Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Better late than....... BONK!

After changing trains five times in a four hour journey before taking our local tram and then lugging our wheelie cases up avenue du Bouchet for home, we had enjoyed three days of skiing and a white Christmas in Wengen.



Love Chunks found an instructor for Sapphire and myself because we were absolute novices and not the types who'd just take to it like ducks to water (more like meat loaf in mud).  Just putting on the boots and fandangled metal clicker thingies and walking like Frankenstein over to the nursery slope was a demanding physical strain, let alone having the teacher admit that, yes, at forty three I was her oldest complete beginner student. These were merely two indications that I was not going to fly down the powdery blanc hillsides with ease or grace.


However, I did in fact master the baby slope and on day two, in response to his urgings and encouragement, decided to join Love Chunks on the easy blue run from the Wengenalp train station.


Less than two hundred metres and several falls later, it was clear that 'blue' was beyond me.  Falling down is easy but getting up when your feet are securely fastened in rigid high-strength plastic boots affixed to long planks that are usually sunk into 60cm of snow is the human equivalent of a beetle flailing uselessly on its back. In a sack of flour. Wearing toothpicks.


Tears and fears meant that I had to walk the rest of the 3km run home and the pressure of the high-cut boots smacking into my shins at every step, the cumbersome nature of the skis and poles and my sad, sulky face saw the bloke clearing the side gates take pity on me and give me a lift back on his ski-doo.  My left hand wrapped around his waist whilst the right held onto the bloody slippery ski equipment so there was no luxury to be had freaking out about the speed in which he sped down the hill or the angles of the corners.....


On the third and final day, Sapphire was conquering her turns and manoeuvres at the nursery, LC was up at Mannlichen - no, not to seek a total lifestyle change but to have a go at a longer and more challenging blue run - and I was going to conquer The Hill.  This monolith glistened and gleamed alongside the teaching field and had its own separate climate and misty clouds at the top - just looking at it had me trembling in terror.


When The Hill is negotiated with confident turns, expert snow ploughing and a fast but controlled whoosh to the bottom, coaches and teachers confirm that you are ready for a blue run. I knew this because I saw other instructors take their charges (yes, aged between 3 and 10) down The Hill a few times before clapping their hands and loudly announcing that they were ready to do 'real' skiing.


Love Chunks promised to meet me at a snick before the ski lifts closed at 4pm to take my photo. I yearned for visual proof that I had mastered The Hill to send to folks back home and to show you, my brilliant blog readers.  


Three hours of doggedly lining up to grab at a rubber stick to unceremoniously shove between my quivering legs and pull me up The Hill was still resulting in several mouthfuls of snow, snapped slalom flags and an arseful of shaved ice. 


I was going to do this. I wanted to make Love Chunks proud of me.  I wanted to show Sapphire that persistence would overcome fear and (a very surprising) amount of soaking nervous sweat.  I wanted to feel that there was still life in the old girl yet.


"This is YOUR turn chook," said the lift operator from Yorkshire, with a soggy roll-up in the corner of her mouth. "You're getting there now."


I took the obligatory deep breath, then a slow and careful push..... Four slalom flags were happily untouched and turned around almost on purpose before I struck a long streak of ice that cruelly shoved me down the left side of The Hill and careening far beyond anything so tepidly described as 'being out of control'.


BONK!  The skis shot for the sky and my back hit the ice first with my head a close second. The nearby clumps of proud parents stopped teaching their three year olds and the cafe patrons momentarily forgot their beer orders when my still-sliding, starfish profile finally stopped in the middle of the unofficial causeway. I was the human personification of a snowflake pattern: modern interpretative art occurring right there in front of them.  


When I opened my eyes I saw a circle of concerned faces, all speaking different languages.  I smiled at an elderly lady who said, "Are you OK love? I'm a nurse from Newcastle. How many fingers am I showing?"


I never thought I'd ever hear that line in anything other than a movie.  A few more questions and a pat-down reassured her that I was suffering from nothing more serious than humiliation. "Let me walk you back home and make sure you take a pill for that headache you're already starting to get," she said.


The double-folded polar fleece***cap, thick scarf, goggle elastic band and fur-lined hood had saved my head from any serious damage. Inside, my brain now realised that it knew what that last, stubborn globule of ageing ketchup feels like when it is finally pounded and shaken out of the bottle.




I peeled back my glove and glanced at my watch. 3:30pm. "There might be half an hour of ski lift time left and I've already paid for it, but I think I might call it a day now."  No photographic meet up with Love Chunks to provide some pictorial evidence to share with you but if you could see how I'm walking today - a lady on a zimmer frame overtook me in the meat aisle at Migros this morning - you would believe.


*** Ah, dear, sweet, dependable polar fleece.... is there anything it can't do?

18 comments:

The Elephant's Child said...

Ouch. I remember that well. And the added humiliation when two and three year olds zipped past. Sadly I put the UN in unco. Hoping that your bruises and strains and sprains ease quickly so that you can againg win drag races against persons on zimmer frames.

redcap said...

Oh Kath. You poor blossom. At least you tried, so kudos for that in my book!

You did have some absolutely choice expressions in there - I particularly liked the ketchup analogy and the beetle in the flour :-)

FruitCake said...

"Wearing toothpicks"... love it!

Elisabeth said...

Oh dear, Kath. I admire your perseverance. I was much younger than you, in my early twenties when I first donned skis - in those days we did the cross country skiing, which is nothing like the downhill skiing you describe here, when I was in my early twenties.

I refuse to go out skiing now. It's great for those who start early enough or for those with advanced balance skills but not for older folk who've never tried before. I'd have lasted five minutes and so yes, I admire your perseverance. And how are the bruises coming on? Still purple I imagine, yet to turn yellow? And you said over there on my blog that you had a trouble free Christmas.

Ann O'Dyne said...

not Blurb From The Burbs but Schuss From The Piste.
wonderful post - two involuntary belly-laughs, and a great avalanche of sympathy.
what a sweetie the guy who gave you a ride back was.
What you missed out on was those costly swisse finishing schools where the upper classes send their dumb kids to learn how to ski and to dive perfectly off Monte Carlo yachts.
I hope you got some damn fine apres ski hot chocolat. X X X

Hannah said...

I'm in awe of how long you stuck at it! I've always maintained that the only way anyone could get me to go skiing is if all I'll be doing once there is sitting by the fire with coffee and a book. Or my laptop, actually. Have to update that scenario for the modern age...

Andrew said...

Broken pride only. Lucky.

Kath Lockett said...

'Unco' is me too, E-Child. The only grace I possess is the swift movement from hand to mouth when chocolate is inserted.

Thanks redcap - now if someone would 'discover' me and pay me to think up such silly descriptors I'd be in heaven....

Thanks Fruitcake - I'm now going to up-end any struggling beetle I see now, having experienced their struggles myself :)

Elisabeth the bruises are now purpley-black and there was less hobbling this morning when taking Milly for a walk. I'll definitely go skiing again but would like more lessons than just a single two hour session.

Ann O'Dyne, I rejected the hot chocolate drinks in favour of mulled wine and ate my chocolate in truffle and block form.

Hannah, you'll be relieved to know that much reading did occur in the evenings - we weren't the 'Go Downstairs and Participate in the Michael Jackson Dance-A-Thon' evening entertainment in the theatre types - after dinner would see the three of us retire quite happily to our room. Me with a book and the other two with their iPads.

Andrew, you're right. Just hearing the 'BONK' sound made me realise that helmets aren't a gimmick. Next time I go I'll be hiring or buying one and wearing it at all times I'm on the 'toothpicks'.

River said...

I'm so sorry, I can't help it! I'm laughing at the image of you starfishing across the ice.

Skiing is one of those things that look so terribly easy, yet takes years (well it would for me) of lessons and practise, unless you're born to it.

I hope you're soon well enough to beat the zimmer frame grannies to the good chocolate.

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks River. LC came with me this morning to walk Milly and said, "I didn't force you to come you know," so I need to assure readers that I was instead just basking in his praise and encouragement - the decision to take on the blue run was mine.

The starfish finish was, um, also mine and if nothing else, might have made everybody else present feel really, really good about their own progress and abilities :)

Andrew said...

You would have another crack at it?

Kath Lockett said...

Yep. Although perhaps 'crack' isn't the best word to use. I prefer 'with a lot more lessons and close supervision plus a helmet' :)

Anonymous said...

Good work Gutsy girl, both for the effort and the retelling of the tale. Being a girl from the tropics with only a few ski trips under my belt, I'm all for long gentle green runs, and plenty of apres Ski. Love a bloody mary at altitude. thanks for the belly laugh, hope the headache is gone and the pride recovered. Hugs to you, LC and Sapphire. xx Dale

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks Dale - a bloody Mary sounds like a good idea right about now...

Baino said...

This is why I don't ski...it hurts

Kath Lockett said...

Yes it does, Baino but I'd still like to try again..... call it stupidity, pride and an attempt to de-humiliate myself :)

Amanda said...

The starfish finish has me giggling like a loon and remembering my be lame attempt at skiing. An indoor ice skating skiing place in Adelaide where my Canadian raised friend lapped me multiple times and a Very patient instructor taught me how to fall. Which I tried to apply the next bit going down, but instead of falling to the side to gently stop, I fell gently backwards, and then continued to go downhill, at increasing speed, reaching terminal velocity towards the concrete wall. My friend said the patient instructor did a classic double take, leapt over the concrete wall, and brought me to a non-terminal stop. Death, except perhaps from mortification, averted. I swiim now. Much less plummeting in swimming. (I don't dive, as I tend to scare the lifeguards when I do.)

Kath Lockett said...

Hi Amanda! Sounds like you and I could be 'skiing soul sisters' !