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?