Sunday, 23 November 2014

A magic carpet ride?

First off-whilst this is technically a review, it's not sponsored in any way. No sir - I voluntarily paid £150 of my very own money to spend an hour on a glorified travelator in an industrial unit somewhere east of Reading.

Let me explain...

You see, we're going skiing again. Soon. Very soon.It's been two years since we last went, and frankly, my husband and I are worried that this is the year the kids outdo us and leave us for dust. Well, powder. We're therefore Doing Something About It.This involves a strenuous and tedious exercise regime to get a vague semblance of ski fitness into those over-40-and-feeling-it legs of ours. Jillian Michaels - we hate and salute you and your 30 Day Shred equally.

Jumping up and down in your living room three times a week is one thing, but it doesn't really help with the real ski practice. Which is why we found ourselves driving down the M4 on a wet Sunday afternoon last week.

They've tried their best to bring the Alpine spirit into a somewhat un-Alpine space:

...but really, we weren't here for the decor. We'd booked an hour's "family time" on the basis it would let all four of us have a go unfettered by other people. Whilst £150 sounds like a lot, on a per person basis it works out roughly the same as a half-hour lesson each. (Have I mentioned skiing ain't cheap yet?).

We arrived about 20 minutes before our session, as instructed, and were pretty much left to our own devices - the kids made the most of the trampoline that was set up in the corner and we mooched about the ski shop. With 5 minutes to go, and no sign of anyone giving us any instruction, we picked out what we thought were the right size ski boots for the kids, and got them to put them on, as well as donning our own. Five minutes after our allocated start time, we had to remind someone that we were waiting, and we were finally given some guidance as to which skis we needed. In the end, the previous people using our "slope" finally vacated it, and we were good to go around 10 minutes later than booked. Not a great start.

Each slope can only take 3 people at a time, so adults and kids had two alternating fifteen minute slots each.

I have to say I found it the most bizarre experience, and it certainly took a lot of getting used to the idea of standing still while the ground did all the moving. The general idea is that you turn side to side, effectively skiing on the spot, but this is easier said than done. Despite all being able to ski more or less parallel, none of us managed to get much beyond a basic snow plough position - even Mr Tin, who has been skiing for 30 years... As our instructor said; "If you can ski on this, you can ski on snow", and I'm certainly hoping that we'll have moved on once we do get on the powdery stuff!

Having said this, we all found it to a worthwhile session, which really helped focus on technique and general fitness. While it is expensive, we are seriously thinking about doing it again before we hit the slopes, as Skiplex are running a special offer on family sessions in December. Whether we will or not remains to be seen, as it is still a LOT of money. Anything that helps with a bit of confidence and technique to get the best out of our actual week's skiing has to be a good thing though.

Friday, 7 November 2014

25 years ago today

There are certain events in history that turn out to be those "where were you when" times. They are the events so momentous that you can almost feel the world shifting on its axis.

For example, I always remember my mother telling me she could remember exactly where she was when she heard that JFK had been killed, or when Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon.

I was always slightly jealous about this collective memory of the older generation- an instant talking point that bound people of a certain age together.

In my lifetime, those two events of life-changing proportion happened on a sunny September in 2001, and 12 years earlier on a grey November.

I was on a trip back from Finland when the first inklings came. A group of 20 or so teenagers from the town I was living in visiting our twin town in the frozen North. For cost reasons we made the trip from West Germany to northern Finland by train. Leverkusen, Cologne, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, Oulu, and back again.

A discarded copy of USA Today at Copenhagen train station while we waited for our connection home - "East Germans flood foreign embassies". Prague and Budapest, that was where they were congregating.

By the time we reached home, momentum was building every day. German TV channels seemed to have turned into rolling news channels when this was a concept previously only known to CNN. My history teacher threw out all mention of a curriculum and wheeled a TV into the classroom. " Das, Kinder, DAS ist Geschichte!"

I confess I had to look up what day of the week that 9th November eventually was. A Thursday, apparently.

Ask my husband, and he'll tell you he was hungover on a sofa in an Israeli Kibbutz when the wall eventually came down. I'm afraid my moment isn't quite as glamorous as it too was a sofa, but just that of my parents, at home in what was still West Germany. Now it's just Germany of course, and the cold war seems to have been replaced by another menace. It's easy to be slightly depressed by mankind's apparent inability to learn from history.

Today, therefore I'm remembering a time when peace seemed possible. Here's to hope.

Herzlichen Glückwunsch, Deutschland.


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