My husband was 50 this Christmas. A ski-ing holiday was his idea of a good present; ski-ing holiday is my idea of a contradiction in terms – an oxymoron, if you like.
We had a Ski-ing holiday a few years ago. The first night the chalet we were in burned down and we escaped with only minutes to spare. It explained why half the population of Morzine was outside, in the freezing air, screaming “Allez! Vite!” at three o’ clock in the morning; why the other half looked on in amazement the following day while I stood in the supermarket trying to work out my bra size in centimetres (good Irish Catholics don’t mind going through Geneva airport in pyjamas and a ski jacket but I’m damned if I was going to travel without a bra).
Two year later, we braved it again. On the second to last day, I had a series of text messages – my father had had a stroke, he was stable, he was unstable, don’t worry, come home quickly…and no idea which came in what order. We drove home. Thankfully, he’s made steady progress over the ensuing years and so, when Birthday Boy said what he’d really like was a week’s kamikazi bolting down mountains and teenage sons did their oh Mum, what do you mean tempting fate, I mean pur-lease routine, I fell for it.
Until we got to the top of the first chair lift. On the first day.
There we were, all kitted out, on the top of a piste in heavenly Saalbach after a fire free night, having ascertained that all the relatives and even their neighbours were in good health and I had a panic attack. Convinced that something dreadful was imminent I struggled woe-manfully (ie, like a complete wuss) through the week, coping with the terror only by diluting it in generous measures of gluwein at every opportunity.
And nothing bad happened. The weather was glorious, the hotel (Neuhaus) flawless, the bones intact and the lift broke down only once. That was on the last day, the day when I was feeling so good I went up on my own. Just as I skimmed the highest trees it ground to a halt, deathly silence all round and the only people I could see were my husband and sons whizzing underneath, oblivious. Then the loudspeaker on the pylon beside me crackled into action, in German. I don’t know what it said but the first words were, ‘Achtung! Achtung!’ and the rest sounded ominous. I have seldom prayed so hard…
Twenty minutes later we were off again and I can honestly say that the speed with which I travelled back down that mountain broke records.
The following morning we had a leisurely breakfast then wandered over to ski hire to return the equipment. Once the exhausted credit card was slipped back into the wallet and the efficient Austrian doors whirred open to let us back onto the street I was elated. Safe! It was over! I could pack and go home! Hurrah!
Then my mobile bleeped. It was a message from my dear friend, Sue. It said, Call me when you get this.
(to be continued……)