have to hold off their hair-spiking discussions for a bit. I think Tim appreciated having someone else to talk to with a similar perspective on the world. Both of them see things from a little, um, lower than most of us.

On Wednesday evening we all went out for dinner to a suitably-overpriced local eatery. James found the dining experience much more fun from outside, where he went at regular intervals to knock on the window and wave at us. His mum Morag, fresh from finishing her book ‘Politically Correct Parenting in the 21st Century’, slapped the window with her napkin and called out loudly “Oh, away back to the orphanage!”. The folk at the tables near us weren’t sure exactly what to make of this.

Now back in Edinburgh, and I’m finding it colder here than I did on my return from Australia last month. Work that one out. It could be something to do with being dog-tired. Fell asleep for the entire second half of Scotland v Wales this afternoon. Missing Méribel and all the laughs already. Hope you enjoyed the posts from DC and myself, and the photos (click on ‘Other photos’ on the RHS).

Hope to hear from you all soon…

The jacket, the prank and the wardrobe

(A modern day morality tale)

[apologies for the delay in posting this, and also more photos… wasn’t easy getting access to wifi in Méribel. This one from DC again]

The pranks in Meribel continue unabated, and to rebound on their perpetrator with uncanny regularity. Wednesday was our hosts’ day off, and so we had to repair to a local restaurant. It seemed that during our meal the French version of Pickfords (le Pickfords) had paid us a visit. Somehow, the wardrobes in the guys’ bedrooms had managed to turn themselves around, so that the doors were facing the wall, rendering their use somewhat difficult.

There were the usual denials and protestations of innocence. However, the track record of the occupants of the chalet meant that identification of the guilty party(ies) did not require us to call out the local gendarmes.

Shortly later, Nasty Jen decided it was time to go out and hit the local nitespots, as I believe the word is currently (mis)spelt. Jen was hopeful of bumping into her ski instructor, who apparently was not only French, but also “hot”. As looking trendy is of prime importance in Meribel, the pink jacket was obviously the item of attire of choice. Jen was most distressed to be unable to find said jacket. However, it was suggested to her that turning one of the wardrobes back round and opening the door might yield up the jacket, which had managed to find its way there during an unguarded moment.

We attempted to explain to Jen the concept of putting right the wrongs that one had perpetrated, but it fell on deaf ears.

Jen looked forlorn and protested that lack of strength would preclude her from executing this operation. And her partners in crime seemed reluctant to pitch in again in the furniture shifting operation. One moving of wardrobes was obviously all that had been included in the original agreement.

So Jen had to hit Meribel in her white ski jacket. She returned later in the evening bemoaning the fact that, on arriving on the dance floor, she had “lit up” as she put it when the disco lights did their stuff and illuminated the white ski jacket. Apparently this was not the desired look and had reduced her standing in the coolness stakes. Perhaps it was just as well that she didn’t bump into her ski instructor.

Such embarrassment on the fashion front could have been wholly avoided had the original crime been put right, but Jen chose not to. A lesson, for us all I feel.

Today, we had planned the mother of all ski expeditions to take us to Val Thorens, the highest ski location in Europe. However, the blizzard conditions which developed during the morning meant that this was likely to be as successful as one of Jen’s pranks. So we opted for skiing and intermittent snow shenanigans.

This yielded several highlights. While waiting to get on a chairlift, Mandy decided it would be a good idea to try to rugby tackle Andrew. Her first attempt nearly resulted in taking out an unsuspecting skier, who did not find this amusing. To digress briefly, it seems that we are the only people in the village who actually have a laugh while skiing. We are obviously not taking it seriously enough.

Mandy’s second attempt was no more successful. Despite being on skis, Andrew was able to sidestep Mandy’s dive in a manner of which David Campese would have approved. This resulted in Mandy’s going headfirst into the snow, much to everyone’s amusement. It also meant that Andrew had the unusual experience of having women throwing themselves at his feet. Any port in a storm, as he has been known to say.

At the end of the day, there was a mass snowball fight. This is possibly not the most accurate term, as the main conflict involved the girls trying to shove snow in the guys’ faces. This mismatch again rebounded on the ladies, and saw most of them being subjected to snow down the back of their necks. There are several incriminating photographs of this, which Andrew may well post on the blog at some point.

The final say goes to Morag eliciting the “s” word from Andrew, that word being “sorry”. Andrew was convinced that he could reduce the number of lifts we would have had to take on the planned mammoth ski trip. After much deliberation and calculation, Andrew had to concede that he was wrong and Morag had been right. This was the source of much amusement for Morag and deep contrition for Andrew. If Jen had shown a similar level of contrition the evening before then Meribel’s discos might have been able to experience the full glory of the pink jacket.