Wednesday, 24 February 2010


There is a level of humiliation that accompanies the execution of outdoor pursuits that I have to hope, despite everything, is beneficial in some way. My most recent skiing experience is not only causing me considerable physical pain, but mental anguish too, as I struggle to weigh up its merits.

We had set off gamely from a cosy sea-side hytte, determined to make the most of the never-ending snow all around us. We ploughed up a hill at speed and arrived at the top, sweating and panting. Before us lay an undulating landscape of white which glittered beneath the bright winter sun, great rolling snow fields smooth as a freshly-iced Christmas cake. We skied and skied and skied. With miles of landscape entirely to ourselves, this seemed to be exactly what langrenn skiing was all about.

Then the trouble started. I KNOW that what goes up must come down. I just didn’t know the coming down part was going to be impossible, and so sore. I foolishly assumed a downhill skier could use her cross-country skis on a downward slope with ease and suave efficiency.

I was wrong. It was a disaster, carnage. I fell, and fell and fell. Every time I struggled up again, I fell even more inelegantly. I had snow up my arms, round my neck and down the back of my breeks. Eventually I realised the only way was to give up on style and bend forward, in imitation of some kind of cartoon-postcard version of a skier. Cool it was not.

But there was worse to come. Reluctant to go the long way home, we discovered a neat short-cut. However, this new route involved the negotiation of a fence, a nasty fence, complete with three fiendish levels of barbed-wire. A gap was formed between the wires, through which the children whizzed without difficulty. The TA managed with alacrity and then stood there patiently forcing the gap between the barbed-wire strands as wide as possible for me to ski through.

‘Surely I should take my skies off,’ I suggested weakly.

‘Don’t be ridiculous. Waste of time. Avante.’

I managed to shove the skis through with my feet still attached, but the rest of me was quite another matter. My torso appeared to have gained and extra ten stone. I couldn’t move. I was a sprawling, flailing, helpless wreck, skis in the air, poles lunging. My body was working itself further into a deep snow-hole while a vicious looking strand of barbed-wire threatened the back of my thighs.

I lay back and paused for a moment’s quiet reflection. For heaven’s sakes, what was I doing? I used to be a proper person with a grown-up job in a shiny office - I used to wear a pencil skirt and kick-ass heels and people did what I said – and look at me now, a helpless, endangered dork. By way of comfort, I tried to imagine various members of the Great and the Good in a similar position. How might our leaders cope with such indignity, our captains of industry, our politicians and most honoured celebs? I convinced myself the occasional dose of mortification could only be a good thing. The intoxicating glow of power, money, high-office would surely be tempered by a regular return to humility. The trick of being able to keep one’s feet on the ground is as rare as a non-skiing Norwegian. The thought was marvellously comforting. I sat up, inspired.

I must add of course, no Norwegian would ever be caught in a similar pickle, having spent a life-time dealing with fences in thick snow while wearing skis, but I sense if such an occasion were to happen to one of the ‘high-ups’ in this country, they would cope with calm, admirable, Nordic efficiency.


  1. Thank you, Jane. Made me laugh out loud, and silently express my gratitude that I don't ski! Fi

  2. Fi
    I thought you were surrounded by snow over there. You will soon have skiing forced upon you, whether you like it or not.