Two burst pipes, one flat tyre and a partridge in a pear tree…

The Big Freeze UK

The Big Freeze UK (Photo credit: niOS)

Two burst pipes, one flat tyre and a partridge in a pear tree.  Yes, it has been a truly fabulous week and to top it all, we’ve woken up to snow….again.

This has been a landmark year in my relationship with snow.  In the past, I have always greeted the white stuff with great affection and childish excitement.  In fact, nothing at the grand old age of 40 has the ability to roll back the years to childhood more than pulling back the curtains and seeing snow.

However, relations have got a bit frosty this year.  This morning I pulled back the curtains and my heart sank.  It is two days after the first official day of Spring and yet again my world is shrouded in white.  It is not right and I’ve got this feeling that the snow and I are going to fall out this time.

The children didn’t even bother to look up from the TV when I announced the snow’s arrival this morning.  Seen it all before. I guess the only positive from their snow-weary response is that no-one has yet suggested that we must go sledging.

Now don’t get me wrong – I understand how magical sledging is for children but the magic has sort of worn off by the age of 40 for women.  I say “women” advisedly because in my experience men turn into 5 year old versions of themselves when they get within a metre of a sledge.

A woman’s experience of sledging is very different to that of a man.  First you have to find all the winter clothes, dress three children in winter clothes, take all the winter clothes off again when they need to go to the loo.  Finally you get out of the house, usually to be hit full in the face by a snowball thrown by one of the children who inevitably finds this hysterically amusing, whilst you are at this point just mildly hysterical. You then have to haul the kids on the sledges to the slope of choice and stand for approximately 2 hours in the freezing cold whilst they go up and down, only moving to tend to the inevitable first aid crises and to extricate at least one child from a close encounter with some brambles. Of course there is the added dubious “entertainment” of watching grown men flinging themselves down a slope on a small piece of plastic designed for someone a fraction of their weight. Then it is off home again, at least one child now whinging about how cold they are and refusing to go any further.  This whole experience then has to be repeated at 3 hourly intervals until the snow has either disappeared or one child has injured themselves to a point where sledging is now inadvisable.

I know I am sounding very ungrateful for the joy that snow brings to children but frankly I’m sick of it this year.  It has made me realise that I’m not sure that I could live in a country where snow is a permanent winter fixture.  Obviously the UK’s inability to cope with more than a centimetre of snow doesn’t help – for goodness sake, they even shut Sellafield yesterday not because of some “incident” but just so the staff could get home safely!

I think perhaps my antipathy towards the white stuff is less about the snow itself and more about a yearning for this interminable winter to end. Maybe it is an age thing, but this winter has gone on for far too long.  In part, the problem has been the lack of blue skies.  I don’t mind the cold as long as the sun is out but this winter in the UK it would appear that the sun has taken a sabbatical.

As is the norm in the UK, we have been bombarded with weather statistics by the media.  This weekend is apparently the coldest March weekend in 50 years. The media are revelling in compounding our misery by showing footage of people sitting in daffodil filled Hyde Park this weekend last year where temperatures soared above 20 degrees.  No country talks about the weather more than we do but ironically no country is less prepared for any extreme  weather (and really it is not that extreme is it?) than we are.

I’m off now to hide the sledge and put all the snow clothes up in the loft….just in case, my children get some misguided idea that going sledging would be fun.  Then, I’m going to pull myself together and stop whinging – I’m starting to sound like one of my children on the way back from the toboggan run – and try to enjoy what is hopefully the last blanket of white for several months.

Advertisements

My non-skiing skiing holiday

Allalinhorn, Alps (Switzerland). Panoramic vie...

Allalinhorn, Alps (Switzerland). Panoramic view from the top. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Half term ended – tick. Children back at school – tick. All back from skiing holiday in one piece – tick. Relative calm and good humour resumed – tick. General irritation with British weather – high.  Desire to see snow again in the next 9 months – zero.

So I’ve returned from my oxymoronic non-skiing skiing holiday.  The advantage of such a holiday is not to be underestimated, largely as this year I am in one piece, standing on my own two feet and not doing battle with the well-intentioned, woefully underfunded NHS. That said, to guarantee this outcome it did mean giving up an integral part of a skiing holiday, the skiing.  Did I miss the skiing? Yes.  If I’m honest, although I had a lovely time (largely because I had a non-skiing friend there too), there is something a bit odd about choosing to spend a week in freezing temperatures whilst not indulging in the one activity in which everyone else is indulging.

With this in mind, it will come as no surprise to you that much like my faux-exercising (ie dressing up as though I am/have been exercising, remaining dressed as such all day and being mistaken for a member of the “smug women who do actually exercise every day” group), I was attired in full ski gear.  Somehow I didn’t get the same satisfaction out of this duplicity as I do from my pretence at exercise.  I guess that’s because those wearing ski kit were actually doing something I wanted to be doing too.

There is something rather sad and pathetic about coming down a ski lift (especially in full ski regalia) – no-one does that, do they?  Well, I did, every day.  Although I have to admit coming down in glorious isolation is infinitely preferable to being squashed into a transparent box, dangling in mid-air, with an unnatural proximity to total strangers, playing the “avoid the ski-pole in the eye” game all the way up the mountain and worrying whether you will get off the lift in one piece, with all your skiing paraphernalia and pick up your skis (and not someone else’s – are you reading this, Mr Pain in the Backside, who took my husband’s skis?)

So I’ve established that, for me at least, it was not a skiing holiday.  Actually at the risk of being accused of pedantry, “holiday” doesn’t really cover it either.  Certainly there were elements that come under the verbal umbrella of “holiday” – eating too much (not a good plan when you are not skiing to work it off, as the scales screamed at me this morning), drinking too much and laughing (a lot) with friends.  However, there were also elements that transgress any trades description of “holiday”, most obviously “children”. I have long ago stopped calling going away with children a “holiday” because it simply is not a “holiday” in the sense that you might have used the word in those halcyon days of youth and no kids.

No, with children, a holiday is more accurately described as a “change of scenery”. Obviously this “change of scenery” is very welcome although often more challenging than staying at home and never is this more true than on a skiing holiday.  Trying to get three children (four if you count a husband) dressed in 200 layers, fed and out on the slopes before 9am requires a herculean effort. It is not possible to get through this daily trial without at least 3 missing gloves, two full-blown tantrums, serious over-heating (not surprising with thermals and 199 other layers – the timing of layering is crucial), at least 15 mentions of “you don’t know how lucky you are to be skiing at your age, we didn’t do this when I was young”, at best 2 out of the 3 children requiring a loo visit just as you are exiting (which requires removal and replacement of 200 layers X 2 to accomplish) and of course you still have the dubious pleasure of carrying all their skis to the slopes as they walk/slide/fall over alongside whining about how cold it is (whilst trying to stop yourself from shouting, “Well, what the bloody hell did you expect in a country covered in a metre of snow?).

Yes, I definitely missed skiing.  I hope that I shall ski again. However, there is nothing quite like the piercing blue skies in the mountains, the perfect white duvets of snow and the odd glass of wine (medicinal of course) to lift the spirits and the best thing of all, watching the children thoroughly enjoying – for the  most part –  an outdoor activity which doesn’t involve hours glued to a screen or tapping away on a keyboard.  If you’re going to have a “change of scenery”, you can do a lot worse than the mountains – I always find the grand, awe-inspiring scale of the scenery puts everything into perspective and makes you glad to be alive!

To ski or not to ski, that is the question?

Skier carving a turn off piste

Skier carving a turn off piste (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sorry for the radio silence this week but I had a knee operation on Monday and have been extremely busy doing absolutely nothing since except periodically inspecting and admiring my surgeon’s impressive attempts at giving me back a useful knee albeit one that looks as if it has had a drawn-out battle with a potato peeler.

As you know I was slightly uncomfortable about the impending forties and this is in part I think down to the three knee ops I have now had in the last year. Knee surgery is definitely one of those surgeries which reeks of age, wear and tear and threatening arthritis. Although, before you feel too sorry for me and the terrible toll the ageing process is taking on me, I should point out that I actually wrecked my knee last year whilst attempting the impossible – keeping up with my kids on the ski slopes. It should have been obvious really that I was going to struggle when their skis never deviated from pointing directly downhill whilst I took a more leisurely turning approach to my descent!). Aside from always playing catch-up, there is also the fact that when it comes to skiing, kids bounce when they fall and adults shatter.

I am probably insane but I am in fact going to a ski resort with the kids in half term. I use the words “ski resort” advisedly as “skiing” would not be an accurate description of the activities I shall be indulging in – drinking and eating in alpine bars and telling anyone who will listen that I would rather stick rusty pins in my eyes than put on skis again. I have now joined that group of people – non-skiers – who desperately hark on (lie?) about how wonderful ski resorts are if you are not skiing. Of course I’ll look the part – I didn’t invest in those now ever-so-slightly tight salopettes and après-ski boots (always known as moon boots to my generation) in order to consign them to the back of the wardrobe because of a mere skiing accident that has just mildly dominated the last year for me. After all skiing is only partly about actually skiing and partly about looking the part.

The writing was on the wall for me with skiing from very early on – the signs were all there if only I had taken heed. On my first ever skiing trip, in the final day race, I came a distinguished 45th…out of a field of 45. I knew then that I was no Franz Klammer. On a skiing trip in my late teens I was knocked out by a rogue button lift within my first 5 minutes on the slopes. On this occasion it wasn’t just my head that was dented but definitely my pride too – there is definitely nothing cool about being knocked sparko by an evil little button lift in front of a packed piste.

This humiliation led, not surprisingly, to a voluntary retirement from the slopes until my ill-fated trip last year. Surely nothing bad could happen this time – I’d done my skiing penance hadn’t I? Oh no, those pistes were ready for one last “taking the piste” which led to me taking the not very dignified blood wagon route down the mountain and the even less dignified request for payment (extortion?) at the bottom of the mountain or risk being unceremoniously dumped to find my own way to hospital.

It’s funny how things turn full circle – the one thing I remember from my first ever ski trip was my instructor imploring me to “bend ze knees” – ironically 30 years on as I sit on my sofa recuperating I am still desperately trying to do the same thing. All I can do is take heart from what one blood wagon attendant said to another, under the impression (largely accurate) that my French is elementary and therefore I would be unable to understand, roughly translated, he commented that “she has kind eyes”. Who knows maybe that wasn’t exactly what he said or meant but I’ll run with it – I’d choose kind eyes over beautiful knees any day!