Category: Holiday

Women Glow, Men Plunder

Several months ago I was told by my colleague Samantha, that she was off to travel and work in New Zealand. This did not come as a complete surprise, I had noted a guide book to the Southern Hemisphere country on her Instagram feed, several days earlier. She had actually been afraid I might mention something inadvertently at lunchtime, so decided to tell me on a walk to the Manor after lunch one afternoon. Jealous is not the word, I was beyond envious that she was heading off to a completely different continent but most importantly with no coherent plan. It was a leap of faith which many of us fear to take!

Since joining CA, I would have described Sam as the closest friend I have made in the office. Mostly for our shared love for US televisions shows and movies. I mentioned Suits and she re-watched the first series and then watched the second season in almost tandem with me and we spent many a lunch hour discussing Harvey, Mike, Rachel and Louis. This weekend past, she has been binging on Glee (from season one) and I have confirmed privately that I too am a closet GLEEK!

While she would not describe herself as major office personality within our team she was a keen social butterfly, always organising Friday night drinks and other events such as leading our volunteer day! I will miss her warm presence in the office and beaming smile. Although we never directly worked with each other I know she was a dedicated member of the Operations Team.

In the middle of February she was considering starting a blog to record all her adventures and I was pleased to offer my fifty pence of advice! By the end of the weekend, she had started StarTrekkingWithKodakKirky (what a mouthful!!).

I hope Sam will think of me, among others stuck in Ditton Park, Datchet updating reports while she starts a new life Down Under. I wish her the utmost good luck and part of me wishes I could be just as courageous. Maybe in another lifetime!

Fog On The Tyne

I was born in England and have spent all of my life in this green and pleasant land. However, there are still many places I have yet to visit and enjoy. (Do not worry dearest reader, I shall not be breaking into one of the lesser known mid nineties soft rock/pop songs by Elton John). While many glamorous destinations abroad are on my list, I still have a great deal of exploring to do on these shores. (Maybe I should be brave enough to publish a list one day!) Back in December at the annual Christmas meal with friends, newly qualified driver Ben mentioned the fact that he would like to go on a weekend road trip. For some reason, we decided to travel as far as possible within our own English border. The city of Newcastle was chosen as the party destination for a long weekend. Now we just had to select the date mutually acceptable to all members of the party group. The final obstacle was gaining clearance from our other halves (this was turning into a stag weekend without the wedding or groom!) Easier said than done, in some cases! The event was initially billed as Foxy’s 30th birthday (even though it was taking place a week afterwards). This had to be changed to Kev’s 32nd in order for Fox to obtain permission from his otherwise to green light this lads weekend!

I have never been to the North East, let alone the city of Newcastle-upon-Type. My earliest memory of the city are from the late 1980s school educational television series Geordie Racer. The theme tune was extremely memorable and catchy (ideal when your viewing public are six to seven years old). A year later I started watching a new television show again on the BBC but on this occasion aimed at a slighter older audience. My sisters and I were probably a little young for Byker Grove but it was good fun and a change from some of the contemporary shows on at the time. You must appreciate that as a family, we did not watch Eastenders at this point in our lives. We were fully committed to The Bill on ITV, backed up by our Dad who had always been a fan of the Metropolitan Police drama.

Fast forward over fifteen years and the next time I would consider the city was during the British football movie Goal! released in 2005. I went to see the movie with my friend and colleague Chris at the FilmWorks Maidenhead (as it was then, it is now an Odeon). We were the only two people in the cinema as the film was about to start but were joined by three other guys as the trailers started. The movie was poor but it did give me an understand of how important football is in the North East and what St. James’ Park means to the Geordie boys and girls. It was the first time I saw the city on film in any level of detail. While the film (and the subsequent two sequels) were both disappointing, I gave the director and production team credit for selecting Newcastle as the football club to set their story, rather than the Hollywood desire to follow Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and even to a certain degree Manchester City. Set the film where football is part of the people’s blood.

My manager at the time, Nic had mentioned a trip up to the city he had experienced. A local had been hit by a train, but instead of going to hospital for urgent medical attention, he had decided to go out on the sauce in the city. There was no chance he was going to miss a drink with the lads. Proof, if it was ever needed that us southern softies have no chance among real men of the North East.

There are plenty of famous Geordies and plenty more infamous ones. I will focus my attention on just two. Firstly we have Paul Gascoigne, probably one of the most gifted football players of his generation and it is such a shame his career never hit some of the heights of his true potential (particularly on the international stage). However, he will forever be loved as a son of this city, regardless of his off field battles. In 1990, the year Gazzamania well and truly landed after tears in Turin, everything Paul touched turned to gold. He even appeared on Top Of The Pops.

Do you remember ITV’s Popstars – The Rivals? This was the show that bought us (among other talents) a fresh faced Cheryl Cole, who successfully became part of the reality TV band, Girls Aloud. Little did we know then what the future held for this girl from Southshields. Ultimately you knew very early on that she would branch out with her own solo career and media work, purely because she acted as the spokeperson for the band. Ultimately this has been proven right, as her career as overshadow that of all her band mates. Plus, on two fronts she beats Gazza, she is much better looking and has a much better singing voice. For some reason, at least once a week in the gym since January, they have played Call My Name and I have instantly started thinking of my Boys On Tour Weekend in May, even though it was months away! I have long been a believer that life is not worth living if you have nothing to look forward to.

What am I most looking forward to this weekend? Well it is the first long weekend away with the lads in a considerable amount of time. We have all become rather busy in our own day-to-day rat race lives and rarely meet up as often as we used to. I probably hold the most guilt in this respect and make no excuses that I am my own worst enemy. The last such ‘showpiece’ event was probably Pav’s Stag Weekend in Berlin, which is almost two years ago. It will be great to spend time with them all and create some more memories. I look back at the last few years and some of the best times have been nights out with these group of guys. There is constant entertainment and the ride will be non-stop from the moment I clock off at the office at noon on Friday until I finally say goodbye too early to even contemplate right now, on Sunday morning. My next adventure will not take me home to Slough to rest and recover but instead back into the capital for a concert by Mrs. Jay-Z.

Angel of the North

Return To The Alps

The last time I was on a ski slope was Friday 16th January 2009 and I did not believe I would be back so soon (if at all). A great deal has occurred in the 1087 days (or 2 years 11 months and 23 days) since my last group ski trip. My friends would probably say that they are pleased I have returned to the slopes. Personally I am perhaps looking forward to touching down at Gatwick (injury free, God willing) on 14th January more than anything else. (Although a week off work so soon after two weeks off for the Christmas break are not something to be frowned upon)

This could have been very different. If I had gone on that first ski trip with school way back in 1994, I may now have been an accomplished skier (or boarder) rather than a complete waste of space on the piste as I am now. The ‘statue’ as I am called by my friends (in particular Emily) or perhaps now the portly statue with all the weight I have put on in the almost three year break from the slopes. Perhaps the biggest criticism I received while on my first ski trip in Kitzbuhel back in January 2008 was, after a four days of lessons (not to include several hours of lessons at Escape MK) was as follows. “You are not really skiing!” Thank you so much for that great piece of positive feedback on a sport based ninety nine percent on confidence and a mere one percent on technique.

You are probably wondered why am I going all the way to Austria for a ski trip if I am not a big fan (or even accomplished) skier. The social aspect of the trip is perhaps the defining part of the holiday. This year the group is different (no Paul S or Mel or Ben) so we have new members in the form of Joe, Paul and Kate. The rest remain the usual suspects. The dynamics between t_dogg and The Prof will be interesting to say the least and you have to refer to Pav’s Stag do in Berlin, last year as a preview to this, the main event.

Based on previous trips, and particularly 2009 in Tignes, I have decided to very much play it safe this year. There will be no mistaking red runs for blue runs based on the name (Bluet not Blue A). I will keep myself occupied on the nursery slopes wherever they may be. Although Pav continues to remind me that Mayrhofen is an extreme resort. I will discover that for myself within the space of a few hours. While some may find it boring to complete the same basic run on repeated occasions, being a routine person I quite enjoy the monotony of such a day. My biggest regret from previous ski holidays has always been about ruining other people’s holidays. This is something I do not wish to repeat, there was Geoff chasing me down to the main gondola in Austria back in 2008 and then Emily moments away from raising the alarm to mountain rescue in France in 2009 (while, it should be noted, the rest of my so-called friends had a drink and joked at my demise on the mountain). My dearest wife was quick to respond to my thoughts, “Make sure you still have a good time, it is your holiday as well Teg!”. This of course is true but at times I have felt I am a burden on my friends for my lack of both skill but also winter sports experience. Being in a foreign country and not being able to say more than please and thank you does not help either (but that is a common sentiment with the British abroad). I do try I confess but I am sure most people in most places around the resort will speak English. Although it will be hilarious to watch t_dogg with his spoken English with a German accent once again!

With so many events taking place over Christmas and heading up to Edinburgh for Hogmanay (blog post and photos to be uploaded the moment I get back from holiday) this ski holiday has kind of crept up on me. There are mixed feelings here, meaning I have to rush around to get everything ready tonight, pack, ensure I have all the important items at my disposal (passports, Euros). On the other hand there is no long countdown waiting for the holiday to arrive, as has been the case with the 16th December. (Hardly Olympic standard but since starting my new job I have worked all the way up to my Christmas break from mid August).

One thing for certain, on my return I shall be blocking Pavneet Singh Khural on G-Chat (on Google Mail). He has already been a pain, chasing up this specific posting onto my blog. Even leaving off topic comments on my Facebook status updates throughout Christmas and New Year. The PBE (the preview blog entry is written before any major events I go on with my group of friends (Reading Festival as an example). In recent months, due mainly to my lack of time I have been unable to write these up, as by the time I get to blog, the event has already taken place and writing from a historical perspective is not easy, even if at times it does require a Orwellian style of journalism.

I must end by looking on the bright side. While most of my relatives, friends, colleagues and even complete strangers, head back to work after the Christmas break, they face the January blues. I will do, but I have just delayed them quite purposefully by heading to the Alps for a week with my friends. I wish you well, until I return. I will try to update Twitter and Facebook from time to time, should I find an internet cafe somewhere in the resort. Although the temptation to go fully cold turkey is actually quite appealing, even for me!

Made In England

I’m back, I landed at Heathrow at 10:40am this morning, nearly an hour before I was scheduled to on my Air India Flight 187 from Amritsar. I had an amazing two weeks (twelve days) but am glad to be back home. The feeling I had when I made my way out of the plane (rushing past slow dawdlers ahead of me) to Passport Control and then the baggage carrousel, can only be felt when I know I am back in England. A quick summary of my movements for the past thirty six hours:

  • Friday 23rd January 2010 – 6:35pm (IST) – Wagah Border – Watching the B.S.F. complete the daily “Lowering Of The Flags” ceremony
  • Saturday 24th July 2010 – 6:35am (IST) – Amritsar Airport – On board flight AI187, a Boeing 777-300, taxing towards the runway
  • Saturday 24th July 2010 – 6:35pm (BST) – High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire – Uploading photos onto my computer from my epic trip!

I will try my best to put together a blog post for every day of my trip and put all the photographs (over 700!) onto FlickR. Right now though, I really need to get some sleep! I had about ninety minutes sleep last night (or should I say this morning).

India

Perhaps My Palace In The Sky

This might surprise you, but this was my first trip on an Air India flight. Previously we have always flown British Airways and on one occasion United Airlines. Then again, we have always flown to New Delhi. This was not just a change of airline but a change of destination. Direct to the Punjab and the city of Amritsar, home of The Golden Temple. We flew out on a Boeing 777-300 and were seated in the middle set of seats (Row 36 D-E-F). Perhaps I should pick up the story, from the moment we went through security.

Those lovely people at Heathrow opened a new security check in desk (not sure what the exact terminology is) so we actually made excellent progress through security. Until they wanted to check in my sister’s Julie’s bag. She had forgotten to take any liquids out of her hand luggage, so now had the embarrassment of security staff, getting her to empty the entire contents of the bag, to find two tubs of Vicks Vapor Rub at the bottom. These were then placed in plastic bags, and the bag re-screened before we were finally able to go. The new terminal building is a marketing man’s (or woman’s) dream. They navigate you around via the Duty Free Shops, rather than the most direct route through. We were boarding from Gate 23 and were surprised, when we got to the gate and sorted out our hand luggage that there was no queue. All was revealed when we made our way into the departure lounge, it was full with standing room only. For a change everyone was on time and eager to get on board this flight. Being a Sunday afternoon, I suppose made it much easier to organise everybody. We stood in the corner and just talked for a while, as we waited to board the flight. Eventually we were called and in the queue before we had our boarding pass I was having a conversation with youngest sister. “You better be good Julie!”. He response was perhaps typical for a sixteen year old, “Yeah, and you better be good!”. Rather annoyed at this tone being taken with me, I raised my voice (perhaps in hindsight a level too high for an airport departure lounge, “Why do I need to be good? I’m twenty years old!”. From the moment the first words came out of my voice, everyone (and I mean every single person in the lounge) turned around and looked at us and in particularly me and some women gave a look of disgust. I doubt everyone knew what I had said. My sister, smirked and grabbed my arm, “A little too loud, Andrew paa”. Maybe, but I was just getting in the holiday mood! Two weeks off work. I was excited but a little apprehensive too, but was trying my best to hide it all.

Do you enjoy flying? I love it. I think it has a great deal to do with the fact my parents threw me on a play at a very young age. I took my first international flight at the tender age of two in 1984. Ever since I have enjoyed the experience of flying, particularly take off. Okay for landing I can be a ever so jumpy (but not the nervous wreck like my friend Paul). I have a preference for an window seat but never mind I would cope without. In the end, a window would not be required. I was surprised by the amount of tech in economy class. This was the level of luxury you would expect only in Business or First Class. Each seat had a (web based) media player system. This provided not only movies (in Hindi, English and various other regional languages) but music videos, music, television shows, comedy shows. There were two geeky elements that really appealed to me. Firstly being able to monitor the exact location of the plane by GPS and some amazing mapping software (but not quite Google Maps / Earth) but never the less not bad. Just a big shame that this function was not working on any of our three screens. Secondly, we come to the on board cameras. Yes, two cameras – one mounted in the nose cone and the other on the under carriage. Although they were only operationally at selected times in the flight, it enabled me to watch the takeover (and subsequent landing) from the same viewpoint as pilot. This was awesome!

I did not watch any movies, I listened to my Sony Walkman MP3 player for a while (I could charge it thanks to the USB port built into the media player screen) and then started to read the book, my sister Samantha had given to me. My holiday book so to speak. The memoirs of a young Canadian kid who crossed the border and did pretty well in the Sunshine State. I enjoyed the flight, but then I enjoy flying generally. My Mum went to sleep for a while, my sister listened to her iPod and also went to sleep for a while. I rested a little, but I would hardly call it quality sleep at 60,000 ft.

Trying to occupy myself, I watched some music videos on the media player. They was nothing really recent, the hits of Westlife (from their most recent album) or Latest Pop hits which included 50 Cent – Baby By Me, which I am sure is several months old (if not almost a year). This did not help, so I switched back to my own MP3 player. This lasted for a few hours, by which time I had listened to all my favourite tracks and I switched back to reading my book. I wondered if the blog post I had schedule to upload at the time we were taxing on the runway at Heathrow would have uploaded. (The reality was it had not and I would have to upload it manually when I next got to a Internet connection).

The plane landed around 3am, India Standard Time (IST). The captain gave us some details after we had touched down on the tarmac in Amritsar. The outside temperature is 30 degrees Celsius with a humidity of around 40%. I recall the temperature in London had been the same around midday in London on Friday (9th July). If it was this hot in the middle of the night, how hot would it get in the day? Once the plane came to a standstill, we grabbed our things and waited to be escorted off the flight. The doors were opened at the back and we walked down into the heat. We were finally in India, my Mum was back home. I noticed a warm glow from her face, as we boarded the coach to take us the short distance to the terminal building.

India is a very bureaucratic country, I am surprised anything gets done at all. (Is this a legacy of British rule?) Our boarding cards were checked as we entered the terminal building by a policeman. We then were in a long queue waiting for to clear immigration. This was a small airport, still under construction. I could see a large group of people waiting just beyond the immigration desks, behind a glass barrier. I was itching to know the final score of the World Cup. I was quite confident that Spain would have become World Champions. By the time we were called to the desk, I asked the immigration official (after I had a chance to test out my Punjabi with a this civil servant but nevertheless native speaker) but he did not know the score. The flight had come in, he had work to do, rather than check on the score of the biggest sporting event on the planet. After clearing immigration (our documents were checked again before we had to wait at the luggage carousel. There were only two and another flight did arrive shortly after us. Now was the long wait, over an hour in fact for our luggage to arrive. I just guess the crowd staff are at skeleton levels at that time in the morning. Hopefully once this becomes a fully operational international hub, such waits will be a thing of the past. Once we got our bags, we headed through customs out into the arrivals area. I rushed to a small screen (14″) hanging up on the wall. It was showing some rolling news channel. On the ticker, it gave the score Spain 1 – 0 Netherlands. I had at least one piece of information from the World Cup Final. We headed out into the heat of the street to be greeted by Mataji and her husband. I had arrived, the next part of my adventure could begin.

Back To The Motherland

As you read this post, I will hopefully be taking off on an Air India flight for a two week holiday back to India. It has probably been the worst kept secret of all time in our household. My Mum and youngest sister Julie, did not know that I was actually going until I pulled up at check-in with some luggage. The aim of this blog post is to put together my thoughts and feelings prior to my trip. I was last on the sub continent in 2001 and I believe a great deal will have changed in almost a decade. If I am honest, I knew I would have go at some stage or other and putting it off all these years (in place of ski holidays or lads weekends in Germany) does make it slightly harder. I am not sure why.

I do not have an identity crisis, as some would perhaps lead you to believe. I just have very liberal views on certain subjects. Many have been formed from my Dad, whom generally does not get these things wrong. However, everything is matter of opinion and personal preference. My view has always been that your loyalties should lie with the country of your birth. My Dad would always add to this that you would play for the England football/cricket/kabaddi/rugby/tiddlywinks/ team and not Indian. I have always agreed. Therefore I have only ever worn the England shirt and refuse to wear any other national shirts (or foreign clubs sides for that matter). Whereas my sisters, will be more than happy to lounge about the house watching the Indian cricket team wearing their bright blue tops with the gold star of the BCCI. (Although it is interesting that an Indian actually played for the England Cricket team during the 1890s.)

In recent months, I have tried my best to appreciate everything I have and be less about chasing the next piece of materialism. This consumerism, that has been bred by the big corporations is not a good thing and I suppose I should bare some responsibility working for one of these blue chip companies, but the reality is, that is pays the bills and I cannot really hide from that. I revisited (in my mind at least) some of the scenes from Slumdog Millionaire, and realised that I am not one to get angry, stressed or even depressed at the insignificant battles I face every day. At the end of the day, I have a warm house I call a home, family and friends that love me and a lifestyle of comfort that many people dream of. I have summarised this into an phrase, perhaps not the most ideal, because it is already trademarked and in regular use by a global electronics manufacturer, but I do not care. LG – Life’s Good. When you look at it, yes it is. After several months towards the backend of last year, when I did not know where my life was actually going, I find myself in a very happy place.

While I am sure someone will soon come along and rain on my parade, I will do my utmost, to ensure the fire is only out for a short time (or not at all, if possible). I am trying to focus on even the small things that make me happy. Even if that means, just wearing my sunglasses, having on my lovely blue jacket and blasting Get Back by Ludacris in the car.

Okay, I know what you are thinking, where is this all going Teg? Well I believe that going back to the motherland is the completion of the process to truly appreciate my life and my world of plenty. You can never truly understand anything unless you walk a few miles in the shoes / flip flops of someone else, and although I doubt I will be doing that literally, I will get a taste for what life in rural India truly can be like. I am going to do my best to note down all my experiences on paper and upload as many photos to FlickR as possible. In fact, I had to rush into town this afternoon to pick up a 2gb xD card, as my 4gb Compact Flash II card could not be ready by my antique photographic equipment (2005 is light years old apparently). I am all set for this adventure and unlike in 2001 (which was a year before I started blogging) I promise to actually “record” what happens and share with the world my experiences and the life lessons I will surely learn over the course of the next twelve days or so.

Breaking The News

I was getting rather anxious waiting for my sisters to arrive to pick me up. It was nearly 9:34am on Sunday 11th July. I should have left for Heathrow Terminal 3 by now. My Mum and sister Julie were already there with my Dad and probably wondering why they had not checked in just yet. I filled my time by watching music videos on both Sky+ and on demand via XBMC. I thought it would be good to take some photographs of my late grandparents. We have their photos hung up on the living room wall with a garland. My Mum had replaced these with new ones, she was going deposit the old into the Ganges while in India.
GijgiBoreji

Eventually my sisters did arrive, but it took several phone calls from myself and my Dad.. They had my luggage in their car, so it was just a few moments, while Natalie picked up some papers in the house and we were on our way onto the M40 in the sunshine. This was turning into a rush and everything I had not wanted it to be, but I was on my way and grateful. My sisters had just come back that morning from a wedding in London and were rather the worse for a wear for few hours of sleep in a hotel. The festivities had gone late into the night or rather more accurately well into the small hours of the morning. My sister put her foot down in the Golf and we were made up for all the time we had lost with all the delays. We were listening to KISS 100 in the background but more on that in a second.

Samantha, gave me some words of warning, just before we got onto the M25. “Make sure you do not get hitched to someone from over there!” I smiled, “Well I might have some news on that a bit later”. There were two big shouts from both my sisters and then the interrogations began but I tried to remain as tight lipped as possible. I would reveal all at the airport and more specifically in the Costa Coffee upstairs in the departures terminal. Then a very familiar tune came on the radio and I put the volume up. This was a moment I wanted to treasure, not just for the fleeting few moments, or just the rest of my holiday but forever. (Hence to write it up in such exaggerated detail on my blog). We all joined in for the chorus, this song has become something of a summer anthem and it was further underlined by three Tegala siblings trying to sing along to the London urban radio station at the top of their voices.

Jason Derülo

As we pulled into Heathrow, I saw the new Terminal Three building for the first time, my sisters were going to park the car (perhaps even use valet parking) while I grabbed my bags out of the boot, found a trolley and dashed to entrance gate number three. I skated past other holiday makers, rushing to get to Entrance E. My Mum and sister Julie were rather shocked to see me rushing along with my bags packed. What was this? Yes, I explained I was also coming on holiday with them. Their faces, particularly my Mum’s was a picture! If I had a camera, I should have taken a photo then, but the next photo opportunity was not too far away.

We checked in, although I had to wait to find my Dad with one half of the paperwork. There was no queue, and we actually were able to get past a few people who were queuing for alternative flights on alternative airlines. (In the wrong place and asking for assistance) My sisters arrived through the door, having parked the Golf to cheers, hugs, smiles and laughter. It was at this point my youngest sister, overcome by joy started crying. My sisters and Mum tried their best to console her, but she was smiling through the tears. This was a moment I had been playing through my head for months. I never knew it was going to pan out like this, with me rushing to the airport and making it just, only just.

We headed up the escalator to the Costa Coffee shop. (Those of you familiar with Terminal Three, will know it is to the right as you exit the escalator, we were right at the back of the terminal building). We found some seats and my Dad asked Julie to get the drinks, everyone (bar Natalie) ordering a beverage. I had been waiting for this moment since March (Mother’s Day in fact) and here I was. My sisters already half knew the news, so it was my time to deliver. I explained I had found someone. This someone, is Michelle. I gave some of the details and was interrogated further by my Mum and sisters. My Dad sat quietly in the background enjoying his cappuccino. Before leaving my E65 at home, I blue-toothed across an image of Michelle to my sister Julie’s Blackberry clone, a Samsung Omnia Pro B7330. This would be the image that everyone would be shown in India. It was a photograph taken on Michelle’s Nokia, while at her school sometime in late October. I had sent her roses and a colleague had taken a photograph of her holding the bouquet. I did not have any other images of Michelle on my phone and if I could find an net cafe, I could always show images on Facebook or better still FlickR. It was done! I hugged my Mum and told her how great I felt that the burden had been lifted from my shoulders and to just reinforce the point, I grabbed my Mum by the shoulders and gave her a slight shake! She gave me a warm hug back and I felt much better. There was congratulations all around and words of encouragement from my Dad (sitting in the far corner, diagonally opposite me). My sister then rang Dipesh, put him on speaker phone to let him also know the news. I felt much better and yes I had gone through with it and broken the news. (Michelle had told me the previous night that she didn’t think I would have the guts to go through with it. Well here is the proof, I did!)
Mum & AndrewDad
Now you know officially so to speak. The “friend” I have been referring to in rather cryptic blog posts since September is Michelle. I may mention her in more detail (with her express permission of course) but for the time being, I had a flight to catch and an adventure to prepare myself for. It had gone midday, and it was time to make our way to security. We said our goodbyes to my sisters, Samantha, Natalie and my Dad, before we joined the queue. Waving goodbye to my family, I thought about the family I would be soon meeting all those miles away on the subcontinent. Nine years down, my time had finally come.

Friday 30th January 2009

It was very tempting to switch lanes and head onto the fly over (A339) that connects the Robin Hood roundabout with the A34. However, even though it was not even 4.30pm, my weekend had begun but I had to go to the gym. Having been such a disjointed week, I was not going to let my fitness suffer. Wycombe could wait for another hour or so. A very busy week but nothing can truly prepare me for next week.

Weekend at home and plenty planned. Tomorrow I am getting my eye test, then my haircut. When I get home will watch Football Focus and then get on with cleaning the car. It really is very filthy, even more so after my drive over to Streatley-on-Thames on Wednesday. In the evening I am off for a meal with my family before catching Slumdog Millionaire at the local Cineworld complex. My plan is to get up early on Sunday and leave around midday so I can still get a few things done back in Newbury. Well get to the gym, get some food shopping done and return to clean the flat. Then sit down to some serious blogging because I know Pav will be on my case come Monday morning.

Day 4 – Tuesday 13th January

It was the morning after the night before. It was a late start but for various reasons we did not leave the chalet until gone 11am. (In fact, even though I got up around 10.30am, Em was impressed at how quickly I had breakfast and was ready to hit the slopes.) The plan was to spend the day with Ben and do some gentle blue runs. However, while we he was getting his kit on, he had left his gloves in the chalet. The key was with Em and they were now on the main gondola heading up. Ben headed to see if he could catch them but it was too late. I called Pav and Emily said she would wait at the top for Ben to come and collect it. This killed at least half an hour if not more and I recall checking my mobile. It was midday and I had not got on the slopes yet. I felt someone annoyed by this but took the moment to take some photographs of the chalet.

Chalet La BrizzoleeChalet La Brizzolee

We did eventually get going and did three runs down the blue back to Les Brieveres before then grabbing a small tea break (time for a Lion Bar, I know I should have got Snickers or Mars!) and a hot chocolate. We then headed back up and completed three more runs down. While on the slopes, Ben got a phone call from Foxy. Geoff had hurt himself and they were both heading down and would join us at the top of the chairlift. When we got up and came down, at one point I was ahead of t_chien because the slope was designed for skiers and not boarders. He was pushing with one foot like mad, similar to Marty McFly in the Back To The Future movies but not actually moving anywhere fast. It was a comic moment and somehow I wish Paul had been there to capture it on his video camera. Foxy and Geoff headed back to the chalet when they got down to the bottom, but Ben and I headed up for one final run before the end of the day.

Ben

My confidence was up sky high once again having been crumpled the previous day on Bluet red run. I was enjoying my holiday and this was the time of day I had enjoyed. Or rather afternoon. Funny how your confidence can go up and down in such leaps and bounds of the course of a holiday. I had zero crashes on this fourth day and Ben only had a few minor stumbles. Plus, carrying out a run that you are familiar with does do alot for your ability, you can push yourself that little bit harder and faster with each subsequent run.

Tignes

Back at the chalet, just before 4pm, I showered and got chained and join the rest of the gang in the lounge slash Geoff’s bedroom. We watched a movie starting Sarah Michelle Gellar and Alec Baldwin. To try and help with the translation we put on the subtitles. Believe it or not teletext 888 must be some kind of EU standard. The film (I discover now is called Suburban Girl and was only realised a year ago). We were still to plan the evening, although as the others slowly arrived and got ready, it looked like a quiet night in. After a delicious meal of spag bol, we had the desert option, provided by t_chien, of chocolate lollies. Yes, once again, Grand Jury coming to the rescue to provide cheap imitations of the magnificent Walls Feast. Then it was time for more Uno, Paul was really in the mood and ever so keen to play. He then in perfect sporting fashion lost the first game. The second game was much more intense and a big battle between Ben and Paul. Paul had a very bad hand of green cards but got himself out of that hole in great fashion and threw in a sucker punch to Ben whom then lost the game. The snowballing forfeit worked better for Ben than Paul. I got Ben with my second attempt but only on his leg. We came back in and that was the evening entertainment in the form of a card game. We decided to put on the box and watched Le Havre versus Nice in the French League Cup. The French love their strange camera angles and the presenters (at half time) were based in an outside location (perhaps outside the stadium but it was difficult to tell). I do not think Gary or both Alans have anything to worry about. We all headed to bed early, I was in bed by 11pm. I listened to my Zen, well watched the ski video I had converted from the DVD I got for my birthday back in November two years ago. I then listened to some songs but inadvertently left my Zen running all night (and did not switch it off when I woke up around 4.34am). (That would kill my chances of listening to the Zen on the way home back to England). Tomorrow was going to be a big big day!
Day 5 – Wednesday 14th January
We had agreed to get up and out early and make the most of the day. In fact I got an early morning wake up call from t_chien at approximately 8.15am, when he just burst into our our room. I got up, got ready, and had some tea at 9am. Paul was asleep and not going. He did not feel good and was suffering form a bad neck. It was a shame because it would have been the one and only time the whole group were out together on the slopes. My original plan had been to head over to the Ski de Tranquile just above Val D’sere. However instead we were going up to the top of Grand Motte, via a train which had been bored through the mountain. An “engineering marvel” as Pav kept reminding me during the morning. However, getting there was going to be challenge. The route we took was quite simple in the end. The main gondola, Sache, then the shorter chair lift, Aiguille Rouge up to half way to the top of the mountain. From here it is a short red run (I had completed it on Monday) down to another chairlift (Chaudannes). From here we headed left onto the blue run all the way into Tignes. As you would expect, Ben and I were the slowest of the party but it was actually me holding the gang up more. When we got down the last steep part, from which you can clearly see the resort of Le Lac in the distance there was an incident. Geoff had been keeping ahead and Ben was following close behind him, but suddenley over took him. The rest I did not see as I was trying to make my own way down, in the most unelegent fashion. However reports state that Ben, completely lost control, was heading at high speed and could not stop, until he hit the edge and feel backwards over the edge. Thankfully there was no big two mile drop. It was just one step down in the soft powder. Unfortunately no one caught the action on camera but the main thing was Ben was okay. He had hurt his foot and when we got down to Le Lac, he got a taxi back to the chalet. The mountain had taken his first victim. Who would be next?

Val Claret

We regrouped and then headed for the next part of our journey. To get to the Paquis chairlift involved a little trek. We went through a tunnel, over the bus station and then skiied down to join a green run, then through another tunnel up to the chairlift. Geoff and I had the ability to ski all the way down but Em, Foxy and Pav had to take off their boards or attempt to shuffle their way down to an incline. Fun to watch, but plenty of hard work. This took us to the slope which leads you into Val Claret. As we were about to come off the chairlift, we had a little bit of an incident. Em was to the right of me on the outside and Geoff on the left on the inside. As I got up to get off, I crossed my skis and this put Poole off balance and she hit the deck. I some how managed to untangle my legs and skis and gain my composure just in time. Pav went over to look after Em. The rest of us, attempt to hit the
snow. Piste H was quite a steep blue run but it was very wide, so I had
plenty of space. Although bear in mind it was peak time in the morning
before lunch and the place was rammed. A mixture of lessons and
experienced boarders and skiers making their way down into the village. I
made it down eventually but it took a few stops, mainly to avoid
getting stuck into traffic. On the route down, I took the right option,
while the others took the left slope, which took them directly to the
bottom of the train station (can I really call it that?). My route took
me right back into the village. I saw the same Bear Bar we had been to
on Monday night. From here, I could ski through a tunnel, down a little
narrow lane and across to the bottom of the ski lift and met up with the
rest of the gang. It was time for a well earned break.

Val Claret

While Foxy, Em and Pav hunting for a pharmacy to get Em some tablets,
Geoff and I ordered a hot chocolate at the restaurant. When they got
back some fifteen minutes later, they ordered some drinks too and then
we planned to head over to the Funicular up to the top of Grande Motte.
We headed over but Em got lost on the way and Pav had to rush back to
get her as she could not see us throwing our arms and poles into the air
to attract her attention. We had been told that train could carry three
hundred people but I was not too sure if that was an exaggeration. We
got on and it was rather strange to get into a carriage that was facing
up hill. The journey took ten minutes and the engine made a great deal
of noise but when we got onto the top, I noticed the temperature drop a
heap. I think I remember noticed minus seven on the screen next to the
station entrance. I was now some 3082 metres above sea level, the time
was 12:48pm. It was a clock stopping moment in our holiday. I was near
the top of the French Alps, looking out across at the most beautiful
mountain range in Europe (if not the world!) and the sky was bright
clear and blue. I got my camera out and starting snapping those
pictures.

Grande Motte

The rest of the group headed down the blue run but I decided to wait
and meet them when they came back up and grab some lunch in the
restaurant. I spent the time taking photographs and taking in the scene.
It was amazing, cold but still amazing. Check out the rest of the
photographs in my FlickR set.
I was just not confident I could make it down the blue run but was told
later that I would have been okay. The guys went down and came back up
at around 2.15pm. We checked out the restaurant but there was not much
on worth eating. We decided we would get something back in Val Claret
before heading back to Le Lac. We caught the train down. As I got off, I
was held up the waiting commuters, because of the wind tunnel that had
built up at the bottom made it very difficult for my suple frame to make
it down the steps. From here, we headed back to the same restaurant as
before and everyone had mulled wine (apart from myself) as I had taken
so long to get there. I had been unable to climb over a heap of snow so
opted to walk the long way around into the village. It was at this point
the group split up. Geoff and Pav headed back up Grande Motte to do the
red run down, while Em, Foxy and myself headed for the bus stop. We
were going to catch the bus back to Le Lac. From here we broke up again.
I caught the bus to Les Bossies while Foxy and Em boarded back down to
the chalet. It was a good fifteen minute wait for the bus. I did the
typical, Englishman abroad moment when I responded to a French man with
“I don’t speak English”. Obviously I had meant I do not speak French but
I had got my tongue all mixed up. This went down very well with an
English woman also standing by the bus stop and within listening
distance. As I waited on board the bus, Geoff and Pav joined me. In the
time it had taken me to wait, they had gone up the mountain, skiied down
the red and then caught the bus across. We then skied down to the
chalet, on a pleasantly sunny afternoon. We arrived to some breaking
news from Mr. Stevens.

He had managed to secure a minor gig for both himself and Pav up at
the top of the mountain. At the top of the Chaudannes chairlift to be
precise. He was now a man on a mission and I was to be his sidekick. He
had to burn some music from his iPod onto CD. I explained that Sherpa
sold blank CDRs. I had noticed them while hunting for batteries on
Sunday. He had the media, he just now needed a laptop to burn the music.
He somehow, do not ask me how, managed to borrow a brand new laptop
from the chef at La Bouida restaurant. for the night. Although he forgot
to get the password and had to call up the owner for it. The spec of
this Acer machine was awesome. Vista Premium edition, blu-ray player,
surround sound and HD graphics. If I had half a brain cell, there was no
way I was going to lend this laptop over to some English guy on
holiday. With or without a credit card as a deposit. Then was the next
problem, changing the language from French to English and using the
French keyboard as if it was English. That was only the start of the
problems, we then had to transfer the music from the iPod onto the
laptop and then eventually burn the CD. It was not going to be easy, but
we would get there I was confident. We watched some quiz shows. Wheel Of Fortune
or as translated La Roue de la Fortune and Deal or No Deal on TFI. The
Wheel had changed a great deal since I had watched it back in the early
1990s, with Nicky Campbell presenting and Jenny Powell on the letters.
the 2006 French revival had supermodel Victoria Silvesdt. We then headed
over to the bar. While using the wireless facility in Vincents, I
finally went online for the first time of our holiday and updated my Twitter
status. I even showed Pav the very short pre-blog entry I had written
and the photograph uploaded to fill the gap. Back to the task at hand, a
bit of Googling revealed how we could get access to the music on the
iPod directly from the device rather than using iTunes. Paul meanwhile
downloaded some of his music from online sources and put them ready on
the laptop to burn later. We left him on his own at Vincents while we
went to a local restaurant to get some food. It was a quiet cosy local
restaurant which felt perfectly part of the village. The food was very
good and afterwards we went back to Vincents to see how Paul was getting
on. They were showing the FA Cup replay between Southend and Chelsea
(final score 1 – 4) while Paul completed his work. After a drink we
headed back to the chalet, when Paul started burning the CDs. I thought
the job was done and dusted but it was not.

Laptop

Day 6 – Thursday 15th January

I woke up at 9am sharp, Paul was already awake and still worried
about his set. He got onto the loan laptop straight away and using the
Google tip, to view the data on the device. To this you have to amend
the Explorer settings for viewing system and hidden files, not easy to
do in French. I got the data off both iPods and onto the laptop, to a
chorus of thanks from Paul. The iPod uses a folder based storage system,
with each folder containing only a few tracks. They were labelled F00
all the way up to F49 on one music device. Thankfully you could view the
genre and artist to make it easy to search and pick the correct song.
The CDs was being burnt as I went to jump in the shower and get ready.
We were heading out with Em, Foxy, Geoff and Pav. Ben’s holiday was over
and I think he returned his equipment at somepoint during the day. We
took the main gondola up, I remember noting the time, it was exactly
11am. I was in Tignes-Le-Lac some fifty minutes later. By the time I got
to the village, my friends had already made tracks. I text Pav to
explain I had decided to stay and do the green and blue runs in the
beginner area, to build up my confidence. That is what I spent the
majority of the time doing, although I never got a chance to practice or
actually begin to learn a parrellel technique due to the sheer amount
of traffic on the slope. At one point there was a long group of
skateboarders just idly sitting on their backsides on the snow.

Tignes-le-Lac

Em was going to come down and join me for lunch at 2.15pm, so I
waited by the bus stop a few minutes before hand. We went back to grab
some food at the same restaurant we had been to on Monday. The boys
joined us a few minutes later but there was not really enough time to
get food and drink. We had to make tracks up the mountain for the set. I
skied down to the lift but the boarders all decided to walk around. Not
sure why, skiing or boarding was easily the best and fastest option. In
the end we had to wait for Emily to make her way down and eventually
made our way up (Foxy and Paul going ahead). We made our way up the lift
and watched a great crash. A skier went and hit the edge of a boarder
who had been just standing chatting to his friend. The skier did not
look hurt but had just taken a minor tumble, he was back up on his skis,
in what seemed just like a few seconds. Then as we went up higher, I
saw once again the death trap that was the bluet red run, I still could
not believe I had made it down such a steep incline in one piece.

By the time we got to the restaurant, Stevens was already on the set
and his music was the sound track for skiers and snowboarders alike,
streaming down the slopes. It was an amazing scene, even if it was
bitterly cold. How cold I dare you ask? Well Foxy’s beer started
freezing, the froth on top that is, seconds after pouring it into his
large glass.

DJ Stevens

After talking a look around and taking quite a few photos, I was
going to head down to the main gondola. I knew it was going to be a bit
of a trek for me skiing and did not want to miss the last lift down. I
was going to go but Pav offered drinks, so I took him up on what I
thought would be just a quick hot chocolate. It turned out to be cream
with a side order of hot chocolate.

Hot Chocolate with Cream

Afterwards I headed down to the slopes, but was soon followed by
everyone else about ten minutes later. In fact they beat me to the
gondola and got into the next carriage along. I had to make room for
some experienced French skiers. Geoff had hurt himself earlier in the
afternoon and headed back to the chalet, he and Ben were now in Vicents.
Geoff pursuing Sophie no doubt. They had been there since 3pm and we
were going to join them from 5pm for some Apres ski. This was the first
time I was actually taking part in this past-time. Although as Pav
quickly pointed out to me, it was hardly apres ski, as I did not have my
boots or ski gear still on! The draw at Vincents was George
the one man band! Sophie had recommended him the previous night and
told us how riotous the bar gets later in the evening. Some of the songs
I remember being played are, Stairway to Heaven, Country Roads,
Wonderwall and some 1950s classic which I could not name, way before my
time you see. Overall it was a great night, the place was packed and it
really did turn into a party. Sophie got the colour wigs out and
inflatable instruments and handed them out. Unfortunately there are no
photographs from me, as I left my camera back at the chalet, but Geoff
and Pav took some great photographs of me in the purple wig (which I
wore most of the time we were in there) which you will find now on Facebook.
After a light snack for dinnerm we headed to The Underground, which was
in terms of proximaty, our ‘local’. It was rammed, mainly with students
from Manchester who were actually staying over in Val d’Isere. It is
always tragic to hear about a death while on holiday but a young student
to die down the road, came as bit of shock, when I read the newspaper
the previous morning.
Her colleage friends were now being bused in and out anywhere and being
escorted in big groups. After a few in The Underground, Paul and I
decided to call it a night. Pav, Foxy and Ben meanwhile stayed a little
while longer and got into a little bit of bother with a guy in the bar.
Even though he did talk a great deal about going back in there and
giving him a piece of his mind he did not. No need for you to come down
to their level Foxy. Plus, perhaps just sometimes you should act your
twenty five years and not your shoe size.

I remember getting into bed around midnight. I know by my standards
that must sound early but we had been out for some seven hours non-stop.
Before I could actually get any sleep, I was interrupted by t_chien,
not once but twice. What he did, I perhaps will never be able to
explain.

Day 7 – Friday 16th January

It was a very late start, if a start at all this morning. I was
semi-conscious from around 9am, but did not get myself out of bed until
10.35am. This is perhaps the perfect moment to describe the sound. We
had a grandfather clock in our chalet, right up the television in the
lounge. It tolls at the hour every hour but also at every half hour.
Also, we have the church bells tolling at the hour (during the day until
early evening). So as you can imagine, a great deal of noise and
difficult to sleep, particularly if you intend to sleep most of the day.
I did not feel good but somehow, got ready and had breakfast. It was
11am. We sat watching television while deciding what to do. Pav had
already gone out with Emily. Hold on let me rephrase that, Emily had
kicked Pav out onto the slopes first thing, there was no where for him
to escape. . Ben had gone back to bed after breakfast, Geoff was working
through his Sunday Times Sudoku book, while Foxy and I watched
television. There was not much on this late in the morning as you can
imagine and I had to settle for an entertainment show. The celebrity
show on M6 was co-presented by Karin Kerri. Followed by the comedy show
Star In The Family starring Megan Fox. I was still not feeling that
great, so decided to crash out for a while. My plan was to get up in an
hour, see how I felt and then perhaps just hit the local blue run for a
few hours. Paul decided to do pretty much the same.

It did not happen, I woke up at 3pm with a text from Pav, “Mountain
1, Terry 0″. True for the battle on that day but not for the war.
Looking back now, I coped with most of what the French Alps through at
me and it was nice to have a break from the action. Yes, most people
will consider this to be a waste, to not make the most of the time out
on the white stuff but I disagree. It is above everything else, a
holiday, a time for rest and relaxtion. It is not fun to be rushing
around all over the place and trying to keep up with your friends whom
are far more experienced at winter sports. Do not get me wrong, I hope
to one day reach an ability where I can view the piste map as a
challenge to be conquered and not just a major obstacle in my holiday
enjoyment.

What few hours remained before the others got back, I decided to put
to good use. I packed most of my bits and pieces and arranged what I
needed to keep for the last day of skiing. It was a shame that we had to
check out some eleven hours before our flight departs Chambéry. In the
end we were allowed to keep our luggage in the boot room during the day,
which helped. At 4pm, I was all alone in the chalet, writing my blog
notes. I decided to get a few pictures. I put on the television while I
waited for my friends to arrive. When they did eventually turn up, Emily
and I watched Deal Or No Dea. The contestent, Sibone, exchanged her box
right at the death. Going from €250,000 down to €100,000. What a
complete fool, particularly as she had played headstrong for the whole
game up to that point refusing to budge. We then got together and headed
out for our last evening meal in the village. It was going to be an
entertaining finally evening for various reasons.

We headed to Vincents first for a drink and then headed to the local
French restaurant, which was in fact, directly behind (or infront –
depending on your perspective) our chalet. We walked past the terrace
everyday when heading to the slopes. It was called the Le Sachette and
was dead. Funnily enough, the waiter / barman asked if we had a booking
(there being so many of us). We were taking up the stairs to the table
area at the back. A group of three French people were just finishing
their meal and made a swift exit. (Oh no, the English are here!). We
went ahead and ordered some drinks (regretably) but found the menu
uninpiring. The boys (not the girl I might hasten to triple underline)
were hitting the red wine tonight. I better qualify those boys to be,
Ben, Geoff, Paul and t_chien. Stupidly they ordered two bottles of the
same red when they should have just ordered one, or a white. By all
accounts it was rank. It was quite obvious we were not going to be
staying here for food. However, being the democractic friends that we
are, it was put to the vote and I think it was five to two for leaving.
We had to finish the wine and leave, it was just how we were going to
make our exit. When the waitress appeared to take our order, Emily just
explained (in English) we were not ordering food. I felt very
uncomfortable in the restaurant and just wanted to get out of there. We
were only there for a few more minutes, only perhaps as much as ten, but
the time took forever to pass. We then left and I felt much better
being out on the street. It was a really bad restaurant and perhaps the
place the locals and French people go to. They did not make us feel very
welcoming. We headed back down the road, in search of a new place to
eat.

Les Brieveres being such a small village does not have a big variety
of eating establishments. We were therefore in a choice between two. La
Bouida or the L’ Almarry opposite. We chose the later, perhaps because
there was more choice on the menu and the prices were more reasonable.
We went in, it was very busy but somehow they found us a table at the
back. We looked at the menu and were impressed. Foxy had to ask the
waiter, the standard, “Is it good?” in a mixed French come Dutch accent.
The waiter spoke fantastic English and replied, “It’s ALL good”. We
thought it was just the standard line but a little later we were talking
it all back. I do not think I have ever been to a restaurant and the
people I am with have gone on about the food from the moment it was
served until we land back at Gatwick some twenty four hours later. Yes
the restaurant was good, service was quick, the staff courtieous but
there was no debate about a any Michelin stars. What people fail to
appreciate is that these gradings are giving for attention to detail. We
had to ask three times for water to be provided and our glasses were
allowed to go empty. These are the aspects which take a restaurant from
great to exceptional. Nevertheless, a gem of a place and I would highly
recommend. However, t_chien was right. It was a good thing we discovered
the place on the last night and not on the first. Otherwise it would
have been €30 per a head meals every night!

I cannot remember the rest of the night very well. We headed back to
the chalet, Geoff headed over to Vincents to say goodbye to Sophie. Foxy
estimated that he would be back around 11pm and on queue, he appeared
just after the clock had chimed. I remember we were watching television
for a while but all opted for an early night. It was the last day on the
slopes. Well only for five of us and I was the last skier standing. I
was keen to make the most of my last day on the slopes, particularly
after the waste of Friday.

Day 8 – Saturday 17th January

It was the earliest start of the holiday and rightly so. At 8.15am I
was out of bed, getting ready and had breakfast and was pretty much
ready to go. I perhaps selfishly took my suitcase, put it in the boot
room, got my gear on and waited outside the chalet. Meanwhile everyone
else was rushing around cleaning the place before the prompt inspection
at 10am. Em had a go at me for standing outside loitering when there was
still cleaning to be done. However, as I began to take my boots off,
Ben said that most of it had been done and not to bother. Geoff came out
with my Arsenal wooly hat, which I had left on the sofa the previous
evening. I was pretty sure I had not left anything else, so much so I
did not bother going back in to the chalet to check. At 10am sharp, the
inspection began military style. The chalet owner went around each room
and checked everything opened windows. She was not happy with all the
foam in the dish washer but apart from that, we all got our deposits
back! Pav came around with the euros. I was €70 back in the black. It
was the last day so we were going off to do our own thing. I headed into
Tignes-Le-Lac. I was with the others, until we got up to the chairlift
and I took the blue run and they took the red run down. I would not seen
them again until they returned to the chalet just before 4pm. I must
describe my ski run into Tignes.

It was going very well until I got to the last major incline. The
rest of the run is easy as it is flat around the mountain and then into
the village. However, I was struggling and came to a stop. When I
started to go again, I felt I was going fine but then heard a snowmobile
behind me and then lost my concentration, followed closely by my
balance and then both my skis. It was quite a funny crash really. A
couple of Spanish guys had been skiing behind me and one of them came to
my assistance. He grabbed my pole, which had gone down the slope and
retrieve my ski and helped me get back locked in. However it was near
impossible at such a steep and awkward spot. So in the end I had to
thank the stranger for his help but decided to slide down to the
clearing before putting on my skis. Then I carried on to the village. It
had been a difficult trip.

Tignes-le-Lac

I headed up the Aero Ski lift up to the top of the mountain that over
looks Val D’Isere. Pav and Em had recommended I take the blue run down
to the town but I chickened out by the time I got to the top. It was
extremely busy and with time not on my side I decieded to just take some
snaps before heading back down. A cop out I know but I just did not
want to take a leap into the unknown on my last day. I wanted to play it
safe and I wanted to make sure I got back before the others to change,
sort out my gear before the long journey back to the airport. I then
went across to the bus stop to get the bus back to Les Boisses, from
there I would ski down to Les Brevieres. However, it was a Saturday. The
importance of the day did not dawn on me until a bit later. A young
French guy was at the bus stop waiting talking to some skiers. When they
disappeared he approached me to inform me that the next bus was not
until 1.15pm, an hour and forty-five minutes wait away. The reason? The
bus service was heavily reduced on the weekend. Perhaps because this is
the day that most people get to the resort and there is not the demand
as there is later in the week. I looked at my options, I could try and
ski down (I had done it before) or get a taxi or just wait. I waited for
a while. Then an English girl, who had just arrived the previous night
got talking to me. As we realised it was going to be a long wait, (it
was just coming up to midday) we looked at the option of getting a taxi.
There were none at stand, so we asked one of the reps and they advised
us to go inside the tourist centre and order one. When we went inside,
but the kiosk was closed (for lunch?) so Sarah-Jane went to the other
desk and was just given a pamphlet and a list of phone numbers. I did
not feel comfortable calling up for a taxi, so just decided to wait.
Sarah-Jane then went to meet up with her friends for lunch. I decided to
go out to the bus stop around quarter past one. A few minutes later the
bus arrived and on I hoped with two other people. I was heading back,
just one more run before I could go.

Tignes

It was quite busy on the slopes as I made it down. It was a good
final run and I think I must have hit a personal best. I met up with
Ben, they were in the same restaurant we had been to last night. I
called him and he came out to give me key to the store room. I headed
over, got changed, took off my gear. I then had to return it to the
rental shop and see what the damage was. Afterwards I headed back to the
restaurant and caught up with Ben and Geoff. They had had a lazy
Saturday morning, pretty similar to a weekend back home in England, just
with the backdrop of the French Alps out of the window. I ordered a
pizza and afterwards read the paper to catch up on the latest football
news, particularly transfers.. Afterwards, we headed to Vincents. Ben
wanted to go on the net and as the second machine in there still had ten
minutes, I went online to update my Twitter status
but bear in mind the time of the update is GMT, so it was in fact
3:45pm local time. We left Ben online, as we headed back to the chalet
to wait for the others. They arrived eventually but were cutting it very
fine. It was just about to hit 4pm. While they gathered their luggage,
we headed back down the main road in the village to see if Jack, our
taxi driver had arrived with our ride. He had already driven his
Mercedes down to La Bouida and turned around and parked up just opposite
the church when he recognised us coming down the road with our luggage.
He stopped and parked up. We loaded our luggage on board, as the rest
of the gang turned up. We had to put the boards in the rack box. Even
though we took them out of the bag, it was not neccesary as it would
have fitted in the box as it was. Never mind, we got on board. Geoff,
Foxy, Ben sat in the back row. It was Pav, me and Paul in the second
eisle with Em upfront. Jack, was a big Tracy Chapman
playing a selection from her greatest hits on the stereo. He also
played some Radiohead, John Lennon and even randomly Kung Fu Fighting by
Carl Doughlas. I feel asleep as soon as we hit the motorway and woke up
while we were about twenty minutes from the airport. I was so glad to
be back and prayed that it would be an simple unevent flight back home.

Foxy went into the terminal to check which desks we had to use. There
was a big queue at the new checkin desks leading right out of the main
door. However, our desks were one to four at the back. Thankfully we
could go in through the other double doors and queue when our flight was
called. We got into the queue just in time, as behind us a big queue
joined right up to the main entrance. As we were in the queue, I
scribbled down my final blog notes of the holiday. Looking back at them,
they are such a message because I had nothing but my own thighs to lean
on. When we got to the desk, Emily was taken to a side room and her
luggage inspected. As you can imagine, she was not a happy bunny after
this. Foxy of course, thought it should have been him if he had moved
ahead of Emily in the queue to check in. We then had a few hours to kill
before we would have to go through immigration, customs security and
then finally onto the plane.

Foxy

We firstly went to the souvenir shop and I bought some chocolates
before heading up to the restaurant. The place was rammed with many
people just sitting on the floor. We found a table on the terrace. (Yes,
strange concept but a terrace bar at an airport!) From here we could
see the planes heading for the runway and some landing in the
background. As we had time to kill we played Queenie. A shredding card
game, but I cannot remember who lost. It could have been Foxy or I could
be gravely mistaken. After chilling out for a while, our flight was
called and we joined the long queue to passport control. Being such a
small regional airport, they just had two people in the both checking
documents. Then we were through to security. My bag was checked in
detail and then we took a seat in the chairs, waiting for our flight to
be called and to board the coach that would take us there. The group of
us gathered together, some buying food and drinks for the next leg of
the journey. We boarded the coaches when they arrive and were taking to
the plane, we walked outside in the cold French air for the last time
and boarded the plane from the rear stairs. We found our seats and sat
down. With my Zen dead, I was looking forward to perhaps drifting off
and getting some rest. The weather was not going to be so kind.

The flight left on time and we were on schedule for our arrival in
Gatwick. It was a landing that was a bit hairy. Now I was sitting next
to Paul, who is not a great flyer. However, after a few red wines, he
was content. I ordered a tea, to wake me up a little, knowing I had a
long drive ahead of me before I could get back to Wycombe. The weather
in England was just terrible but I would find that out later. As we came
into the land, the plane was all over the place with the wings tilting
up and down. Just as we came in for the final approach the captain
levelled her off and we made a perfect landing. To much applause from
many of the passengers. It had been a turbulent ride but we had made it.
It was 8pm local time, I was looking forward to getting home.

We had a long wait for our luggage and as usual my suitcase was the
last off the carousel. We then had to catch the coach back to APH and
finally get into my car. I grabbed the car and brought it to the front
of the car park. We loaded the car and then I said my sentimental
goodbyes to Ben, Geoff and Foxy. Then we hit the road. It was raining
quite heavily and windy but I did not realise how badly until I hit the
motorway. It was crazy, I could only see metres ahead and the wind and
rain made for storm like conditions. I battled through, even though I
had expected a nice relaxing drive back to Slough, Reading and then
eventually back home to Wycombe. The most difficult part was the
conditions on the M25 when I hit a maximum speed of 50mph and even with
wipers on full load, could hardly see much ahead of me for all the
spray. If I had not been a super hero on the slope, I was making up for
it now. I headed over to Slough first, dropped off Paul, then Reading to
drop off Pav and Em. I then drove to the BP garage to deflate my tyres
(in the rain) and then headed home. I got in around midnight, to see the
warm and glowing faces of my family. It was a great feeling to be home,
the adventure was over. However, I suddenly realised that I have to
write every moment up for my blog. That could wait until tomorrow.

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