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Those who can December 20, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

Humanity is divided into those who like skiing and those who don’t. Those who like having a go at things and those who are scared of everything. Those who like life and the world and those who don’t. I’ve got a feeling that those who fall into the second category on each occasion also happen to have a great love of drinking.

It’s dispiriting to look at those who like to ski. All perfect and sporty and young and healthy. Probably never had a drink in their lives. Dressed perfectly. Whooshing perfectly to a glamorous stop at the bottom of each slope. Wearing perfect boots and goggles. And the odd one that does happen to have outdone you in years also happens to have outdone you in everything else. Pensioner skiing couples are the ghost-writers of your destitute Christmases future. Pensioner skiing couples may say a polite bonjour and clomp past you in those awkward boots with a saccharine smile but when you turn round to see if they’ve noticed you’re not meant to be here, their eyes bore through you and tattoo the pensioner skiing couples’ motto into your shrivelled heart. “We have led perfect lives. We are still a perfect couple. We don’t touch a drop. What about you?”

Salutary, salutary.

My parents are to blame, natch. Not that I mind them not having created a skier, and I like drinking. They even tried to, vaguely, thinking it might be the done thing, or I mistakenly nagged them into it, and packed me off to Switzerland when I was 15 but Robert B_ and I bunked off the lessons and went to Montreux and a Liverpudlian girl of solid frame tried to snog me and then, when I said I wasn’t ready for that sort of commitment so early in our acquaintance, told everyone in Switzerland I was gay. And Paul T_ got unsightly cold-sores all over his face and John G_ had a problem with mucus so skiing was spoiled for me forever.

And I was sure skiing was better suited to other children. Like John G_, in fact, who seemed to do nothing but ski and go to balls. Balls! At 15! Whereas I came from a much more HP-Sauce, homework-on-knees, overlit-rooms, siblings-and-their-friends-everywhere and TV-constantly-on kind of home. And I double-knew I wasn’t a skier when I went to a discotheque for youths in Switzerland. The Swiss youngsters were, naturally, terrified of us marauding school-kids behaving with the disdain for abroad that UK youngsters are taught at school and went all out to befriend us, thinking it might mitigate their ultimate punishment whenever that came. (It didn’t, as far as I remember.) My 15-year-old classmates commented effusively on the quality of the Swiss totty and I probably threw in a half-hearted phwoar or two for the sake of decency while fainting with admiration for anyone that had mastered the snowplough. (John G_, a natural born skier, was awfully good, in spite of the mucal issue, which put paid to any potential admiration, actually.)

And here the Russian and I sit now, surrounded by those who like skiing, those who like having a go at things and those who like life and the world. The Russian more naturally fits into their number, and has the advantage of having grown up in snow. Yet good + bad = bad and, rather than him pulling me towards that noble category, I, sadly, appear to be dragging him towards the hellish domain of those who are scared of everything, those who don’t like life and the world and those who happen to have a great love of drinking.

“Darling, we hate activities and nature and yet we always seem to get stuck in some national park or nature reserve whenever we go on holiday,” I say, hopefully, mumblingly and quickly, trying to subtly claim we are both natural non-skiers who should only ever holiday in administrative areas with a population in the millions and vermin and humans as the only representatives of the animal kingdom. “No, darlink. You not vont do anysink. You lazy and scared of everysink.” “Um, yes, well, that said, should we run away to Barcelona tomorrow? It’d only take a hundred hours by two coaches and two trains.” “No, ve go cross-country ski.”

I love the comfort zone. The familiar. The unchallenging. That which takes no physical skills. Which doesn’t have to be learnt. And the Russian says my New Year’s Resolution for 2008 must be to learn to drive. Yet I’d happily move to the middle of the forest as long as any mountains it had in it were bulldozed and there was broadband. (Mind you, I saw wolves today, which was spine-tinglingly exhilarating and that made me forget how bad I was at life until at least half a second after they left my field of vision.)

And just let’s not even mention snowboarders.



1. Marsha Klein - December 21, 2007

I definitely don’t ski and neither does Brian, although, of course, he has skied, his background being more middle-class than mine. For years a school friend of his and his wife suggested that we all went on a skiing trip together and, although we hated the idea for many reasons, we were too weak-kneed and lily-livered to say no. Instead, we used to mutter half-lies about other committments or just leave the suggestion hanging in the air. Very rude, really. Anyway, they took the hint eventually and went without us and, as a reward for their patience, they had by that time borne three strapping sons, all of whom were more than happy to ski.
For God’s sake don’t learn to drive. Apart from anything else, it is impossible to do anything else in a car except drive while driving, if you see what I mean! Gone is your thinking time and your staring-out-the-window time. I couldn’t even listen to music when I drove and all my passengers had to maintain a funereal silence at all times. Don’t do it!
Mountians, lakes etc ARE beautiful, but, in my opinion, they are best admired in the course of a leisurely stroll (although I’ll raise my game to brisk walk if it’s a bit nippy out) or through the window of your comfortable accommodation, when they provide the perfect backdrop to open fires, candle light and booze.

2. pleite - December 21, 2007

Marshypops, I agree with you wholeheartedly on all points. Indeed, I am probably only attending Christmas because of being too weak-kneed and lily-livered to say I’d much rather sit at home. I won’t learn to drive. Even the Russian, three seconds after that insist, must have thought it was beyond the realms of the possible. And the whole place was stunningly beautiful. I loved it, but our accommodation DIDN’T HAVE INTERNET ACCESS, which is a crime against humanity, surely. Anyway, hence the rush of posts. Well, two. Written while there and then uploaded when we got back yesterday.

3. Ed Ward - December 22, 2007

Believe it or not, there was once a time when nobody skied, back before you were born, in the far-off 1950s. Well, almost nobody: my best friend and his family were ardent skiiers, who’d wake up at obscene hours on Saturday mornings to drive to one of America’s few ski areas in Vermont or upstate New York. There was a golf course with nice hills bordering our neighborhood, so one day the Schulz family decided it was time I learned how to ski. After snarling around for about two hours, failing to get down even the tiniest grade because I kept stepping on one ski with the other, watching his tiny sisters do Jean-Claude Killy stuff, I gave up.

My friend eventually got a degree in something from MIT, married a judge’s daughter, and moved to Vermont to be a ski bum. And you can see where I wound up.

4. pleite - December 22, 2007

Ed, those early-morning starts give me chilly flashbacks to proposed fishing-trips in Russia. “So, I kaam pick you aap tomorrow mornink at five syerty,” some big Russian would say as he drained the vodka from his glass, bit into a pickled gherkin and licked his lips. Thankfully, it was all just talk. No-one suggested we go cross-country skiing, thank god.

5. Karl-Marx-Straße - December 23, 2007

I can’t ski. I tried once (once a week for a whole school term, aged 10). In Beckton, overlooking the A13. It was horrible.

6. Annie Rhiannon - December 25, 2007

Ohhh, thank you for this post. I went on a ski holiday last year that was so embarrassing I didn’t even blog about it. I hate skiing. I hate it I hate it I hate it. Never, ever, ever again.

Happy Christmas bib.

7. pleite - January 4, 2008

Annie, thank you, and forgive my appalling manners. A very, very belated Happy New Year to you.

DZ, Beckton somehow manages to remove all the romance from the word alp. I recommend not skiing but on real mountains.

8. Ben - January 8, 2008

The only time skiing looked cool to me was in a James Bond movie. From the 80s? Timothy Dalton, perhaps? Living Daylights? Dunno. Never done it, and thanks to this post I don’t feel so bad about that. God, in-lining is hard enough.

9. d.z. bodenberg - January 8, 2008

Beckton manages to remove all the romance from the world.

10. pleite - January 8, 2008

Mind you, DZ, now that I’m a tourist in my own city, I really should take the Dockland Light Railway out to that bit of the world one day. I see they’re planning to extend it from Beckton to your old neck of the woods, unless that info is already out of date. My favourite London Transport announcement this time was, “The East London Line is closed for renovation until summer 2010.” Fantastic. (Though it is, at least, for proper extension, and it’s going to be part of the London Overground, not Underground.)

Ben, I’ve got a feeling you’ve got a natural sporty streak and I bet you could ski for Ohio. I suppose it CAN be fun, whooshing downhill fast, but the drinking side of it is much more fun. I’m on a no-booze-athon, which I plan to truncate this Thursday…

11. gee - February 17, 2009


I am taking solace in your blog as am stuck in a chalet in a ski resort north of Montreal. Its my 4th day snowboarding and I HATE it! I almost left the slope after the first lesson and it was only my fiance who persuaded me to stay. In fact it was only because of him that I did another lesson. It turns out I can go down a mountain backward and stop so I would say I learnt the masters of snowboarding. So today am taking a day off – in fact taking the rest of the week of as although I can now kinda snowboard doesn’t mean I like it. And since its my holiday thought it was ok to not do something I hate but fiance and my brother seem not to think so. Sorry had to rant. The place is very pretty but man I wish I was home!!!

12. BiB - March 16, 2009

Oh Gee, I’m sorry, but happy my blog provided a bit of refuge and solidarity. It’s taken me so long to answer that I’m sure this is all a dim and distant memory. Hope you made it to the end of the holiday and that you were perhaps even a convert to sportiness by the end of it. Thanks for popping in and forgive my bad manners.

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