It’s a dreich day in January. I’m back in my favourite corner seat at Century General, gazing through misted windows at a rainy Montrose Terrace. H has been highly disapproving of my continual weight loss, openly suspecting anorexia on my part. I am some way off the “underweight” classification, shall we say, but am manfully doing my bit to keep her happy by horsing down CG’s chocolate-and-coconut cake.
The last few weeks have been full of highlights to bring you all up to date on, notably dinner chez Wiseman, which was, as ever, excellent, and only enhanced by the Wisemans’ eminently sensible decision to install a toilet with a dangling-chain flush, thus removing the need for post-prandial flush button decision-making. I was grateful.
Christmas in London was full of our usual family Christmas traditions… Panettone for breakfast, Christmas Eve lasagne, a mild case of the lurgy, and Baileys of an evening. On discovering a near-empty bottle of Ireland’s finest export in the kitchen, I, quietly panicking, enquired of my sister if there was any more.
There was. Actually a visit to the cellar made me wonder if she had left any Baileys for the rest of London.
“It was on offer” she protested.
Just before Christmas I attempted to skateboard in the park with my 8-year-old nephew. I sent a photo of this (I did not send a video) to my rad skateboarding friend Gabe. Gabe teaches chess to New York kids for a living. I love that sentence.
Gabe warned me to be careful, and being rad, added a hashtag.
I made it back safely, without at any point getting rad.
Christmas came and went, with my attempts to bribe the kids into getting up a bit later on Christmas morning largely unsuccessful.
Three days after Christmas, I boarded an Oak Hall bus headed for the Austrian Alps. My expectations of a 24 hour bus trip were somewhere south of horrendous, but I am delighted to report that there was an unexpectedly decent amount of sleep achieved. On boarding the bus, I made an attempt to introduce myself to some of my travelling companions. I met a couple of twins from Preston. Transpires they were called Rio and Nakita. I made my way back to my seat, bells furiously going off in the back of my head. It was much later before I plucked up the courage to ask if they had been named after hit songs from the 80s.
They had. What’s more, they loved their songs. They also had an older sister named Simone. After Nina, I presume. I loved their parents already.
On arriving in room 220 at the Hotel Alpenblick in Schlitters (careful how you say that), my room-mates (two of them) and I tossed a coin to see who would get the single bed, and who would be sharing the ‘Austrian Twin’ (two single mattresses in a double frame). I won. Room-mate 1 looked momentarily disconsolate, and then, in a moment of genius, removed the mattress from his side of the bed and planted it on the floor, where it stayed all week. Necessity is the mother of invention.
I inspected the bathroom, and was immediately distracted by the toilet. No confusing flush buttons, just a reassuringly solitary old-fashioned handle.
The bowl was like nothing I’d seen before, and I’ve been going to the toilet for nigh-on 40 years now.
Rather than having the normal sloping sides down into a watery bottom, It had a plateau about halfway up. This plateau took up much of the bowl, leaving a smallish channel at the front leading downwards to the water.
And so it was, after one had, you know, done one’s business… one got to turn around and view the results of one’s efforts, presented as if on a platter, MUCH closer than one is used to. It was, frankly, disconcerting. Especially on the occasions when one turned around and thought
“I did all THAT?”
But the best was yet to come. On pressing the flush handle, jets of water shot out from the rear of the bowl, along the plateau, forcibly sweeping anything that was deposited there into the channel at the front. Mostly into the channel. But it was a very powerful jet of water. One quickly learned to be standing alongside the toilet, rather than directly in front, when pressing the flush handle.
It was a great week’s skiing, only enhanced by getting caught in a blizzard two days in a row and surviving to tell the tale. On the final afternoon, as the weather closed in, and we were still high up the mountain and some way from safety, the visibility worsened to the point where we could see only three chairlift-supporting towers. Then it went down to two, and then one. Filipideedoodaa, at this point, was having goggle-related issues, and was unable to see anything at all.
When the wind’s blowing hard, the snow is sticky (I think it was actually raining at this point), and you can’t see anything, it’s surprisingly hard to know which way is down… it was in these conditions that Filipideedoodaa attempted to exit the piste stage right, but we agreed that this wasn’t the time for off-piste, and called her back. That’s what friends are for.
New Year’s Eve was fairly quiet in the hotel. Roomie 1, having taken a taxi into town with the youngsters, reported that the Austrian NYE street celebrations were a little insane, with everyone bringing their own fireworks and letting them off at random. He spotted an Austrian gent wandering along the street with fireworks draped over his shoulder, smoking a cigar. Splendid. What could possibly go wrong?
The bus back to London was very similar to the outward journey, except we all knew each other, at least a little. Liam, a young fellow-Edinburgher, was pumping out the tunes via his Bluetooth speaker. Classic 80s, mostly, including Billy Joel and Neil Diamond.
There’s hope for the younger generation yet…