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…

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…

Méribel, Day 3

Three days on the slopes, and the minor injuries count is rising. And that’s just in the chalet, where Tim and myself have been the targets of an orchestrated campaign of intimidation and abuse. It began with the relatively harmless removal of the lightbulb from my bedside lamp on the second evening, and is now threatening to escalate into full scale inter-room guerilla warfare. On discovering my missing lightbulb, I immediately suspected foul play from Room 4, which accommodates Nasty Jen and Broon. I was correct, although it transpires that Jen, on discovering a non-functional lamp in her room, and not completely familiar with the inner technical workings of a bedside lamp, swapped the whole thing for mine rather than simply stealing my bulb. And given that I, on discovering my own newly non-functional lamp, immediately stole her lightbulb (which was in fact mine, of course), she was mightily perplexed that evening when her light still didn’t work.

Anyway, as I say, hostilities have escalated with last night’s disappearance of my duvet from its cover, and tonight’s sewing up of one of my t-shirt sleeves. The blame for all of these atrocities can be laid fairly and squarely at the door of Room 4. However, this very evening, having brushed past a rather static and ineffective sentry at the top of the stairs, I entered my room to discover a newly enlisted member of the enemy forces leaving our ensuite with a rather culpable look on her face and a box of clingfilm badly concealed behind her back. One could be forgiven for expecting a more mature approach from one of the, erm, more senior members of the party. Particularly when they are married to one of our church elders.

It would be fair to say that retribution is on the cards, will be effective, and will continue until the culprits are thoroughly chastised, it all ends in tears or it puts someone’s eye out. That’s the way these things inevitably go.

Although, as more details have come to light, it’s conceivable that more fun could be had by foregoing revenge and allowing them to continue the pranks. To compound the disappointment of the failed clingfilm episode, in a bad case of mistaken-pyjama-identity, Jen’s bumbling accomplices managed to stitch up her longjohns rather than my t-shirt. Quite how they mixed up the two articles remains a mystery but still a source of amusement.

As for the skiing, that’s all going well, with the exception of the Sunday morning, which nearly did end in tears. Your correspondent’s skiing skills were found to be wanting in the areas of stopping and turning, and staying upright. I discovered that sliding into the back of someone’s knees at high speed sends them up in the air in quite a spectacular fashion. I’m very glad Phyllida wears a helmet.

Since then, things have improved somewhat, and skiing-related injuries, at least for me, have been confined to a few muscle strains in the upper arms, and one somewhere in the left buttock. Poor Jody has not fared so well, with some sort of arm injury, and DC’s shins have a bruised and battered aspect. Perhaps that’s why he felt the need to depart for the slopes wearing my ski boots this morning, or perhaps he’s joined in the thieving of my possessions.

This morning began, at 5am, with Tim announcing that he hadn’t been able to get much sleep, and thought he had pee under his bed. I remarked that if there was pee under his bed then it surely was his, as I had restricted my peeing to the bathroom, as per the normal convention. It then became clear that he meant ‘pea’ rather than ‘pee’, which, if he was unable to sleep, confirms his status as a princess.

Tonight we undertook an excursion to the local ice rink to watch ice hockey. It was a junior game between Norway and Austria. One of the features of ice hockey, as I’m sure you’re aware, is the habit of playing little jingles whenever there’s a slight break in the action. Presumably this was designed to accommodate the short attention span of your average N American sports fan. Anyway, the tune aired when a goal was scored tonight was Gary Glitter’s “Rock n roll pt 1”. The locals, and any other tourists that had wandered in, were a little bemused to hear a section of the crowd singing “Nasty Je-n, Oh!, Nasty Jen…” at these times. How many people have had their names chanted in a small-time ice hockey stadium?

Finally Wiseman. Despite not being able to make the trip, he has been in our thoughts, not to mention our bags, on our tables, on the slopes, and in our daily slideshows regardless. See the photo page for illumination.

Well, it’s late, even Haxton has clearly fallen asleep, as the strains of his tenor snores are filtering through from next door. Time to rest some of those aching muscles and dream up some revenge plans…