[Photo is of grated cheese that no one cleaned up while I was out last weekend, even though I made the meal and did all the preliminary cleaning up before I left.]
I went skiing the first time when I was about 17, in my last year of high school. It was The Seventh Form Skiing Trip – quite the adult, alien thing to do because we were not a skiing family. No one was, really, in the place where I grew up at the top of the North Island which was more of a surfing-and-weed kind of place, humid and sunny and a bit wild. The sports were rugby and netball, with a bit of rogue hockey thrown in, and the boys were either massive and brown or skinny and skater-ish. No one I knew went skiing, although there is a lot of it in New Zealand – it’s just the skiing bits were a long drive away from our city and you had to be a different kind of family than ours to know anything much about it. We were more of a caravan and scrabble kind of gang, you know?
I remember when the letters from school about the trip came out. I was very surprised that my mum and dad were happy to let me go, because it was a properly hefty cost. But they were totally on board because they are people who get that kind of thing – they understand the value of experiences and travel and because by then all my siblings had pretty much left home and so there were less of us to be bleeding money over. So I went with all of my mates, all of us first timers I think, to a ski field in Turoa, staying in some crap hostel in a sad ski town. It was SO GREAT – we were all utterly transformed by it – the flying, the cold, the total strangeness of it. I don’t think anything really compares to whizzing badly down a mountain, thinking you will die, but wanting to go faster. And the silence, the stillness, the air. I don’t remember a whole lot about anything else about that week really, other than that I bought a terrible cropped t-shirt and some billowing trousers at a town we stopped at on the way there, because in those days my stomach was taut (TAUT! waaah). And there was a dry room in the hostel to put your borrowed ski gear, and we went down in a big bus, and that’s kind of it.
We went skiing once again, before we had kids, when Mark was asked to paint a client’s chalet in Chamonix in return for us staying there for free. We couldn’t believe what a brilliant deal that was – we borrowed gear, had schnapps in the town one night and ate a lot of exciting supermarket French food rather than eating out because we were a bit poor. But! Still! It was the very best, most exciting, privileged, ridiculously fun and spoilt and delightful and nutty thing. Mark tried and failed to snowboard while I just happily (badly) tried the different runs and wore *adorable* plaits.
This is the most longwinded way of saying I want to go skiing again, I would actually die with proper joy to go again, but can’t because the children make it too expensive – it has been out of our reach ever since we got the free accommodation. Which is fine.
But – for all of you people skiing this week and posting stories about how you don’t like skiing anymore because it’s boring and the kids are better than you because they’ve been in ski school since they were two and now you just really prefer ‘snow walking’ after a sleep-in once the chalet has been cleared up from the infernal skiing-related debris, well.
YOU DON’T KNOW YOU’RE BORN, YOU INGRATES!
I can’t abide it! It’s not something to moan about, having to go skiing! Having to go on an expensive holiday is the OPPOSITE of a reason to moan. Not being able to go on holiday is a perfectly acceptable reason to whinge, and perhaps only being able to afford a quite shit holiday is a passable cause of moroseness, but even then, there’s a fine line there.
In the early days of coming to London, we went to Paris for a weekend and we tried to find a hotel we could afford, and after lugging our bags from hotel to hotel (no access to the ‘net in those days) we found one in the lower parts of Montmartre which had smears of blood on the walls and terrifying babies screaming through the walls all night. Pubic hair on the sheets too, and they weren’t ours. Anyway, we didn’t moan about that Paris trip, though, I’ll have you mind – NO. It was bloody great! We sashayed around and ate lots of bread and queued for a long time to go up the Eiffel Tower and followed the Amelie trail and felt very lucky indeed.
You might well recall we went to one of those caravan parks for a holiday weekend in September for Otis’s 4th birthday. It rained, the caravan felt like a tin can, kind of a clammy tin can, and outside it was muddy and the ground near the steps was full of used tissues. It felt as though everyone there was toothless with a buzz haircut, though I might have just added that detail – and there was one of those English bloody arcade places that felt sticky and permanently ablaze with artificial light to make you stay there and spend all of your coins on terrible soft toys and plastic shit, instead of encouraging you to venture outside to the beach which was, actually, really lovely. But cold. And windy.
But it was still fun! It was an odd-kind of fun, but I didn’t begrudge anyone for us being there.
If I ever get back on some slopes, whether in shit New Zealand towns or someone French and elegant, I will be really pleased. I will ski, and wear googles and plait my thinning hair and eat the cheese and drink the eggnog/schnapps/Alpine sweet wine and think how lucky I am.
Sorry for the moaning.
It was Valentine’s Day yesterday and I bought 16 of these and ate them very quickly because Portuguese custard tarts are my actual true loves:
I had written this about an alternative Valentine’s Day plan but it was too windy and cold to follow my most excellent advice and so we just got angry at each other inside instead.
Happy rest of half term, lovers, whether you are sulking in the wet with a weeks’ worth of vicious cabin fever with five of your kids and dog, or whether you are hitting the slopes in your vintage Dior ski outfit but not really enjoying it much.