Category: Skiing

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!

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.

Sunday 25th January 2009

A break from the holiday posts to give you a quick update on everything that has been going on since I have returned to good old England. Returning back to work on the gloomiest day of the year. Believe me it was not planned like that but it just happened. If I had a choice I would not have wanted to come back on this day but it was out of my control. Work has been busy but to compensate I have been going in early and then have the option to go home at 4pm or stay a bit later if I need to. I have slowly switched back into work mode and glad to be back.

On Monday evening, after Eastenders I went over to the Tesco Extra store on yet another impulse buy. I picked up a Philips DTR to go beyond the basic five channels I had on my television in the lounge. I know I have a Freeview card in my PC, but with my desktop out of action I thought this the ideal moment to get the piece of kit. After all, there was no chance of me bagging my sisters’ box, plus I could never get all the channels on my PC in any case. Rather an impulse purchase but well worth it, now that I have sixty five channels but only twenty-four which are favourites! Nice to have some music channels (TMF & 4Music) to put on at the weekend and have as background entertainment. Overall very happy with my purchase even though there are some negative reviews over on Amazon based on the box packing up over time. I am hoping I am not so unlucky. Time will tell. Even if I am, hopefully by the time it stops working I will have either a media centre with Freeview up and running or be back on my desktop! (Hopefully both!)

Weekend has been rather chilled, just as I wanted. Yesterday I got up late (by my standards) at 9am and got on with all those jobs like cleaning the flat and sorting out bits and pieces. I had made a list at work during Friday lunchtime but still not done much. To be honest I doubt I could actually tick anything off the list really. Oh well, there is always time in the evening to get a few things done.

I must take you back to the first weekend of 2009. The Saturday evening to be precise. Although I think it may have already clicked forty minutes past the witching hour, so the early hours of Sunday 4th January. I was looking at my Twitter feed and noticed a reply. It was from my dearest friend and old housemate Sippy. He used to run a very popular blog but he neglected it some years ago and pretty much disappeared online. It was a shame because he was one of my best friends and I would speak to him almost every day on MSN. This was the first time I had been in touch with him in almost two years. I had been thinking about him on the drive home from the gym back in December, wondering if I would ever get in touch with him again. I am not sure why but he does not use IM any more. I knew he was never going to join a social network site, he does not agree with them. However Twitter is a step in the right direction. Although, his feed has dried up in recent weeks. If you remember Sippy and his blog from the good old days, go ahead and follow him!

Today has been a really good day. Went to the gym at 8.30am, but as my left shoulder was aching I did not really push myself that far. I had wanted to really get the programme done but it was just too painful. Hopefully I will better tomorrow. I have started taking my little Coby MP3 player to the gym but need suggestions for gym tunes. Some dance tracks would do but I am willing to consider anything. Any suggestions, just leave a message in the comments. I have also taken the step to invest in some decent weight training gloves by the famous Golds. After several months of using £2 pair from eBay, I thought I should take the leap to quality. Plus, during my ski trip, I had lost one of old gloves somewhere at home. The search continues.

After the gym, went for a breakfast at local cafe with Steve, then into town to get a few bits before heading back to the flat. After half an hour of chilling (and me checking my e-mail) we headed back out again to the Hogshead to catch the FA Cup match. The less said about the goalless draw the better. Another replay!

Day 3 – Monday 12th January
Was rather over optimistic with the alarm time once again. It was set for 8:18am but I did not get up until 8:50am. My postcards were ready to be sent so I headed to the post office and bought some stamps for La Poste afer breakfast. When I returned to the chalet, everyone was ready to head up to the slopes. Ben was having a lie in before his lesson at 2pm. The plan was to head to Tignes-Le-Lac, the main part of the resort and I was hoping to tackle some of the green runs and beginner zone there. The boarders and Geoff were going to hit some of the red runs the other side of the mountain. We took a similar route up like the previous day, up the main gondola, Sache up to the extra long chairlift, Marais. From here we took the difficult blue run, Corniche down. The plan after my misadventure on Sunday afternoon was for me to head off and the boarders to follow close behind so they kept tabs on me. This lasted for the blue run, until we got up to the red. I should have known better than to follow my friends but I was under this foolish notion that Bluet was actually “Blue A” and a simple blue all the way down to Le Lac. There was a blue run to Le Lac but it was the other way around. I quickly came to the realisation that I was majorly out of my depth. The piste was rammed and in the end after at least two crashes I gave up, took off my skis and walked down to a clearing on the left (directly underneath the Chaudannes chairlift). From here I gained the confidence to put my skis back on and make my way down. It took me over two hours. In fact Paul and t_chien made it down to Le Lac (they had split off from the others and come back up on the chairlift). I thought it was a bit strange when I heard two people shouting Teg. At this time I was collapsed in a heap on the right hand side of the slope. Eventually I got up and slid down to the flat before eventually skiing down to Le Lac. It was midday by the time I got to the resort and took off my skis. The rest of my friends had already gone up one side of the mountain and come back down the red run.

Tignes-le-LacGeoff & Teg

The others headed off to do a red run while I had lunch with Emily at the restaurant close by. It was not as expensive as you would expect. We then decided to plan the afternoon together. We went on the green run a few times, where Poole advised me to practice my parallel turns but to no joy. I just was too busy concentrating on my snowplough turns and looking out for other beginners that I just did not give it a go. We went up again and did the green run one more time before deciding to head back. There was a good deal of sking to be done down to Sache. I enjoyed the ski down to the Chaudannes, the chairlift that takes up back up to the top of the mountain. Mainly because it was a green run but it also went down through a tunnel and I felt a little like a spy on a mission, albeit with far too many English tourists around. we made our way up and agreed to get to the gondola and catch it back down. Although I quite easily could have skied all the way back down to the bottom. However, by the time we got there, I took the easy option out. Even though Em thought I was going to ski down. Remember the day before it had taken me an hour to get down the step slope, this time it took me fifteen minutes. I was improving although I did not feel I was making enough progress. We made our way down and then went to the restaurant next to the gondola and waited for Ben’s lesson to finish.

Teg

I had a nice hot chocolate with cream and it was very good, just what the doctor ordered. Em, as she did throughout the holiday, ordered a mulled wine. We had noticed Ben struggling on the nursery slope but he seemed to get down okay. Then on his next run he had a mega crash. Emily got the key for chalet but he was going to head back with us. It was Pav’s birthday and we had quite a night planned ahead of us. We went back to the chalet and got changed and waited for the others.

Once they arrived and were ready, Pav blew out the candles on a bakewell tart. Then the plans for the evening began. We wanted to head over to Val d’ Isère, have a nice meal and then go out clubbing. The birthday boy was 27 after all. Our plans changed. We headed down into the village and bumped into the owner of the La Bouida, who just happened to be both English and getting out of a taxi. We then asked the driver, Jack to take us out. The owner recommended we head to Val Claret to avoid the high prices in Val d ‘Isere. He would take us to a nice place to eat and then point out some of the lively night spots. We had a drink in La Bouida while waiting for the driver. It was not for the first time but the music channel NRG played the end of Alesha Dixon – The Boy Does Nothing. It was a song I would hear on a regular basis over the resort. This was closely followed by Womanizer by Britney Spears. Jack drove us the thirty minutes up the road to Val Claret and dropped us off outside the @ Bar. This was a trendy little bar which also had three desktop computers for internet access. Ben jumped on to check some important e-mails but I resisted the temptation. The bar was very nice, cosy. Plus t_chien had a major crush on the barmaid, particularly when she came over to our table to drop of the snack tray. It was getting late now, around 9pm and we were all hungry, so could not stomach walking around the village, trying to find somewhere to eat, so we just popped next door. It was a rather simple restaurant but the service was quick and prices reasonable. We all had various pizzas and everyone put in to cover the cost of Pav’s meal which was a nice touch. Although later t_chien stated that if it had been his birthday, the meal would have been in the most expensive restaurant available and he would have gone for something more exotic than pizza.

Birthday Boy

While eating we planned the night out. We were going to go to some bars and then head to the discotheque next door, the imaginatively titled, “Melting Pot”. We headed back into the resort and first went to a quaint little pub called The Cavern with a restaurant at the rear. We all stood at the bar and made the place look busy. The barmaid was a tall blonde who gave us some advice on the places to go, her English was very good. We headed next door to the Grizzly Bar (so called due to the bears on display everywhere). We were not allowed to take photographs but did not notice the sign until t_chien pointed it out, by then the damage was done and we had all taken various photographs of the group. (Most of which are on Facebook now and I am sure you will have seen!). Foxy fell over outside actually and it was rather amusing picture, particularly when I pushed him further down into the snow. He then had a mini tantrum and accused me of doctoring the photograph to make it look like I had pushed him over (hardly!). The next stop was a lively bar with live music a few bars down. As we walked in they were playing Hotel California by The Eagles. They played a mixture of music, including some reggae. I recall them playing Al Green – Let’s Stay Together at some point during the evening. It was good fun but the place was rammed. We stood by a table right at the middle of the bar, by the entrance to the back and toilets upstairs. This is where we spent most of the night, the music was good and the crowd were in the mood for a party. Afterwards we thought we should at least check out the Melting Pot. Foxy took over (as he usually does) and became the leader of our group. He sent Paul into the Melting Pot to confirm whether we should go in. It was dead. We then walked down the icy road past Le Studio to the Blue Girl club, which was built into the car park. Once again, completely dead. We decided to go back to the @ Cafe. It was much busier now and they were playing dance music. We stayed here for a few before calling Jack and heading back to the chalet. It was a good night but the more eventful night would come later in the week.

Friday 23rd January 2009

Day 1 – Saturday 10th January

You would think that I would be asleep, three to four hours before I head off on holiday but I was actually updating this blog, believe it or not. I had to get a last pre-trip entry posted even though it does not actually account for much. I slept for a few hours and had originally intended to leave at 3.30am. I actually left at 4:01am precisely and still recall the time on the dashboard on my car. At 4:34am I called Pav while on the M4 motorway, he thought I was outside his house in Reading. I had picked up Paul from Slough and we were just coming up to the Bracknell junction (10 or A329(M) for you keen drivers! Instead of going directly to Pav’s I stopped at the BP garage and inflated my tyres (due to the additional load). I then raced the car around back into town and pulled outside Pav’s house. Geoff’s brand new Seat Ibiza was already parked outside and ahead of me. I think this is the point to note that I think it was foolish for the guys with the three door hatchbacks to drive to the airport. Particularly when we have t_dogg and Pav with a Ford Focus and Rover 200 respectively.

Oh well, never mind. Somehow we managed to get the luggage into my car. Although it took a little moving around as I was carrying the additional passenger of Paul this year. One less member of our party this year, down to seven meant one less car, you do that math. We headed out onto the motorway just before 5am, we had an hour to get to Gatwick and made excellent time on the motorway. Pulling up outside APH car park just before 6am. We were on schedule but perhaps for the only moment on this holiday but obviously I did not know it at the time. Geoff beat me by about ten minutes as he took the Bracknell, down to M3 route rather than M4 direct onto M25 before M23 route like myself. I went to sort out the car while the guys loaded the coach, well they gave our luggage to the coach driver who loaded the hold. Pav came up to me, “Yours the blue suitcase mate?” “Yes”, I replied. “Well, your carriage awaits…”. I rushed to my car, and put the key on the driver seat and then headed onto the bus. There was a major sense of déjà vu. We had to wait on the bus for a few minutes while other holiday makers came on board but eventually we headed off to the airport. However this time, we were disembarking at the North Terminal. As we grabbed a trolley and headed upstairs, we lost Pav. He had taken the lift while we had taken the stairs. We were directed outside to a queue. It was long. Pav was about two lengths ahead of us. The reality of having to wait in line came as a bit of a shock. Particularly as last year, we had gone through to check-in with only a few people at the other desks. This time around, the place was packed and I do mean packed. The queue outside, continued inside, right before we were shown to a check-in desk for our flight. TOM4561. We checked in separately, so first six of us, then Ben as he had booked his flight separately (he was the plus one, I was supposed to fill!) Once we had checked in all our baggage we headed through to security, there was a shorter queue here and the process was quite straight forward. We were ‘airside‘, Em wanted a drink and we walked around most of the concourse to find a place to get a cup of tea. Everywhere had long queues, so in the end the group opted to get a snack from Costa. I just could not be bothered to queue anymore, so headed off to the departure gate 112. A good fifteen minute walk away. Emily was slightly annoyed that I would abandon the group so early into the holiday (after a mere two hours). I was feeling anxious for some reason and am never really settled until we are up in the air and on the way. I had no idea how the day was going to plan out and even if I had, there was nothing I could do about it, even as a superhero.

While I waited for the others, I did feel it strange we were kept waiting for so long before we were allow to board the flight. My seat was 27D (an aisle seat) next to Geoff and Foxy (who had the lucky window seat). We were the last group of people to get on, due to Foxy’s insistence to sit around in the lounge area by the gate and look out the window, “boys”. The departure time for our flight was 8:40am, please take note of that. There will be a test later. Firstly there was a two hour delay, due to a lack of deicer. Yes, I did just type “deicer”. There was a lack of available deicer trucks at Gatwick, so we had to wait for our wings to be cleared before we could take off. This was not a major issue for me, I could live with it. However by the time we were up in the air, it was 10.30am, we were on our way. Or so we thought

Forty five minutes into our flight we were informed by the captain that the landing gear could not be retracted so had to turn around and head back to Gatwick. Although he did state we could continue the flight to Chambéry, it was not recommended due to the amount of fuel it uses. So we landed sometime around midday and ended up on the tarmac at Gatwick. There was no indication of how long the wait would last. The captain did try and keep us informed but I suspect he was told only minutes before relaying information back. Firstly the aircraft was checked by engineers and then a part found and brought back to the plane. However it could not be fitted and the plane would not be serviceable for the next twenty four hours. I condense in a few sentences the events of several hours. We were given our breakfast soon after landing, which was very strange. The vegetarian meal had the meat substitutes and the meat option was actually meat free. Now, how does that work? Our party were coming to the end of their patience, particulary Em. Geoff and t_dogg headed to the front of the plane to the open door to get some hair. I was quite happy to just sit in my seat and listen to my Zen. I was annoyed but tried my best to not let the situation get the better of me and all that time I thought how wonderful it will be write this all down on the electronic page. It was just before 3pm when a member of the crew came and spoke to people individually. We were told that we were going to get taken to a holding area while a new plane was arranged. It could be next door, it could be in Manchester or Glasgow. We would then be boarded back onto the plane, no change or reprinting of boarding cards, along with all our luggage and on our way. However there was information given about our destination airport. Apparently after 4.30pm it closes off one runway and reduces capacity greatly due to night fall. We had to make sure we got onto that flight. Plus, our pilots were on shift until 8pm, after that we were going nowhere fast. It took a while for the coaches to collect us to arrive at our plane. Perhaps they were stuck. While in the holding area, I called home and to the shock of my Mum and sister, they found me still in England, when I should have been on the slopes. There was a wait of thirty minutes but it felt less than that because we could roam around free and not be kept like cattle on an aircraft. The new plane just outside the window was being prepared, we were going to be on our way before night fell on Gatwick. I was able to sneak into the window seat (27F) on the new plane, but got permission from t_dogg before hand. As we took off for the second time in the day, albeit only six hours later, my Dad was calling me on my mobile. I had to hang up and switch off my mobile. He was most likely concerned if I had got to Tignes. Not quite but we were finally on our way.

We landed at 18:50 (CET) only a mere seven hours later than we planned. We bagged a transfer via Crystal Ski slash Thomspon Airways and then waited to collect our luggage. This was a small airport with the baggage carrossel just a few metres away from the main entrance and exit. We got our kit and then headed out to the cold car park looking for our coach to Tignes. It took us a while to find and in fact we had to ask a few people. The staff were great, particularly a guy with long blonde hair (do not recall his name) who raced around and found our coach for us. We then arranged to be dropped off in our village. Chris was the new rep looking after us. It was his first week with Crystal Ski. While we were waiting I called home to let my sister Julie know I had arrived safe and sound. We then boarded the coach, the first people on and waited for the rest of the passengers from subsequent flights to board. We ended up waiting over an hour for the Boswell family to board. They did not arrive and we left around 9.30pm. Almost three hours since we had touched down, but I was just glad to be on my way. It was a two hour transfer, so I plugged in my Zen and slowly fell asleep in my seat. I had been sitting next to Pav but he moved to sit next to Emily, so I took the window seat. It was a long and dangerous drive. The coach driving was throwing the vehicle around the corners of the mountain roads. Believe me, I preferred to just close my eyes and not look out the front windscreen as the coach hit insane speeds travelling in the pitch black. Obviously the driver (who looked a lot like Doctor Eggman) had the experience to handle the big long vehicle along these dangerous roads. I was quite glad to get off the coach just after midnight when we arrived in Les Brieveres. We had a little tour first though, the driver taking us right down to the end of the village, with a view of the flood light gondola. We quickly turned around and were dropped off in the centre of town. We thanked Chris for all he had done and headed to find our chalet. This was the start of yet another new mini adventure.

Pav had printed off the driving directions to the chalet from the website. We strolled up the main road in the village hunting for the local nightspots mentioned in the directions. We actually were heading out of the village, but we then spotted Hotel Genope and realised we were turned back on ourselves. Pav and Emily headed down the small road down to some chalets and it was then we realised we were in the right place but just not there yet. The area behind the chalets had some garages but we had to walk further down to th eed of the road to find our chalet, La Brizzole. We waited for the owner, an elderly French lady that spoke no English. She was rather annoyed to be woken up at midnight but we had called the owner (her husband) regularly on our landing and given an accurate ETA when on the coach. However, he was not getting some Zs while the rest of us were waiting in the bitter cold night to get into our accommodation. Pav tried to explain (by making childish airplane movements with his hand) that our flight had been delayed. The only word from the French woman we could understand was “Fin” as she drew a line in the air with her hands, much like a conductor would kill his orchestra. Eventually she left and disappeared into the opposite chalet and we decided to unpack and get some food. I was hungry. I do not think any of the others had eaten anything either. We headed to Vincent’s Bar (a Dutch bar but frequented mainly by English tourists). It was time for a snack before we crashed out. Yes a complete day (and then some) had been wasted on getting here but we were determined to look on the good side. We had made it to Tignes, we had got to our chalet and we had got ourselves a free transfer from the airport. Not a bad day, just tiring and mildly annoying. Particularly when I generally have no problems with my journeys be they for business or pleasure.

While at the bar, the barmaid, Sophie, from Norwich told us some of the places to go in terms of food and drink. It was nice to be given some local advice. After the food we headed back to the chalet, I was shattered, as were my friends. I recall falling asleep at 2am. Tomorrow our holiday could finally begin, I was gutted that I had not got onto the slopes on the first day, but it had been the day of travel, now rest. Tomorrow the true esscence of the holiday could be born.
Day 2 – Sunday 11th January

It was rather a major act of wishful thinking to set my alarm for 7:25am (my Nokia E65 which for the record I never use as an alarm clock back at home). I was in a very deep sleep but remember picking up the mobile from the floor at 7:43am to switch it off. Everyone else was already awake by the time I got out of bed, Ben was in the shower. I had corn flakes for breakfast for first time in years. Well it was not proper official Kelloggs Corn Flakes but some cheap French Grand Jury homebrand. It did not taste that great but it was food and I was hungry. I had some toast too, even though Emily offered me yoghurt. I turned it down when in reality I should not of. I did not know how long I would be spending up on the slopes. After getting ready, puting on my ski gear, we headed up to the rental shop, which was directly opposite Vincent’s. Most of the holiday makers were either out on the slopes or heading out already. The group in the chalet opposite us, headed out at 9.30am. The Intersport was a lot more primitive than in Kitzbuhel but you have to compare like for like. That particular winter sports rental establishment was opposite the bottom of the world famous down hill race. Here I was in the smallest village of the resort. After Foxy, Geoff and Ben got their gear, I was next to try on some boots and then get my skis and poles. We made use of our fifteen percent discount sent by our accommodation agent, based no less than the Netherlands. I took the option of insurance, plus was surprised that my credit card scanned with a changed name of Mr. Andre Tegala. Will it change to Andres if I go to Espana? Once we had our gear we headed back to the chalet to change and then headed out to the piste. It was this time I bumped into the chalet owner and he directed me to the shortcut to the slopes. I explained (in English) that we were meeting friends opposite Vincents and hence going in the opposite direction.

Before I continue, I need to explain my camera situation. The original plan had been for me to take my sister’s camera, as I did last year. However, when I text her on Thursday afternoon, Natalie explained she was out at the weekend and taking the camera with her. I did not really want to take my bulky camera out onto the slopes, so on Friday (yes the day before my holiday was due to start) I went on an impulse crusade to get a cheap compact camera. Pav recommended the CyberShotU from Sony but I eventually went for the Casio Exilim. I had wanted the Fuji but it did not take SD memory. It was a big fat mistake because the camera did not charge when I bought it home, even after six hours, so I returned it for a refund. However, instead I took the family Kodak camera. An extremely basic and plastic 3.2 megapixel piece of junk, however it would mean photographs from my holiday, something I could just not do without. However, my batteries were dead, so I had to go to the convenience store and buy four AA Grand Jury branded batteries. To my surprise I did not think they would last the week but they did! So, here is one of my first photographs from the holiday, when it should have been at least the twenty third.

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Sorry about the bright yellow date stamps but I just am not that familiar with the device and it goes without saying I will not be using it again. We were waiting while Ben went to book his private ski lesson and Pav went back to the chalet to get his gloves (or was it camera?). Ben’s lesson was booked for 2pm and we headed to the main gondola and bought our passes. I got the pass for the whole area (Espace Killy – named after the former Olympic Champion, or so I’m informed.) We then headed up the gondola to the ski area. I was looking forward to getting onto the snow and my confidence was quite high. It was picture postcard material all the way up to the top and when we got off and everyone got their kit on we headed down the slopes. Ben was struggling and it soon appeared it was going to take some time to get down. If at all.

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One of my few crashes on holiday came as I was trying to circle around part of the red run, I lost my balance, one ski went up in the air, closely followed by another. It was quite dramatic and must have looked great but Pav did not get the picture in time. I got back on my feet (or do I mean skis) and then headed straight for the edge and Paul. He was looking worried as I got closer and closer but eventually came to an impressive stop and turn just in time. The view was magnificent but I was glad to be heading off the red onto the blue.

Who Is It?

There is heated debate, as to whether the person on the deck in this photograph is Ben or myself. I think it might be Ben but I could be wrong. You will need to click on the above image and view the full resolution (1024×368) image to get a better look and even then you might still be none the wiser.

Back to the actual action on the piste, the rest of the gang (i.e. all the boarders, took the red run down, meanwhile Geoff led, with myself and Ben following behind. It was very much a case of throwing Ben onto the mountain far too early and he could not cope. We made slow progress down the adjoining blue run. We made it down to the end of the road and a steep turning to the left and it was here that took Ben a little time to make his way around. Geoff and myself tried to coach him. I should have left it all down to Geoff, he was the experienced skier, I was just trying to give some encouragement. There was no way I was going to just leave the guy in a heap, even though I did not know him that well. This was our second meeting, since the Eurovision house party back in May. We made our way down to the next bit and Geoff took the lead and I followed Ben, my confidence was very high and I felt I could take on any run over the whole resort. It was slow progress down the piste but we had a problem. Ben’s lesson was at 2pm and we were cutting it fine. After the step u-turn we headed down a relatively low incline. We got there and I did enjoy the humps on the way to the straight before we got around the corner, a clearing after the trees. Then it was another sharp turn and a steep run down to the chairlift (which looked like it was closed, we would find out later due to the day of the week!). Ben was really struggling now. Geoff tried his best to help and improve his stance but I am not sure it helped. I headed down to the bottom of the run and waited. A few minutes later, Ben had taken off his skis and was walking down the run off to the side (technically off piste). Geoff came down and explained Ben had hurt his ankle and was going to get a taxi back to the chalet. I was an eager beaver and just wanted to ski all the way back down but I had to show solidatry with my fallen comrade. For I was that fallen comrade last year. We walked back up to the village of Les Boisses. We were looking for a taxi and headed towards the direction of a bar and bumped into an English girl, Jess. (This would not be the first time such a scenario would occur for me). It was then the suggestion of catching a chairlift down came to mind but there was no way of walking up to the lift we could see plus there was doubt that Ben would make it. So he headed into the bar and got the taxi driver. We headed down to the parked Ford Transit Minibus and loaded our gear in. The driver asked why we did not ski down. Our friend had hurt his foot we explained in English. He understood. (He reminded me of a younger Lt. Columbo). We were dropped off by Vincents and Ben headed back to the gondola to try and re-arrange his lesson, while Geoff and I headed back to the gondola! I said goodbye to Jess and wished each other a happy and injury free holiday.

We met up with the others by the main gondola and headed back up to the top. Ben cancelled his lesson and headed back to the chalet. We headed up back the main gondola and then took the chairlift up to the top of a red run. The chairlift (Marais) seemed to go on forever but gave some fantastic views of the mountain range. It must have been about 2:20pm local time and I had long three hours ahead of me. I just did not know it yet.

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As it was only the first day and we only had a few hours to go before the lifts closed, we decided to stay local and just ski and board down to Les Brieveres. I lost everyone, including Geoff at the top of one of the runs which splits in two. On the left a red run, on the right, a blue run which I took down. It was hard work and it was getting late. My mission was to get to the gondola before it closed at 4.15pm. As I got to the top of the run, I could see it was open but by the time I made it down (took me well over an hour) it was closed. There was no option, I had to go down. My confidence had gone after a few stumbles and the heavy incline was just too much for me, plus remember, my technique is very basic. Actually that is another subject I want to talk about.

Towards the end of my lessons last year, I remember a woman in my group discussing her lessons, with a different tutor. “You are not actually skiing” was the phrase that stuck in my mind. She was explaining that although she was able to get down the mountain she was not actually skiing. Snowplough turn, traversing across (but not quite in parallel). Just as Emily would say to me a few days later, when attempting the snowplough turn, as you have zero grip and move so fast downhill before you come out of the turn and then traverse across again. This was my technique for the holiday. Perhaps with hindsight I should have given myself a two hour private lesson to hone my technique and master the parallel turns. Miss Poole’s verdict was that once I could do that I could take on my red run. Even though I did attempt to practice on the green zone in Le Lac, there was just not the time or commitment from myself. However, I promise not to give up and more on that in the final day.

So let me put you into my shoes (or rather ski boots). I am stuck high up on a mountain. My friends are nowhere to be see and most likely heading towards the chalet if they are not already there and the main gondola, my get out of jail card if you will had closed. I had no option, I had to ski all the way down. Once I got to the main gondola (Sache) and was skiing past it, I felt a little better, for I had completed part of this run only three hours or so earlier. I made it down but it was slow progress and the sun was setting behind the Alps. I made it down to Les Boisses but it must have taken me around thirty minutes if not a bit longer. Here I had a choice, I could get the taxi with Columbo down back to Les Brievieres or just ski down all the way by myself. The thought sat a while in my mind, eventually the ski option one and I did not like the thought of shelling out €20 for a journey. I made it down to the beginning of the blue run and was surprised at how busy the piste still once. These were the experienced skiers and snowboarders, the extreme guys and girls coming back after some epic runs over in Le Lac, Val Claret and beyond. I on the other hand was nervous but keen to get down to the bottom. It must have been around 4.50pm by now and speed was of the esscence. It was getting dark, I had to get back to the chalet. I did not have a phone with me and did not know where the others were and Pav had text me. However, although I had perhaps lost all the arrogant confidence I had at the beginning of the day, I felt assured in my ability to get down to the village. I did and at 5.20pm, I opened the door to the hall way. Almost at the same time Foxy opened the door the other side and gave a loud, “Hey!”. Emily had just put her coat on to go and raise the alarm. with my safe arrival there was no need. My ears should have been burning as they had spent most of the last hour wondering on my location and well being.

The evening was spent in, although Ben & t_chien (t_dawg translated to French) did pop over to Vincents to watch Man United versus Chelsea. We popped to the shop and then came back to prepare dinner. Or rather Em and Pav did the hard work preparing a delicious lasagne and apple crumble desert. Foxy, AKA t_chien, check up entertained while we waited. Firstly he did some over analysis of various songs including Papa Can You Here Me? by N-Dubz and played a few songs from the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge album, mainly the Dizzie Rascal version of That’s Not My Name. “They call me blud, they call me rude boy”. It did have me in stitches but it was the analysis from my friend. He really had listened to this songs in detail and knew the lyrics backwards. It was almost like a re-run from May 2007 when we went down to the South West Coast. Back then the artists under the microscope were Lady Sov and Bill Bailey.

After dinner it was time for the first game of Uno. We had played the game back in Kitzbuhel as we had found a pack of cards in the bar at our hotel. We got a good few games going but Paul lost closely followed by Ben in the next game. The forfeit which was decided by the group was for the loser to face the firing squad. The snow ball firing squad that is. The winner had three shots, the rest of us two each. Foxy was so keen that he went out before the end of the game to build some snowballs. The best moment in the game, was when I was out and there was a quick fire moment of +2 cards. First from Geoff, then Em, then Paul. So I thought Foxy would have to pick up six but he came out with a +2 card himself, to give Ben the awful task of picking up eight! It was no wonder he lost that round.

Felt very strange it was Sunday evening, the village was quiet and we were heading out tomorrow for a full day skiing in the morning. We all wanted an early night. I feel asleep around midnight, almost on the dot. We had started to watch Dragon Rouge on French TV but given up.

Sunday 18th January 2009

I am back! Yes, returned home (well to my parents in Wycombe) just after midnight in the early hours of this morning. Completely shattered, I should have gone straight to sleep after some food. But you know me, I had to go online for a few hours and finally went to sleep around 3am!

So much to mention and I suppose I have plenty of time but just like last year, I will give a day by day account of the adventure. For the time being it is 17:22 and I am back in Newbury watching The Krypton Factor on ITV1. (Just not the same as I caught the end of the Christmas 1987 edition on Virgin+1 earlier today!). I am going to catch up on some television shows and perhaps then make the start on the epic blog post.

Bear with me, I may be some time but I assure you that it will be worth the wait. The main thing is I have not broken anything and suffered zero injuries. Can I say the same for the rest of my party?

Friday 9th January 2009

Sometimes even I find it hard to believe that everything happens for a reason. Not only this but trivial items are placed in your path for you to notice.

Ski Fit

If are reading this anytime on Saturday morning (a decent time of day after you have had a lie in) then the countdown will be over. Back on 17th January with hopefully plenty of photographs and plenty of stories. Then second mountain to climb, the blog entries can begin.

Wednesday 10th December 2008

In a strange twist of fate, I found myself in a team of skiers. However, I would not be a skier if it were not for my relationship with Pav. That long term friendship in term is based on my decision to go to Henley College and not stick around at my secondary school. All of that is perhaps something worth mentioning when I am much older and have many different situations of pure coincidence to consider. For now, I need to let you know about not just a successful but an outstanding day.

An earlier start than usual and perhaps it was not until I received a text message from Pav at approximately 8:41am that I realised my day was going to be very different from the norm. My friend wondered why he had not received an e-mail from me yet, I usually try and send an e-mail across before the 9am deadline. He had realised why I was not in the office and hoped for a further update later that afternoon. I was heading to Milton Keynes. I was nervous but perhaps not as nervous as I would have been if I had not ventured onto a slope of some description in late November. My greatest fear was being told I was not up to Level Three standard and being dismissed from the slopes. Not just majorly embarrassing but also financially crippling. I might as well just open the window and throw out several five pound notes. As usual I was looking for something that was not there. I do not think I will ever come across a sport that is so heavily based on confidence. By the time we were suited and booted, it was only 11am and we had a good half an hour wait before our lesson began. They were playing UB40 greatest hits over the PA system, “Rat In My Kitchen”. Later I would hear the classic cover of Can’t Help Falling In Love and the song from Speed 2: Cruise Control, Tell Me Is It True while on the slopes that that afternoon.

Our instructor was Carl and there was a group of seven of us in total. Quite a big group considering my last time on the slopes there had been only two! We headed out onto the lesson slope. The last time I had been here was October 2007. If you had told me then that I would be skiing down from the top of the main slope just over a year later, I would have bitten your hand off and given it to big T to eat! I should be more self assure of myself than I am, because I do have the ability. Well perhaps it did not feel like to begin with. I had difficulty getting off the travelator and almost started skiing down backwards to wards it. Eventually I got my balance and my co-ordination to stand firmly at the edge of the slope and ski down. After a few runs I got going and then we switched quite quickly to the middle lift but coming off half way up onto some black mats. This is when the real hard work began, slowly staggering up the hill and then skiing down. I got the hang of it and my confidence slowly but surely went up.

A few runs later and it was now to a new adventure, as we hit the main slope but not from the top but two thirds up. I was nervous but there was no time to wait and listen out for instruction. It was a case of getting up there and then bombing down. I was quite apprehensive, even though I had tackled steeper and more difficult runs in January. I made it down but did have to steady myself a little, although loved the rush of going quite fast in the middle. I was actually pleasantly surprised that I had managed to make it through the whole day without a single crash. More so than this, it was just a few ‘issues’ getting myself off the travelator. Was I ready for some freestyle? Was I hell!

My free ski session started from 12:30pm until 1:30pm (although we would say on a bit longer than that). I actually really enjoyed it and can confirm to both Pavneet Singh Khural and the rest of the world that I am looking forward to my holiday in Tignes next month. Ironically, exactly a month today I will be out on the slopes. Or as Pav has put it, “Off coach, dump luggage, rent skis, hit slope!”. Funny how three and a half hours on the slopes (both dry and real snow) have taken me to someone not looking forward to their holiday (please see post on . Enough about the past and what is to come in the future, let me continue with my mini-ski adventure. I was apprehensive about going straight to the top on the main lift on the far left of the slope and opted to instead go up to the middle point again on the main slope and go down. It was at this point my colleagues saw me go down and saw my poor technique. Once I got down to the bottom, I had to prepare for the post-mortem. Then it was time for the daddy. We headed over to the lift and if you were close enough you would have heard the cartoon ‘gulp’ from me as I got onto the lift. Was I read for the slope? Or was the slope ready for me? As they had toboggan runs taking place to the side, part of the slope was cut off, so I had to go down part way of one slope, then cut across back onto the middle slope. I made it and was once again pleasantly surprised. I can actually ski, it is all in my head. It is now all about honing my technique and then parallel turns, then jumps and some off piste action. Hold on, let us not get ahead of ourselves Teg. There is confidence and arrogance I know I am still nowhere near the accomplished skier I should be, but I am hoping that will change by the time 17th January 2009 comes along.

I lost count of the number of runs I made down, but it must have almost got to double figures. We stayed on beyond our time by nearly twenty minutes and I remember checking the time on my mobile as we left. Exactly 2pm. A very successful day, I should have text Pav there and then, but I wanted to enjoy the moment on my own for the moment. I wish I could say that for a brief moment I felt like a superhero but I did not. I did feel different, I felt better. Ready, prepared. Up for the challenge. Let us just hope, when I go to sleep back in Wycombe on Friday 9th January 2009, I do not get cold feet (literally!)

Are you easily star struck? I confess that I am and being in the vicinity of famous people (even if they only read the news) is something that has always appealed to me. While having breakfast in Costa in Xscape, I noticed a gentleman walk in. He was not some nobody, Joe Bloggs walking off the street. It was in fact Jake Humphrey. You might not recognise the name but you will recognise the face / voice from BBC Sport and Sportsround. I was under the impression that he had just been to the gym (Virgin Active) and after a heavy workout was having a cup of coffee and reading the sports pages. I was wrong. A little while later, I would see him hitting the slope on a snow board. Although I must confess I did not see him actually active on the slope, only queuing for the lift and towards the end of his ‘time’ waiting behind the barrier watching other boarders on the nursery slope.

Wednesday 23rd January 2008

I hate losing, just like every football fan. Defeat against arch rivals Spurs leaves more of a bitter taste in the mouth than defeat against Middlesborough in the league. I am getting slightly ahead of myself. The story begins, as they all do at the beginning. I was looking forward to the evening. Particularly as we had agreed while in Kitzbühel, at the final whistle of the first leg to get together for the return leg. I had a nightmare journey into the office. If any of you are on my Face Book, you would have noticed my status change to “Andrew has just taken 40 minutes to travel less than quarter of a mile”. I got into my car just after 7.30am. I was still stuck in traffic at 8.16am, when I took this photograph.

Sunrise over Handy Cross

Traffic does not bother me, as long as I have my music, I am fine. I actually bumped (not literally) into an old school friend Imran in his Peugeot 306 on the roundabout. He had left his house earlier than me and had to be in Essex for 9am. I think the drivers around me must have been shocked or at least surprised to see me open my passenger side window and start having a casual conversation with another driver. We both agreed we had never seen it this bad and we had both been stuck in some crazy hell raisers (mainly on the rush hour home than before sunrise). I explained that as I only worked down the road, I could never really ever be late but called the office in any case to let them know where I was. Even though I do not have to be in until around 8.45am.

The day dragged a little but I expected that. I tried my best to not think about the match and focus on work. Of course around 4pm, my MD came over to discuss team news (from the Spurs web site) and I cross referenced this against the BBC Sports pages. He was sure Arsene would field a strong side and a few kids, but I could not see Fabregas listed in the squad. We would find out for sure in a few hours time. I got home, had some food, had a shower, got changed and was out the door around 6.30pm. The collection time for Mr. Fox was 7.15pm, although he text me at 6.56pm, “Ready anytime Teg! Let’s Go!”. I was at the BP petrol station around the corner, getting some cash and mints. Good I had left early, I parked up around the corner from his house and knocked on his door. I was greeted by his Dad. I had to remember to use his real name and not stupid nicknames now, “I’m here to pick up Thomas!”. Foxy was at the top of the stairs putting on his shoes but seeing me in my Arsenal top decided to put on his vintage Spurs top, so I had to wait. We did eventually leave the house, once he had gone back upstairs to get his keys. I was glad that this pick up was a very rare occurrence. We jumped into the car and headed into town. It was now I was informed of the fringe benefits of rolling with the T. He had a pass for the Oracle car park so parking would be free of charge. Fantastic. Only a saving of £2.70 odd but a saving nonetheless. We parked the car and headed over to the Walkabout. Pav & Emily were waiting outside. Kev was on his way, as was Geoff with some friends. We found a nice spot underneath one of the screens to catch the game. On the adjacent screen they were showing Sudan versus Zambia from Group C. Geoff commented that one of the coaches looked like Danny Glover. I laughed in agreement. This was the build up to the game, some twenty, twenty five minutes to go. I had a feeling inside that this was not going to be my night. I just sensed something, call it a gut instinct if you will. When Spurs took the lead so early and unlocked our defence so well, I knew the writing was on the wall. Even at two nil, I thought Arsenal might get it together and claw it back and then finish them or in worse case scenario hold out for extra time and win on the away goals rule. It was not to be. It is difficult to describe what unfolded on the television screen in front of me and the humiliation I suffered in the Walkabout.

I was not to know that the place was over 90% Tottenham. They went crazy, particularly on the third goal. Arsenal were poor, extremely poor. Fabregas was ordinary, Adebayor and Eduardo came on too late and while we have chased games on a number of occasions this season, this was a bridge too far. I think their first goal came far too early. It knocked our confidence and the heads dropped. A good match review with some common sense perspective is over at The Cannon. I just wanted to get our of there but it was to get worse. The 5th killer goal at the death sent the pub into up roar, they were dancing around, many shouting and laughing in my face. The grin on the t_dogg’s face was wider than the English Channel. He was loving it. At full time we headed back to the car, Foxy singing most of the way to the car. When we got back into the car, we were going to listen to Radio Five Live but t_dogg decided to put the Ministry Of Sound Anthems CD back on, Josh Wink – Higher State of Consciousness. As I got closer to his house, he was dancing making the score out of his hands and waving them in my direction. Thank you very much. I was looking forward to getting him out of my car. I drove home listening to music, preferring not to listen to Spurs fans calling the Beeb. Then I realised I had not received a text from my MD. This could only mean big humiliation for me tomorrow morning. Oh dear!

One Nil to Spurs!

Day 5 – Tuesday 8th January

I got up late, very late in fact and was eating breakfast with Geoff at ten past 9. I got ready and rushed across to ski school. I found Duncan and was moved (once again) to Tony’s group (along with Heather). We walked down to the bus stop via back route behind the main ski school offices. Here we waited a few minutes for the ‘Ring Bus’ which would take us to the other side of town to the Kitzbühel Horn. The journey was about ten minutes and the bus was packed (as it is for all journeys most of the day). I took my gloves off to put my lift pass inside the my left jacket pocket (for ease of use when approaching the barriers). Tony noticed the plaster on my fingers and asked if I had cut them by man handling my skis. No I replied, thinking it was best not to explain the real reason. Once we got off the bus, it was a short walk around to the ski lift. Tony explained how to get on and off the gondola and where to place our skis. This was an experience for me, my first ever venture onto such a vehicle. It might sound like nothing, but remember I never even considered going skiing so to get to this stage and go up into the mountain for the first time, you can appreciate the big leap of faith. The views were spectacular, particularly with the bright sunshine. I also had my camera with me for the first time, so was hoping to get some good pictures, even if that was only during lunchtime.

At the end of the ski lift, we got off went upstairs to the exit and came to a chair lift. Another first for me. However, as we were beginners, it was too early for us to ski down the slope, so we took our skis in our arms and took the lift down one by one. Tony waited for us down at the bottom. I lost one of my poles coming off the lift but Tony retrieved it for me. We then went across to the nursery area and had a few runs down. Then it was time for something a little more challenging, so we had a few runs on blue run 15. We took it in stages before heading back up the chairlift for lunch. It was here I got a chance to get my camera out and take some photos.

The Horn

It was packed on the balcony with skiers and snow boarders enjoying the sunshine and entertainment. Yes, Colin was here, the Entertainer, singing along to various song. Plus there was a very bad Elvis impersonator who came on to perform a few songs. I am trying to remember some of the songs he sang but I have forgotten them now. Always On My Mind perhaps? I did not really want lunch to end. Tony had warned us that after lunch we were going to work our way down the mountain (across a red run) all the way down to the bottom of the bowl. We took a course across the slope, skiing side to side, with the boarders and experienced skiers coming across us. It was a nerve racking experience for me, particularly as you can just look up see the steep slope and little kids, some aged as young as eight glide down without effort. I made it down with no crashes and then at the top of a small hill, it was a case of full blast or as Tony put it, “As the kids say, just bomb it!”. I tried but I was nervous about going too fast so kept my speed down, this was a mistake. You seriously just had to blast it because when you get to the bottom, there is a small incline. I gave up and took off my skis and walked the last few yards. Putting my skis back on, we had to get the t-bar lift up to the top of 15, the blue run from this morning and we then made our way down the slope, at first in stage stopping every hundred yards or so before Tony guided on how to approach each section. Then at the bottom he would watch us come down one by one and give us direction to improve our technique. Then it was back up to the top and down again. Three more runs and it was time to call it a day. We headed back up the chair lift and then onto the lift all the way down. During our trip down (Tony was in the cable car with myself and Heather) he pointed out the track we would take down to the middle station tomorrow. I took a big gulp and tried not to think about it.

HeatherView from Cable CarTony

When we got back to the hotel, it was a big relief to get my boots off. It was here I bumped into Mel. She had had a bad day. Gone up to the top of the mountain, frozen and then cried all the way down the on the lift. Got back to the hotel and called her Mum. She was not enjoying the holiday, calling the sport a “modern form of torture”. I tried to not let her bad karma affect me but it was not easy. I am trying to remember what we did that evening but it was not big. Emily and Pav wanted to go into town, find a quiet cafe for a drink. So Geoff, Paul, t_Dogg and myself joined them. We found a cosy little place opposite the Spar and had hot chocolate. The Austrians do like their cream. Everyone apart from myself and Paul shared an Apfelstudel (an Austrian speciality). Afterwards we settled the bill and headed back to the hotel. We stayed in the bar after dinner and played UNO as we found about three decks in the games cupboard. I had never played the game before but soon learn the rules. It is interesting reading the Wikipedia page about the different style images depending on the language. I almost won the second game but my failure to shout, “UNO” meant Emily took the game! I was gutted. After one more game we retired to our room for the evening. Paul had gone to bed straight after dinner, so we invited everyone back to our room for a bit. Pav played t_dogg in a battle of Abalone, he lost. So, I took on the winner and played him well for most of the game until some stupid mistakes cost me. There is a classic photograph of “Das Victor” which Geoff has uploaded to Face Book. It will be worth the wait, trust me! Then it was off to bed, I think it was around 10.30pm by the time I finally drifted off. Three days of lessons down, two more to go before I was free!

Day 6 – Wednesday 9th January

I am trying to remember exactly what happened on this day but it is difficult. My memory is not as good as it used to be. So, I apologise in advance if the posting for this day is patchy. My friends had a major plan for day. Pav & Geoff were going to hit the mountain as soon as the lifts opened and spend two and a half hours to get down to the bottom for lunch. Then everyone was going to get together and catch the bus over to the toboggan run (including Mel). I was actually quite jealous and wish I could have come along for a race or two. I got up early, had breakfast with Em and Geoff and headed out to the bus stop for 9.30am. However, Tony was late, delayed back the ski school office, so we did not get onto the Ring bus until gone 10am. We had a new member of our group, she had skied before but had lost confidence on the slope, so opted with some refresher lessons. He said he would make the time up at the end of the day. We headed back up to the horn for the day. We got up there, did some runs down blue 15 to get going, then went back up the chair lift to go down the zig zag path across the red slope. Then we broke up for lunch. Next was the big one, skiing down all the way to the middle cable car stop. However, there was a twist. We were to be filmed all the way down the by a cameraman. Fantastic! Just wanted I needed to improve my concentration, a big distraction. So to add to my nerves, I had a camera pointed in my face and was asked to wave as I skied along! Great(!) We made our path down the mountain, in stages. It was beautiful scenery but I did not have much time to enjoy it, I was too busy concentrating on my skiing and trying to improve. The paths were quite narrow and at times the edge far too close. The drop through the trees was not visible! We made our way down and I was quite proud of myself of getting this far. Then came the bomb shell, we were going to go up and do it again. Some people dropped out, preferring to head back to blue 15 for some practice, a small group of us continued. The cameraman, had, thank God, disappeared. But it was actually a shame because he missed two spectacular crashes, one which included some spilt blood. Once we got down to the bottom, we got onto the cable car and the destination was back to the hotel.

I over heard one of the ski instructors say that Flannigans was showing the Arsenal Tottenham match that evening, so thought I would let the t_dogg know once we got back to the hotel. So after dinner, we had a quick drink in the bar before heading down into town. The motley crew was Foxy, Paul and myself. We found a table, got the first round in and then waited for the match to start. Sky Sports coverage showed that kick off had been delayed by fifteen minutes due to problems at Finsbury Park, so it would be 9pm (CET) when things would get going. I saw my instructor Tony at the bar and offered him a drink but he was already struggling, so I wished him a good evening and would see him tomorrow. It felt strange watching this fixture because if I had not been out in Austria skiing I would have been at the game, much as I was last year in early February. Tottenham started well and has difficult as it is for me to say, deserved their lead. Arsenal came back into the match in the second half and when Theo scored it was a great relief. Foxy was the only Spurs fan in the pub and pinning his colours clearly on the flag pole! Arseblogger perhaps gives the best review of the match. Gunners were below par and Tottenham could have taken more from the match. However it was perfectly posed for the return leg in two weeks time. At full time, only the boys were left in the bar. The girls had gone back to the hotel. We decided (or rather the T decided for us) to make a night of it! All I can say is we got back to the hotel quite late, must have been around 2am. (Having to wake up Mel so we could get in, as Geoff had taken our only key).

Day 7 – Thursday 10th January

My last day of lessons and the holiday was drawing to a close. It was important to make the most of the final few days on the slopes. I had the joy of my last lesson. The race against the clock and then another few runs down the mountain again but the day would be over shadowed by my friends, I will get to that later. I had just accustomed myself to the routine now. Getting up on time, getting ready, being at the bus stop by a certain time, getting onto the bus and getting up to the top of the Horn. We made our way down the slope to the training area. A salom course had been setup and we were first allowed a practice run before suiting up with numbers. I was given 69. Make of that what you will. I was third to head down when it was our groups turn, I tried to go as fast as possible and it felt fast. (I couldn’t make it to the award ceremony so will never find out what I clocked up). Then it was a quick warm up on the blue 15, we did about three runs before heading back up the chairlift. Although it was a while before lunch. We headed down to the middle lift station again to a restaurant around the corner. Heather and some of our group made their way down via the lift, while the brave among us, five in total skied down. As we were just around the corner, Tony stopped ahead of me. The reason? It was pure ice. I tried to stay on my feet but feel and then opted to slide down on my backside, down the hill to some flat snow when I could actually get up and walk around to the restaurant. The views from the patio were amazing and the food was very good, much better than the ‘service station’ quality you had at the top of the Horn, for the past two days.

The RaceKitzbühel

After lunch we headed back to the Horn. This time we were in for a true test. Our first red run, under the guidance of Tony of course but still a nervous prospect. We took it slowly in stages but by the time we got to the bottom I was dehydrated. The heat and the amount of skiing I had done was getting to me, so I opted to head back up to the top of the Horn and get a drink. The rest of the group were going to hit the red run for a second time. I got a bottle of water and went out onto the balcony and took some photographs of my group going down, I walked around the corner and heard the distinguishable voice of the T. Everyone was there and it was good to see them. But then as I tried to get away, t_dogg said, “Right let’s f*** Teg up!”. Great(!). So as I headed outside to wait for my group to gather, Adele, Emily, Geoff, Paul, Pav and of course the one and only t_dogg waited for me to head down the slope. We slowly made our descent and my friends waited until I was down far enough and then followed, skiing and boarding in between our group. Paul said he was going to film me but he did not (thank God) because I then had a crash. I heard Pav shout, “Woh, Terry!”. I was laughing, as I got myself back up and skied the rest down to the rest of my group. It was when we started the next section that Pav came screaming down past me, hands in the air, shouting something like, “Wooo hoooo” but I only saw him briefly as he disappeared and the only other thing I heard was the sound of his board on the snow. They were heading for the black run down and spending the rest of the afternoon at the Horn. They had said I should come back up after my lesson but I did not really have the time. We made our way down to the cable car station. There was just three of us now and it was physically demanding, mainly because we were not stopping as frequently and there were was much more traffic around us. I just wanted to get to the bottom as quickly as I could and was glad when the final bend came along and you could see the station in the distance. That was it, lessons were over. I had had a rather mixed bag really. Moved three times but eventually found a really good instructor. I thanked him for his time and more importantly patience. We would meet up again later that evening for the showing of the DVD.

Back at the hotel, I changed out of my ski boots but did not go up to the room, heading straight back into town. The screening was to take place at the Mexican restaurant, La Fonda. I was the first to get there and it was a going to be at least thirty minutes before the viewing started, so I got a drink and waited for the others to arrive. They did eventually and headed upstairs to the dining area for a viewing???. I was expecting a bigger screen and playback from a DVD rather than the video camera but never mind. It was quite good considering but I do not like some of the Euro Pop tracks used as background music. One in particular, I have tried to find the name of the artist but no luck from Google. I bought a copy, mainly to have something to show my family and a souvenir to prove that I did actually ski on my holiday. Sure it was expensive (if you consider the € per the video minute ratio) but if I never ski ever again in my life, I will have a moment forever. I am ripping the DVD as I type this using the fantastic DVDFab Platinum software! I just need to edit it down to ten minutes or split it into two or maybe three parts. I have actually put a four minute video together which is the best bits from the 25 minute DVD.

After the viewing I went with Tony and his girlfriend Jessica (another instructor at the Red Devil Ski School) to Flannigans. I bought them a drink and thanked Tony for all his help, advice and generally putting up with me. Particularly my friends distracting me on our last run down. His final words to me as I left was to not do anything stupid. I replied that he knew me now after three days of lessons but he was referring to my second morning and my attempted heroics over on the nursery slope. We laughed, but then Jessica came in with some horror story of a guy breaking his ankle and having to be taken off in a stretcher. Just the confidence boost I needed for my last day.

Day 8 – Friday 11th January

This is where my holiday truly started. We had planned the night before to make the most of our last day on the slopes. We were going to opposite sides of the resort but agreed to meet up for lunch at the top of the Hannekham. Even Mel was gonna join us! First though I think I should explain Crazy Hat Day. This was the invention of Miss Emily Jane Poole. She had asked everyone to purchase a Crazy Hat which had to be worn by every member of our group on a designated day during the holiday. As I was in lessons all week, this day was to be today, the Friday. As always, I followed the procedure to the letter and had my Crazy Hat on all day. I was the only person to bother. I was extremely disappointed, particularly in the organiser of this group fashion activity as she herself firstly did not wear her home made Crazy Hat. Secondly she had the cheek to say my Crazy Hat was not ‘crazy’ enough. I think for someone who always plays it safe when it comes to clothes, ties, shoes and all the accessories, a pink hat which was a mixture between Deerstalker and Russian Ushanka was as wacky as you can get with me! In any case, I was not going to let other people’s non participation get in the way. I was going to wear my hat with pride and smile!

This was my first trip in the gondola which can be seen through our hotel bedroom window. I was looking forward to hitting the slopes with Adele & Geoff. While my technique is not perfect it was enough for me to get around be it at a rather relaxed pace. I will try and upload a link to an interactive map so you can see which runs I completed. There are quite a few. Here we go.

From the top of the Hannekham, we took 36 down to the main area. From here it was straight down run 18. This was my far, my favourite run of the day. It was relatively wide and just a case of getting your feet parallel and putting on the gas. I was quite apprehensive to begin with but on my second and third run I was much faster. There were some igloos at the bottom (including a hotel) and a reindeer had been brought around which had Adele going all soft (as all cute animals do to girls). We headed back up but decided to have a tea break. Hot chocolate all around and Geoff helped himself to a pastry. There were deck chairs outside so we made ourselves comfortable while we planned the next couple of hours before lunch.

Blue Run 18Geoff & Adele

Right after the short tea break we did the following (I think!). We went down run 18 once more but drifted off to the left and completed run 16 around effectively back on ourselves and down. This turns into run 26. It was very steep and I had one spectacular crash but this was only the start. Once at the bottom, we caught a chair lift up and went down 26 again but from the top. My memory is patchy on this, even by consulting the map is not working. I may have to get Mr. Geoff to confirm! One our second run down 26 I had amazing crash which I loved. I was going faster than I had ever been before and knew I was not gonna be able to keep control for much longer and crashed to the side of the slope. I was laughing but I had ripped my jacket (unknown to me at the time, I would discover this when Em would notice it lunchtime). I had lost my poles but eventually two nice people pushed them down to me. I eventually got back onto my skis and skied down to the bottom to the waiting Geoff and Adele, I think Geoff was poised with camera but I’ve not seen the photo yet. (It will be over on his Face Book somewhere)

Now it was a case of getting back up to our start point for lunch. Back around and down 36, then a rope lift up at the top and a sheer drop at the top and we were back at the restaurant. We were early, the rest of the gang were on their way up. We found a table on the balcony eventually and sat there but moved to a bigger table once everyone appeared.

T-Dogg & GeoffView from HochkitzbühelAdele, Mel & Emily

They did eventually and we ordered our food. There was a bit of a wait, they were quite busy but it was well worth it. The food was very good. I was more than full as we paid and left. Unfortunately, somehow I was left behind everyone else. Then as everyone made their way onto the snow, I had a call of nature. I could not wait. I put my skis down and went back upstairs to the toilet. By the time I got back outside, the only person waiting for me was Pav. The rest had made their way down. I saw Pav waving and rushed to get my skis on and caught up with him. Now the laugh about why I had been delayed. They all thought I had made a mistake and gone down a red run. (Maybe if I was feeling much more confident!). I eventually caught up with everyone and they had a good laugh at my expense. Particularly Emily who thought I was running scared and hiding from the mountain. Not quite but I was up for the challenge, or so I thought. Went we eventually got up there the wind was blowing hard and throwing the snow across the slope. Not as bad as the blizzard the rest of the gang had suffered on Tuesday. (Geoff has uploaded some video footage to Face Book, so you will need to take a look on there.) I made it down half way with Emily and Pav close behind. Then as I came down the corner (you could not see how steep the hill was) I saw how bad it was and just crashed. I tried to get back onto my ski but just crashed again. I think I got to a fourth attempt but by then the frustration was too high, so I took off my skis (yes a big big mistake – I know Pav!) Put them on my shoulder and slid on my backside down the mountain, with very little control on where I was going. Every so often someone would ask to see if I was okay, some offering to help me up. I would just say I was fine. I did not want to cause a fuss or create a scene. My friends waited down at the bottom but after fifteen minutes, the only person I could see was Adele. The rest had gone up the other chairlift to our right to go down the red run. (Numbers will be confirmed later when I speak to Geoff). It was a bit of a shock some ten minutes later when Geoff suddenly appeared to check I was okay. I was on my feet and skiing down but another crash and I gave up. Lady Poole appeared and asked for my poles and away she went. I then slowly made my way down the slope to the bottom. I had given up, I wanted to go back home. However it was not that easy I had to ski down. After our leisurely lunch I had lost track of time, it was gone 3pm and the lifts would close in just under an hour and a half. I was against the clock. We were coming down run 16 again but the part I had not skied earlier in the morning. The hill was quite steep and I crashed once again, took off my skis and made my way down. An Englishman advised that I should ski down on my edges and it would be easier and quicker than walking but I was being stubborn. By now the only person that had decided to stay was Geoff. He was annoyed. I got to the right hand side of the slope and then tried to put my skis back on, left foot no problems, right foot struggling. Then after the 34th attempt to clip in my boot, Geoff shouted, “Put the binding down!”. He was right, all the time spent trying to put my ski on had been wasted because the binding was in the lock position. I put the binding down with my pole, got the ski on and skied down to Geoff. We then had to ski around to the lift. It was nearly closing time. We were the only two people on the piste. The snow plough had started and was heading in our direction, I avoided it, just and then headed around to the chair lift. It was an amazing feeling rushing down the slope at high speed, semi in control. We made it to the lift and I got an earful from Mr. Barlow. Rightly so too! “You’ve skied down more difficult steeper slopes than that today. You should not have taken off your skis”. Rant over, he moved into his coaching role to get me back to the Hannekham gondola before it closed. The thought of having to do a red run all the way down to the bottom was my main motivation to ski as fast as I could back to the lift. It was a case of ripping down and around 36 all the way down and then taking the rope lift up to the top and voilà, I was home and dry. Getting there was not much of a problem. I kept on my skis, no crashes, well apart from a stumble when I got to the rope lift but I was home and dry. Pav was quite shocked to see me so soon, “Whatever Geoff said worked then!”

My excuse, as we made our way down back to the hotel? As Foxy had opted to go skating with Mel, I thought I would take over as the entertainment for the group for the afternoon. Pav has some great photos of me collapsed on the slope in a heap, which I am sure he has uploaded to Face Book. While some people may have decided that this was not the sport for them, the last hour or so and the mad dash back to the lift has made me eager to come back, hone my technique and finally take on the mountain. The best part was going really fast around a corner as we headed for the chairlift by the igloo village. I was going so fast that the adrenalin was just pumping through my body and I loved it. I want to apologise publicly to my friends for causing them such a nuisance on both the Saturday and Friday of our trip. However, even they will say that there was a vast improvement from me within a week. It is just a case of coming back again soon and hoping the Wycombe Snowdome is constructed as soon as possible. (The trek over to Milton Keynes will be a thing of the past)

We had our last evening meal later than usual as some of the group were busy packing. We eventually went into the dining area around 7.20pm, and planned our last night in Kitzbühel. We had our last drinks in the penthouse suite but there was also a little presentation. Card and medal (of the chocolate variety). After all, on our journey back the following day it was Pav’s 26th birthday! I had returned my lift pass but t_dogg offered his pass so I could go on the night lift up to the top of the Hannekham. Geoff lent me his camera to take some photos and Adele, Em and Mel came up with me. However only every 25th lift was open for passengers so we had a little wait at the bottom station. We then headed up and opted to just not get off and come straight down. The views were impressive but the photos did not come out well, mainly due to the glass. When we got down to the bottom, Adele headed back to the hotel room, she was not feeling too good. The rest of us joined the boys in town. Well we actually got to Highways bar before them and got a round of drinks in. The guys did arrive eventually and I was given a story about Foxy banging a nail into a lump of wood. Highly entertaining, I am sure! In the music bar they had reggae playing, although the stage was setup for a band, they were not due to perform until 12am, so we left shortly afterwards. The options were Flannigans with the Elvis impersonator but I had already told the group he was rubbish. As we walked out the door, Geoff & t_dogg started talking to some local kids (they were 17 and did not get into the Highways Bar). I left them to it and joined Em, Mel, Paul & Pav around the corner. There was a bar on the main “High Street” but we were waiting for the Foxy and Geoff. Pav got a text, they were heading to the Londoner! Great. While waiting outside this bar, Em was approached by some European guys (one black, one white) enquiring about the local night life. The black guy was definitely from the hood, in white hoodie, worn with a baseball cap. He asked Pav if there were any hip hop clubs around, we didn’t know of course and doubted that kind of musical taste would be catered for but pointed him in the direction of the bars and clubs further down.

We decided to call it a night, after all we were going to be picked up at 5.55am for collection to our coach. As I walked towards the hotel, I suddenly realised that I did not have a key so would have to go and grab it from the boys in the Londoner. As I walked around I noticed a black brand new R8 parked up on the side of the road. It already had quite a few admirers. This was the first time I had seen the car on the road. I had yet to see the car in London (although given the probability based on my rather short commute it is somewhat understandable). I wish I had my camera to take some photos but I hadn’t brought it out. It was just a fantastic sight, to see it close up. Black looks extra sexy on this car for some reason! I headed around the corner, into the Londoner, grabbed the key of Geoff as they watched five large Stiegl beers being poured out. I would see them later and I headed back to the hotel. My last night in Austria went out with more of a whimper than a bang but never mind. I am quite sure I will be back!

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