Sunday, 20 April 2014

Les Menuires


This time last week I was on the ski slopes of France.  Like any longed-for trip, it all came and went far too quickly.  My daughter and I wasted no time at all in getting onto those slopes.
            ‘Where do we go from here?’ asked Eleanor as we were coming to the end of our first day on the mountain top.
            ‘Les Menuires,’ I replied.
            ‘There are no signposts by that name.’
            ‘Yes there are. Look,’ I pointed with a ski pole, ‘there.’
            ‘That says Lez Manure.’
            ‘Well that’s where we want to be.’  I gazed around cluelessly.  We’d wanted to ski to Meribel earlier but had somehow ended up in Courchevel.  That’s the great thing about skiing – there is a very large area to explore.  Just don’t get lost because one mountain has a tendency to look like the next.  Needless to say, we did find our way home eventually.
            The trip had started off with high anticipation.  I’d deliberately booked a chalet with a rose-tinted dream of sitting around a scrubbed pine table making friends with like-minded people, buddying up on the ski slopes, and generally having a giggle.
            Eleanor and I set off for Gatwick Airport at 4 a.m. with a spring in our step.  There was a moment of angst on the plane when I realized I hadn’t put on my in-flight socks.  Okay, they were actually surgical stockings from a spell in hospital last year, and I was being a cheapskate recycling them.
            ‘Flip,’ I said to Eleanor as the plane began to rumble down the runway, ‘I’m not wearing the surgical stockings.’
            ‘Does it matter?’
            ‘I don’t know.  Possibly.  My legs were swelling up after every flight last year.’  Memories of nearly being denied a trip home from Crete had my stomach knotting.  ‘I think I’d be happier if I had them on.’
            ‘Well put them on,’ Eleanor hissed, ‘but hurry up.’
            Now putting on a pair of long surgical stockings under a pair of jeans when you are sitting in the middle bucket seat of an aircraft isn’t the easiest thing to do.  Not unless you are six inches wide and more bendy than a gymnast.  Which I’m not.  There then followed a lot of ankle grappling and muttered oaths as I creaked my feet up to my nose, wrestled with the surgical stockings and elbowed the woman to my left more times than was polite.  By the time I’d got the stockings on I was dripping with sweat.
            ‘Done,’ I muttered to Eleanor.
            ‘Pull the legs of your jeans down, Mum!’
            ‘Ah, yes.’  I leant forward and pulled the denim down.  Regrettably the surgical stockings rolled down with them.
            ‘Now what’s the matter?’
            ‘They’ve fallen down.’
            ‘They can’t have fallen down.  They’re skin tight!’
            ‘They got caught up with the denim.’  I hoiked a leg up onto Eleanor’s lap.  ‘Look.’
            My daughter lifted the hem of my jeans.  A very neatly rolled surgical stocking greeted our eyes.
            ‘You’ll have to leave them like that.’
            ‘I can’t do that!’ I gasped.  ‘They’re miles too tight like this.  They might cut off my circulation or something.’  Visions of black ankles drifted through my mind.
            ‘Then take them off,’ said my daughter in exasperation, ‘and put your socks back on.’
            ‘Good idea.’
            There then followed more huffing and puffing as I pulled the wretched garments off, much to the irritation of the woman sitting next to me.
            Now what’s wrong?’ asked Eleanor.
            ‘I can’t find my socks.’
            ‘Well they can’t be far away because you haven’t gone anywhere!’
            Cue more contortion as I went into the brace position and peered under our row of seats.  Two striped cotton socks were under my neighbour’s chair and j-u-s-t out of reach.  Meanwhile the aircraft was now in the vertical position having left the runway.
            I came up for air, hit my forehead on the chair in front and was nearly knocked out by a dinner tray unfolding on my head. ‘Terribly sorry,’ I said to the tutting woman next to me, ‘but you appear to have my socks.’
            She gave me the sort of look reserved for the mentally unhinged before reaching down and gingerly picking up my socks.  She dangled them between thumb and forefinger before depositing them in my lap.
            ‘God, Mum, you are so embarrassing.’
            ‘I know.  It’s embarrassing to be so embarrassing.  I think I ought to disown myself.’
            ‘Can you now just sit still?  Please?’
            I sat still.  For about thirty seconds.
            ‘Oh for goodness sake, what’s up now?’
            ‘I want to read my Kindle.’
            ‘Well read your Kindle.’
            ‘It’s in the overhead locker and I’ll have to ask the woman sitting next to me to move.’
            ‘You really know how to annoy people, don’t you?’
            So after a bit more faffing involving the woman next to me shuffling in and out of her seat, a rucksack falling on her head – yes, mine – retrieving the Kindle and shoving the rucksack back, oh, and then my ski jacket because all this Zumba in an aircraft had once again left me hot and bothered, the woman next to me finally sank back into her seat to enjoy the rest of the flight.  By that point, of course, it was all over and we had to disembark.  I never did get to read my Kindle.
            At the chalet Eleanor and I oohed and aahed with happiness.
            ‘Look!’ I said pointing to the large scrubbed pine dinner table.  ‘It’s just as I thought it would be.  I can’t wait to make friends with the others.’
            Unfortunately, the large scrubbed pine dinner table was the only thing in my rose-tinted dream that actually came true.  That evening, half the people who trooped into the chalet and pulled out chairs to sit down to our three course home cooked meal were most definitely not our ‘cup of tea’.
            ‘Hello,’ I smiled at two of the women, ‘I’m Debbie.’
            Clearly this came out as something totally different.  Possibly it sounded like: Hello, I’m an alien wanted for hijacking a number of starships across several galaxies.
            One gave a tight smile back, while the other just stared.  Seemingly they didn’t ‘do’ women like me.  They also gave the cold shoulder to the single mum and her two young boys sitting at the far end of the table.  They sat grimly hanging on to the arms of their own partners presumably lest I and the single mum grapple their men away from them and ravish them there and then on the scrubbed pine table scattering crockery in all directions.  A heavy silence prevailed.  Awkward or what.
            Our chalet maid set steaming bowls before us all.
            ‘Ooh, yummy,’ I said brightly to nobody in particular, ‘homemade vegetable soup.’
            At this point the two married women were suddenly my best friends.  They apparently couldn’t abide vegetables and were more than happy for me to eat their soup too.  So I did.  The next course was salmon with masses of broccoli.  Suddenly my plate was full of greenery.  However, that was as far as the friendship went.  The women let me and the single lady know that under no circumstances could they abide children, or pets.  The single lady and I did later exact revenge by whipping out our mobile phones and sharing our pictures of respective children and pets.  All five hundred of them.  Revenge is sweet.  Which is more than I can say about those women.
            On the last day, one of the men helped me wrestle two vast suitcases down the chalet’s wooden staircase.  Judging by his wife’s expression, she wasn’t happy.  Her mouth took on the sort of shape that resembled my dog’s bottom.  I gave her a neutral smile and wished her a pleasant trip home.
            It is the Law of Sod that when you want to get away from someone, life has a joke and makes sure you are thrown together.  Of all the people taking that packed flight home, who was sitting next to me?
            ‘Quick,’ I whispered to Eleanor, ‘give me my surgical stockings.  I want to put them on.’
            ‘I’m having a déjà vu moment,’ she sighed.
            Which reminds me.  What do you call this second moment of déjà vu?  Déjà two… What do you call being on the same plane as before?  Déjà flew…  What do you call a woman who doesn’t like you? Déjà moo… What do you call elbowing the woman next to you? Déjà ooh…  
What do you call lost socks under an airplane seat?  Déjà poo…  What do you call a menopausal hot-flushing passenger? Déjà phew… What do you call an exasperated daughter? Déjà disowning-yooo…
           

                       

 

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