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And so it begins

February 5, 2008

I woke up yesterday still consumed by a particularly foul mood. Not even the picture postcard surroundings, puerile banter, and relentlessly, terrifyingly happy Canadians had done much to cheer me up. So it was with no small amount of insouciance that I got back into my boarding gear, tied on those bloody boots, waited for Dave and Bingo, and then made my way with the boys to the Whistler gondola.

We had planned a fairly unambitious first day back; a trip to the top of the Whistler gondola, no chair lifts, certainly no drag lifts, and then the easiest route back down the mountain. It seemed like a good plan…

Heading up the side of the mountain, my demeanour soon started to lift. I was back. I’m not a natural boarder by any stretch, and I’ve only been once (it’s hard to count this), but it’s something I really enjoy doing. Strapping a plank to one’s feet and hurtling down a mountain isn’t something that anyone should be able to do, yet it’s something at which I’m ok. The physical discipline of boarding is enjoyable enough to me; add in the magnificent scenery and the cameraderie, and it becomes a splendid pursuit. To not enjoy the gondola ride up the side of Whistler on a beautiful sunny day with a freshly-waxed board, and three great friends would be simply inhuman.

When we got to the top, the view was spectacular. Everyone was bounding around with a smile on their face, and—for the first time in days—my worries seemed behind me.

The boarding was great. The snow was soft and forgiving, and turning came back to me pretty much straight away. Dave was good, Aggles was significantly better than he was the first time we did this, and Dec—the toe-side taoiseach—was still so enamoured with the sight of the mountain that he decided to spend the whole day staring at it. The choice of the easiest route down the mountain was, however, not a good one. The Whistler map marks the easiest route, but perhaps a corollary should be included, namely “for skiers”. While I’m sure that seemingly endless flat traverses are fine for even the least talented of skiers, for me they’re hell. Not really being great at keeping up the necessary speed to glide long traverses on a board, and with no sticks to push along with, there’s no way of building up any momentum, so I have to kind of oscillate my way along the flat, trying to creep my board forward until I reach a bit with enough of a gradient to get me going again. It’s awful, and it hurts.

At lunch, Dec headed off for a private lesson, leaving me, Bingo, and Ginger for a few [gravity-assisted, this time] runs before heading back down the mountain to watch the superbowl. I stayed in the flat, in the hope of getting a bit of sleep, which meant that 5 hours later, after Dec’s return, when Dave and Aggles poured themselves back into the flat uttering gibberish, Dec and I were the only sober ones. All was not lost, though. Aggles had spotted a mexican restaurant—called Caramba!—which seemed like the perfect idea. We went there, ordered a round [of Corona], got seated amid the Mexican-themed decor, and had a look at the menu. Not one Mexican item on there. Unless you count pizza.

After a hearty [roast] dinner in which we found out two things about a drunken Dave—to keep your arms and legs clear of his mouth when he eats if he’s a bit tipsy, and that he’s got by a distance the worst chat-up lines ever invented—we retired back to our rooms. Andsotobed.

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Without a paddle

February 3, 2008

My normally jocular friend Ant is somewhat down today and 10 hours sitting beside me in Economy probably hasn’t helped. So given his morose blog post I thought it necessary to come up with something cheerful.

We were chatting earlier about how amazing it is to have breakfast in London, lunch over Newfoundland and tea as we watch the sun set over a surprisingly cold looking Pacific. I’m writing this post from my seat on the coach that is winding its way from Vancouver north to Whistler along what is known as the Sea to Sky Highway. The road hugs the coast for around 70 miles before heading inland to Whistler-Blackcomb.

Looking out the bus window the views are nothing short of spectacular. Tall, snowy mountains tower over countless coves and inlets as small ferries chug back and forth as, what I imagine are geese, bob around close to the water’s edge. The views from the balconies of the expensive looking houses dotted precariously on the hillsides must be breathtaking.

Night is beginning to fall here in British Columbia and we’re still not at our hotel. We’ve been up for about 22 hours now and it’s starting to tell. Once we arrive we need to pick up our boards and maybe have a quick recce of the village. Ant has just turned around from the seat in front of me with a childish grin and declared that we are entering the town of Furry Creek. Maybe things are not that bad. Not bad at all.

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An eight timezone grumble

February 3, 2008

We’re in Canada. Just waiting to leave Vancouver Airport on the Whistler Express, I can safely say that I’m in a bad mood. Considering the broad spectrum of bad moods in which I’ve found myself over the years—and there’s been a few—I can safely say that this stands proud atop all of them. It started a clear 18 hours before we took off, and shows no immediate signs of abating. Not even a 10 hour flight cheered me up. So, as overly long introductions go, what I’m trying to say is that by no means is this next passage written in anything approaching good humour. If that bothers you, I don’t care. Being a grumpy old sod affords me that luxury.

The trip for me started a bit earlier than it did for the other boys. Living on the opposite side of town from Heathrow, I stayed at Dec’s trendy West London flat on the Friday night. I bade farewell to my pad on the Essex Riviera with a spring in my step, and won’t be back until the best part of another two weeks have passed. Now that we’re stop-starting our way through the Vancouver traffic, this trip is starting to feel a bit real. Whatever happens in the next 11 days, it certainly promises to be a memorable trip. I’m glad to be away from England, I’m glad to be on holiday, I’m glad to be snowboarding again, and I’m glad to be here with the same bunch of close friends who made the last trip such an unforgettable experience. Yet this burgeoning contentedness finds itself overwhelmed by the rampant bad mood from which I’m trying—and failing—to extract myself. It’s a losing battle for now, but hopefully—maybe tomorrow—things will get better.

This is so frustrating. As much as I try to settle in to the journey, to enjoy watching a new city roll backward past me, to take in the spectacular scenery, and to sit back in eager anticipation of this trip to which I’ve looked forward so much, all I currently have on my mind is that I’m in a terrible mood. The trip last year allowed much time for pleasant introspection, contemplation, and enjoyment of the moment. Right now, I fear any second in which I may unwittingly slip into a moment of introspection, as behind that door lays Ant’s Bad Place. I suppose the best approach for now is to write about something a bit more upbeat; to take my mind off of the godawful funk in which I find myself mired.

Bugger. Can’t think of anything. As such, I’ll—mercifully, perhaps—end this post for now, and try to be more positive next time.

Grumble.

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Condescending to Snowboard

January 27, 2008

Holla to my homeboys.

It’s possible that during your life, inbetween snorting paprika off the bellies of eastern europeans and deflowering 50-year old welsh women you may be called upon to perform a service for a friend without payment (or, ‘favour’ as it may be classed). In my case, despite being adored throughout Europe as a doyen of the slope on skis, I have been asked to travel to El Mundo Nuevo and teach some poor benighted peasants how to descend a slope on a plank of wood in ways that can only be described as ‘not backwards’.

This duty is solemn to me. I know the task is arduous and fraught with danger (or Pease’s ass falling on one’s face as it is commonly described). But I’m dedicated to it and I swear to each and every one of you, my dedicated readers, that I shall make snowboarders of them, however rotund, right wing or ruhginger that they are.

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The Merry Band

January 26, 2008

L to R: Ant, Dave, Dec & Aggles

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Four go forth

January 6, 2008

Real men go on real holidays. Real men spend their winters hurtling down mountains strapped to flimsy, laminated layers of fibreglass and wood with a steel edge. Real men fly half way around the world in search of mountains with the perfect snow. Real men get up at dawn and trek up the mountains to ride virgin slopes before the lifts open. Real men spend après-ski drinking neat whiskey while chewing on K-rations. Real men, however, are not the kind of men you are going to find amidst the posts on this blog. Actually we’re not even sure if the following are even men:

Ant (aka Mushy) (aka The Doctor)
Well known in chemistry circles as a complete and utter charlatan, Dr Ant is perhaps best known for his 1665 treatise on the origins of the mythical Guinea Pig Man. Having being sent down for undisclosed charges in a Dutch criminal court, he promptly escaped to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by The Institute of Chemistry of Great Britain and Ireland. Proceedings, 1919. Part I, he survives as purveyor of herbal remedies to HRH the Duke of Edinburgh. Never destined for great things, Ant will spend the forthcoming holiday being extricated from snow drifts and teenage girls.


Aggles (aka Bingo) (aka Flo) (aka Dickie “The Dick” Dickinson)
The bastard son of a Danish social democrat and TV’s Cheech Marin, Aggles was, from his conception in a Volkswagen camper van in 1960’s northern California, doomed to be a left-leaning, bleeding-heart, overly-hyphenated liberal. Having spent his formative years propping up socialist regimes in South and Central America, Bingo has since settled down to a life of quiet contemplation in his beloved Putney where he likes to work on his Inigo Montoya impersonations. Usually one to bolt for the hills at the first whiff of a faceplant, Aggles will doubtless resort to skis about 17 minutes into this trip.

Dave (aka Ginger) (aka Ladykiller)
With a personality coming in on the colour spectrum somewhere between beige and taupe, Dave is perhaps best remembered for butchering his entire house at Harrow with little more than a soft bristled toothbrush and the sharpened edge of his wit. Always the bridesmaid and never the bride, Ginger’s dressing-up wardrobe has never been able to stretch to the full matrimonial outfit. When not xxxxxx xxxx-xxxx in xxx xxxxxxxxx Aggles, Dave is generally to be found stalking the public schools of England brandishing his Oral-B. Depressingly adept on a snowboard, one of his erstwhile travelling companions is bound to do him in sometime around Day 4.

Dec (aka Oddball) (aka Accident Prone)
With a background more inbred and right-wing than that of the Swiss Family Robinson, Dec is never more than three sentences from a full-blown international incident. While probably more at home in his spiritual home of the Alps, this child of empire will doubtless feel at his ease in the Queen’s Dominion of Canada. Always one to shy away from a fight, this Irish-born, girlie man will doubtless have severely injured himself by the time our motley crew reaches baggage claim. Look out for him on the slopes because he sure as hell won’t be looking out for you.

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The difficult second trip

January 6, 2008
Yohimbe!

The Godfather had The Godfather: Part II.
Alien had Aliens.
Blacula had Scream Blacula Scream.
And lo, it came to pass that sevendaysofgaysontrays is to have SHOUTYboughtaringinstead.

We’re doing it again, and this time, we’re doing it bigger and better than before. Where the last trip lasted a week, this time, we’re off for 10 days. Where last time we stayed in Europe, this time we’re off to Canada. Where the weather last time was positively balmy—in an alpine sense of the word—this time it’s going to be sodding freezing. Where last time we went as novice snowboarders, this time we’re going as novice snowboarders who can turn in both directions. Except those of us who can’t; you know who you are.

As things stand now, we’re all booked up, and counting down the few weeks which remain. Having ridden my luck somewhat last time round, featuring one wipeout in which I swear I tasted my collarbone, I’ll be padding up somewhat more for the big trip. The gloves from last time served me well, however I feel that my natural arsepadding might be in need of some unnatural augmentation. Having seen the comfort and panache afforded to Dec whilst enjoying an Aasgaard-enhanced Mexican meal, I fear that my life may not be complete without one. Having seen the weather forecast, some kind of thermal underpantery may well be in order too

So, short of some posterial padding and some lovely clingy leggings, all the kit that I bought for last time should still be valid. All I have to concentrate on now is not knackering my knees, back, or face in any of my three remaining rugby matches—a tall task after a 100-minute extra time cup tie yesterday—and everything should be good. I’m sure that there’s absolutely nothing else at all which could go wrong.

Nothing.

Nada.

Zip.

Oh dear. We’re all going to die. Again.