Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Farewell Sheldon Cohen

Tuesday brought a horrible reality about living in Africa and South Africa in particular to mind. Sheldon Cohen was the CEO of the company that used to be the majority shareholder in my company and was shot and killed while waiting for his sons to finish their soccer practice. Nothing was taken, it was simply a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time but it is hard to describe what a total and utter waste of a life it is.

If I was religious I would hope and pray that the perpetrators burn in hell but I know that isn't going to happen so I have to console myself with the very slim chance of them being apprehended and brought to justice.

At times like these it is very difficult not to call for the re-institution of the death penalty but this isn't going to bring him back and certainly isn't going to alleviate the very difficult times that his family are going to go through. Retribution just isn't going to dissipate the anger that people are feeling.

Sometime life is just shit. Farewell Sheldon, may you rest in peace.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Oh the irony!

Harping on again about the power situation here is proving to a great, if depressing, topic of conversation. Not the least because of peoples reactions but I can't help but think that this was bound to happen eventually. What I am referring to is that for every action taken there are consequences and sometimes there are unexpected and unintended.

Taking our current situation, Cosatu has been on the safety bandwagon with the mines and, I think, legitimately so for quite some time so when the mines said that they were having to close due to safety issues due to inadequate power - Cosatu couldn't really argue with their reasons. Something else that is close to Cosatu's heart is jobs because, quite rightly, they do understand that without jobs being created, this economy like all others is doomed. Unfortunately, the mines closing is probably going to lead to job losses. Possibly not but it probably will, we can only tell as time goes on. Tracing the cause of the job losses backwards to Eskom we have Eskom and the Government pointing fingers at each other but at the end of the day, it seems to me that the lack of power is not simply a matter of lack of investment as requested in 1997 but a sustained lack of maintenance as well with maybe some unfortunate weather thrown in. I think pretty much everyone agrees right now that there is a strong case for arguing incompetence on the part of Eskom during the last 10 years. Now the question is, how did a previously vaguely competent organisation, as in we have never previously had this scale of problem, get to this point and sooner or later someone is going to put forward BEE or Affirmative Action as the culprit. Of course, Affirmative Action and BEE is also close to Cosatu since they are part of the tri-partite alliance that has been ruling for the last 14 years so if it wasn't, how on earth did it manage to get through parliament.

So now we get to see, does Cosatu value Safety, Jobs or Affirmative Action more.

As a disclaimer in case anyone thinks that I am against affirmative action and BEE, I'm not but affirmative action or BEE without due regard for ability to actually perform the job I am definitely against.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

New album released by ...

The humour is flowing thick and fast, this one was too good not to share.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

More power to ya

A few days ago I received an SMS as follows -

"Bull Run Restaurant guarantees your meal in 2008, despite load shedding, as we are backed up by a generator"

There are several points to note about this :
1. I'm vegetarian and I get an SMS from what can only be a steak house type of establishment.
2. They really should have had someone check the english used in the message. Even I, and this is really the pot calling the kettle black, can see that maybe it needs some work.
3. The restaurant is pretty progressive in using technology to keep in contact with its customers.
4. Having a generator is becoming a competitive advantage in South Africa.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Electricity? Whats that?

While I was sitting at work in the gloom listening to the drone of the generator which unfortunately doesn't power the lights, I came across the following priceless advert by our beloved electricity (not)provider.

The fine print, enlarged below, brings tears to my eyes and if I didn't know better I would have concluded that Eskom had a sense of humour after all.

It's such a pity that Eskom hasn't put anything other than thought into our dire situation.

I wish this was mine

"Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers."
Anonymous from here

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Where I've been ...

It doesn't seem like much does it and I kind of think that I'm reasonably well travelled!

Picture courtesy of World66

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Saturday 12 Jan, 2008

Woke up to the strident sounds of Carons alarm clock which I have definitely not missed at all. It turns out that both Caron and Carl were kept up to all hours with the upstairs neighbour cleaning and packing up. Kirsten and I were blissfully unaware of the bumping, scraping and water noises going on overhead.

I haven't been looking forward to the next day or so of travelling because one never actually sleeps properly, not even in business class as we found out. Georges quote on flying rings quite true, the difference between business and cattle class is proportional to the strength of the sleeping table that needs to be used. So true.

We were packed and ready at 09:00 ready for inspection with Karin but no Karin arrived due to the heavy snow causing a bus to crash so it was only about 09:30 that Karin arrived and we confessed that we had broken the lamp. We didn't really break it but it certainly doesn't work anymore but she was generous and didn't impound out 200EUR deposit which would have caused me to have a serious wobble.

We all went downstairs and waited for ages for a horse drawn sleigh, the girl that was supposed to be helping us proving to spectacularly useless. Eventually one arrived and we bundled Megan and Alistair as well as ourselves onto it for the ride up to the terminal. Fortunately ski-lifts phoned to say that they were running late so it didn't matter that we were also a bit late. From the time we got to the terminal to when Kirsten and Carl arrived, both out of sorts, must have been at least 30 minutes but at least I had spent a little time taking photo's of their progeny.

The trip from Avoriaz to Geneva was too beautiful for words, the following photograph doesn't even begin to capture just how spectacular it was. Everyone was quite sad to be leaving this winter wonderland but it's time to go back and start paying off the trip.

Once we arrived at the airport in Geneva we managed to check our luggage in and drop most of the remainder in left luggage. Carl was very apprehensive about getting the train into Geneva but it sounded like a much better way of spending the six or so hours that we had to kill.

One thing is for sure, Geneva is not cheap. Caron saw a bowl of soup for 12EUR or R120.00. For the same amount at home, both of us can eat a full meal in a moderately upmarket restaurant. It seems that there isn't a lot to see in Geneva bar the big fountain which seemed to be obligatory although it was very interesting to see all the brand names which are so familiar. The interesting bit was that here, it isn't a shop selling Patek Phillipe, it's the Patek Phillipe shop or building itself.

We arrived back at the airport with plenty of time to spare and were quietly winding down the hours when Caron spotted that our flight to Zurich had been delayed which meant we were at risk of missing our flight to Johannesburg. To everyones relief we managed to get on board an earlier flight but our cleverness was shortlived because all we actually achieved was a longer wait Zurich while we waited for all the other passengers from the flight we should have been on.

No such luck as getting bumped up to business class to we had to get used to cattle class again. Bummer. So that is it, the holiday we thought about, saved for and planned has come and gone and now it is time to get back to work. Can't say I am really looking forward to it but I've got to pay for it somehow.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Friday 11 Jan, 2008

Our last skiing day and what a day it turned out to be. Absolutely fantastic. Caron volunteered to take the kiddies to school so Kirsten, Carl and myself headed out at 08:30 which is a whole hour earlier than usual and the first run down Prolay was a hint of what was to come. We were the only skiers on it, nobody in front nor behind us and wide freshly groomed piste so we could carve these beautiful wide turns all the way down. What a feeling!

At the bottom, the miserable lift operator made me take off my backpack which is very inconvenient trying to get onto the lift because you aren't able to use your poles at all with only one hand. As the day wore on I continued removing my backpack and by the end of the day, I had it waxed enough that it wasn't such a trauma but I still prefer just lifting the pack up and hanging it over the back of the chair.

At the top of Mosettes we spent some time videoing the view which is too spectacular for words before we did the red Mosettes run. On the map there are two red runs but where they split, the one looked suspiciously like it had black markings and Kirsten insisted on us doing the red one. Fortunately for all of us, Kirsten was right – it was a black run and I think we would have really struggled. The red run wasn't exactly that easy so we just took it slowly so no problem, just more of a survive than a ski.

From the top of Mosette we did the Abricotine down and like Prolays, it was awesome. Dropping down into Plaine Danse we all ski'd the red run so it definitely gets easier the more times one does a run.

Carl was dead keen on the super tube (La Perdrix Blanche) which turned out to exceed expectations although it almost provided some unexpected humour. The way one runs the tube is that one goes up one side and then turns at the top and then heads straight down which is actually perpendicular to the fall line and then one does the same on the other side. It's a great feeling going from side to side and normally the sides carry on up from where the top of a turn is made but there are a couple of places where it falls away and it isn't always so easy to see this so as I did one of my turns my one leg went right over the fall so I was skiing on the inside leg with the other doing its best to get back onto the piste. Survived it okay but it must have been funny from behind skiing along with a ridge between my legs endangering “La Legend”.

From the bottom of this, we skied Les Coombes and it was fantastic, the ski's biting into the piste as we carved our way down. I don't know what has happened in the last two days but something has really clicked, Kirsten even commented on the nice parallel lines being left in the piste. One last run down Rochassons which I really scooted down, fast but totally in control and very easy. Fantastic, so this is what everyone else sees in skiing. It is one of the most amazing sensations that I have been privileged to experience.

Home for yet another lunch of cheese and olives, I could really get used to this kind of lunch. We went out for a final ski with the kiddies on Super Mozine which was a bit slushy and lumpy but it was still great slicing through it with my shadow, Megan, following me all the way.

We all met George and Yvonne at Duchesse for a final “crepe citron” and “chocolate chaud”. Carl is absolutely wasted, he's struggling to keep his head up so I suggested a quick roll in the snow to get the circulation going.

We went to the same restaurant for another cheese fondue which was just as good, that being excellent, as the last time. We are going to have to try this at home. We had the house wine which was great, in fact all the wine that we have had here has been great. Maybe my standards are slipping.

Back home it was time to start packing up which is a horrible feeling because it is the first tangible thing signalling the end of the holiday.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Thursday 10 Jan, 2008

Our penultimate day of skiing. A very sad fact.

The day turned out to be sunny and warm with a few clouds later on which suited us just fine so we went over to Plaine Dranse again because we enjoyed the skiing yesterday so much. For some reason it just felt like skiing finally clicked and I suddenly found myself actually skiing the reds instead of surviving them. It's a great feeling being able to attack a slope rather than defend one's integrity all the way to the bottom. Having now experienced this, I hope it lasts and that I don't regress next time I go skiing.

Kirsten and Carl seemed to particularly enjoy the U tube run which I think we are going to do again tomorrow. On the ski lift up and out of Plaine Danse I could see the really steep red run we did yesterday and had a birds eye view of an unfolding drama which had me laughing. There was a party of four who really shouldn't have been on the red run but I'm glad they were due to the amusement that they gave me. The first two of the party were stopped about half way down and the third member had fallen about a quarter of the way down but had lost his ski poles above him and this one ski was heading downhill at great speed while the two below desperately tried to get in its path. They succeeded only to have the ski go right through the one's legs and carry on but not too far fortunately for them. Meanwhile, at the top of the slope the fourth one is on his way down to gather the ski poles which, instead of picking them up, trips over him and goes sliding down in a tangle of ski poles and skis right into the third skier knocking him over, again. Just as this is happening another unrelated skier comes haring down and over the edge that starts the steep part fast enough to take off and the landing proves to be spectacular. Ski's flying through the air in all directions ski poles that vanish and the skier slid right to the bottom of the slope which was over about 100m. He just lay there until he went out of view so I don't know if he really hurt himself or not. Best entertainment on a chair lift all holiday.

In the afternoon we all went out skiing on Super Morzine which I enjoyed. Caron is still painfully slow and I think I need to just accept that skiing isn't Caron's cup of tea and that any skiing we do in future isn't because Caron loves it but because I do. This might be why she is insisting that the next holiday we do is going to be a beach holiday – maybe in the far east or something.

After doing Tetras a couple of times with the van der Riets we met Caron at the crepperie at the top of Sarreaseaux for some crepes and Vin Chaud which were absolutely delicious. I had a citron instead of the standard nutella and really enjoyed it. The bill for the table was 35 EUR or R350 for afternoon tea!

Going down Tetras I wasn't exactly going slowly and stopped to wait for everyone else only to find Megan right behind me with the rest of the family out of sight. Megan is the speed queen it seems.

Supper time we had all the left overs from the last couple of weeks which meant a rather eclectic meal. Kirsten got a bee in her bonnet about making chips which she did at great effort and I must say that they were absolutely perfect.

By 20:30 everyone was exhausted and just hanging in there waiting for 21:00 so that we could retire. Skiing tires one out more than one realises which is one of the things that I like about it.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Wednesday 9 Jan, 2008

We are all definitely getting used to skiing because getting ready in the morning is getting a lot quicker so we met George at 09:30 at the bottom of the button lift where Kirsten and Carl had dropped the kids and George had dropped Nathan.

We had decided to go over to Plaine Dranse which is quite a nice area for skiing but I have found it a bit nerve wracking firstly for the ski into the valley which can only be done on some quite steep red runs and the ski out is on this miserable blue run which I just detest.

The red run into Plaine Dranse was steep but manageable and Kirsten, Carl and myself find ourselves on the brink of being able to ski red runs rather than survive them but I suspect that it may take some time to get over the brink. The run from Plaine Dranse down to Pre La Joux is absolutely fantastic and we did it I don't know how many times and enjoyed it every time. I think that it was particularly great because, while it was snowy and dull, the conditions underski were great.

It was really nice to go whizzing past beginners at what to them must be a great speed and feel totally in control. Before we knew it, it was 11:30 and George, Kirsten and Carl had to head back to pick up their respective offspring while I stayed behind to do a couple of extra runs. The one, La Perdrix Blanche, turned out to be like a long super tube which was actually quite fun but by 12:30 I had done enough and I headed home.

The dreaded blue lived up to my memory and I didn't enjoy it at all, I did however survive and made it home where everyone had kindly kept some lunch for me.

The weather had deteriorated so we spent most of the afternoon reading or if you were Caron and the van der Riets, sleeping. Kirsten and I were sitting in the dining room when a very grumpy Caron burst through demanding to know why we hadn't answered the person knocking on the door. Problem was that there wasn't anyone and she must have been hearing some other flats door but this was enough to put her into a bad mood for a few hours so everyone did the sensible thing and avoided her.

In preparation for the evening supper we went to shopi to buy some provisions and on the way met an enormous great dane which was tied up outside shopi and would periodically bark which would echo through the shop. The french, like the english seem to have a love affair with dogs, even taking them on holiday. Besides the great dane we've seen greyhounds, huskies, jack russels, saint bernards and many other breeds for which I don't know the name. You've actually got to be careful in some areas because of the dog shit and quite where the owners put them overnight is a mystery. We're in what is considered an enormous, palatial apartment and it is only just 50m2.

George, Yvonne and Nathan came over for supper and some action scrabble but unlike home where you just kind of assume that you have enough chairs, crockery and cutlery, this is not an assumption that one should make here so we ended up sitting on bedside tables and step ladders. The table fortunately expands but although we had enough forks we were shy on the knives and plates. After a very enjoyable supper of macaroni and cheese or macaroni and bolognaise sauce we played a couple of rounds of action scrabble which everyone seemed to enjoy. Caron, Megan and I were playing as a team and Megan must have lucky fingers because we got both the wild cards in both of the hands that we played.

We had bought some pre-cooked crepes from shoppi for pudding which turned out to be less than successful but was saved from disaster by big dollops of Nutella.

I think everyone enjoyed the evening perhaps because it gets some outside interaction and personalities into the mix which is always, at least mostly, a good thing.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Tuesday 8 Jan, 2008

A very unusual start to the day. Normally I am up first and Megan shortly thereafter but this morning Carl was the very first one up. Of course there was a reason, it was 08:00 which meant that Megan and I had overslept by 2 hours which meant that I slept for a whole 10 hours. Thank goodness for the skiing because otherwise I would be an insomniac and arrive back from holiday as sleep deprived as when I left.

The start of they day was a little rushed between getting kids ready, breakfast and the daily diary and backing up of photographs and GPS tracks but by the time the kids school started, we were all ready for a trip over to Switzerland with Kirsten, Carl and myself. I forgot to turn the GPS on so the track only starts at the top of Ripaille but the route there was Tour, Prolays, Mosette, Mosette Chairlift, Abricotine and an unnamed run down to the bottom of Ripaille.

The Ripaille runs were so enjoyable that we did them both several times and a couple of times we took video footage of us descending which is very revealing as to how well one ski's. From there we headed down to Les Crosets but stopped on the way there for some Vin Chaux, served by a very good looking waitress, and ended up talking to a couple from Strassburg which none of us even know in which country it is. They were very friendly and it was great chatting to them. They noticed that although we were speaking english, we didn't have the normal accent so they wanted to know where we were from.

We did the crosets red run which I went down way too fast, not quite out of control but damn close to it. From there it was up Mossettes and down Abricotine and back home for lunch. It was an absolutely fantastic day out with bright sunshine and quite good skiing albeit a little bit icy.

After lunch things got interesting because I decided to do the Marmotte field which is a blue mogul run. When I got to the top I had a choice of a red mogul run or a blue mogul run, almost all the people were doing the red one but since this would be my first mogul run, I took the blue. This was a big mistake as I very soon found out. At the altitude that the mogul run was there had been quite heavy snow and then with the rain there was a nice crust of ice on top which my weight was just able to break through so I was actually skiing just under the top crust of ice and if I put any more weight on the downhill ski in order to carve, the tip would simply go under the crust and sink which means that I was catapulted forward head first into the snow/ice. After the fifth dismount within about 200m I had had enough and I took the ski's off and trudged down to the red run and sulked while I got my humour back. After a while I put my ski's back on and coped reasonably well with the remainder of the red run. Depending on how I feel tomorrow, I might come back up and do the red run from the top. Maybe.

Headed over to join Kirsten, Carl and the slinky chain of two kids on super-morzine for a while before calling it a day. Carl saw a t-shirt which had an arrow pointing up and another pointing down, the one up was labelled “The Man” and the one down “The Legend” which led to all sorts of mirth after supper with Carl making a memorable comment about “Not wanting to blow my own ...” as his voice petered out when he realised what he was saying.

While I was taking this photo, I could hear the waitress behind me cackling with mirth at this tourist, I mean, taking a photograph of a t-shirt! Really!

No tobogganing tonight but we did pop out to get some crepes for pudding for the adults. The kids had been spoilt by Caron at lunch time with two crepes each. Lucky things.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Monday 7 Jan, 2008

It's raining! After a really good day or so, it is now raining which means all that nice powder snow is turning to slush which doesn't make for the most fun to ski on. The weather is still pretty miserable so we all stayed indoors until after lunch when it cleared up a bit. The weather predictions are amazingly accurate.

In spite of the inclement weather the children were bundled off to ski school and Kirsten and Carl retired to the flat where they proceeded to fret over whether they should have send the kids out when they themselves weren't going out due to the weather. Eventually they were feeling so bad that they went to fetch them and they arrived home dripping wet. I'm not looking forward to tomorrow morning when all the water will have frozen and it will be slippery as hell.

By this time, we'd all been cooped up in the flat for it felt like ages and I was starting to get cabin fever. It's this uncomfortable feeling and you just don't know what to do with yourself, this is simply solved by a good dose of outside activity – weather permitting of course and therein lies the dilemma.

We decided to go for a walk and SMS's george and yvonne to find them at a cafe quite near our building so we joined them for a drink.

We joined Kirsten and Carl for lunch and then we were back on the slopes. We decide to try bleue do arare with the kids but it was terrible. It felt like it was my first time skiing, I was all over the place but fortunately so were everyone else and in these conditions everyone decided to retreat to Super Morzine where we all know the runs well and we wouldn't have to contend with difficult conditions as well as poor visibility.

We had a wonderful afternoons skiing where the poor snow conditions were compensated by the ease of the runs and there was a fantastic sunset to bid the day farewell as we made our way home, cabin fever a thing of the past. Having it for only a day, I can understand why Sweden has the highest suicide rate in the world. I just can't imagine being cooped up for 6 months of the year.

After a supper of hamburgers, or in my case, fish burgers we all dressed up and went out tobogganing again and this as surely as day follows night led to a snow ball fight. The problem was that with all the rain, some of the snow balls were more like ice balls and there were a few injuries. Kirsten and Carl were hiding behind some mesh which made them awkward to aim at. Nevertheless I managed to get Carl on the ear with the remains of a snow/ice ball after it had penetrated the mesh. Of course I managed to get Megan in the mug again which produced a small amount of tears before she once again decided that getting even was much better and started throwing with real anger.

We wanted to have crepe's for pudding but the creperie was already closed so we retired to read and drink.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Sunday 6 Jan, 2008

It's still snowing which means that it has been snowing for almost an entire day and there is about 15cm of new snow on the ground. Unfortunately is isn't the greatest snow being halfway to sleet so it turned out to be a bit slushy. It seems that in snow, like in so much else, there are subtleties that aren't apparent until one actually experiences them.

While Kirsten and Carl were dropping the kids at school, Caron and I went shopping at Shoppi which is the local supermarket about 50m from our block of flats. It was amazing how many brands we recognise, we just can't understand the labels so thank goodness for the pictures. Overall, I think that food prices are maybe a little more expensive than home but some things are cheaper and some more expensive so it really depends on what you are actually buying. Kisten bought their whole family really nice polar fleeces which were just over half of what they would have paid for the same article in Johannesburg.

After Kirsten and Carl had dropped the kids at ski school we headed out with the intention of going up Mosettes and then skiing the Abricotine but the mossettes lift was closed so we headed over to ski Le Crot instead which was quite nice if a little slushy. By the time we got to the bottom of Le Crot, it was getting really wet and there were patches of water on some of the flat spots near the cable car. After Le Crot we decided to do Bleue de Arare which proved to be quite difficult because we ended up skiing in a near white out which, if you haven't done it a lot, is very disconcerting. You can't see just about anything, you can just make out the edge markers of the run as they whizz by but you definitely can't see the slope nor any moguls so it makes it ultra important to be skiing properly. If you're doing it properly with parallel curves and your weight and your knees correct then it is amazing how you can soak up the unexpected bumps but if you get it just a little bit wrong , it starts to be spectacular. After one run Kirsten and Carl decided to call it a day and went home, I did one more before doing the same.

Found Caron still at home having sensibly not ventured out so we had lunch and then spent the afternoon reading and relaxing but towards the end of the afternoon we all started getting a little bit of cabin fever. Kirsten, Caron and I went for a walk, ostensibly to go shopping but on the way we popped into the information centre and discovered that there was going to be a dog sled race in and around town which would explain all the barrier tape that people have been putting up.

We returned and fetched the kids to take them up to where there was an Indian village with teepees and huskies.

Took some nice photographs of Megan and one of the huskies which was totally white with these pale blue eyes. I think it was love at first sight for Megan and I can see some awkward discussions ahead between Megan and Carl about taking the dog home.

Also took some nice photos of the sisters, I think, dressed up like squaws that were part of the display. I tried to bring her home, for Tony of course, but she pretended to not understand english and I just didn't know how to put 'mail order bride' into french!

At about this time things went pear shaped for Alistair who projectile vomited all over Kirstens hand and beyond so there was this patch on the snow of evidence but before long people were just walking all over it. Kirsten went home with Alistair while we watched the start of the dog race. The sled dogs were all lots smaller than I was expecting but you can see that they really enjoy the run because 4 hours later when they were finishing, they were still game to run.

After supper we, those that weren't sick or nursing sick people, dressed up and went tobogganing as well as watched the end of the dog sled race. Megan is really taking to the art of snow ball fighting, she even carried a stash on her toboggan so she could lob them at Carl as she went past. Of course that invites retaliation and I hit her with two snow balls on the head as she skittled past. I don't think I've ever been that accurate, my ability to throw accurately is normally abysmal. The second snowball was right on the nose and you could see the start of tears before she sucked it in and decided that getting even was a much better plan. The tobogganing was great fun but you have to really watch out because they are really only under marginal control and we saw a number of spills which kept us all amused, especially when they wrapped themselves up in the kiddies rope lift.

We watched the end of the dog race which seems to be a really big thing because it was on national television with live coverage of the end of the race. I think Kirsten and Carl are going to be hard put to get out of buying an entire dog sled team for Megan.

Home for coffee which Carl made which was very nice of him and bed.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Saturday 5 Jan, 2008

The morning started as every morning has with me writing up my diary while the coffee percolates and the water boils for the morning tea. It has traditionally been my time of peace and quiet but lately I've had two savages who hide behind their door and as soon as they hear me making any kind of noise, like opening the door, they are out to come and watch me. They have been inordinately fascinated by my fishtank screensaver which they can watch for ages. Alistair has been amazed at how fast I dial which translated into adult speak means type.

Today is travelling day for Heidi and Darrell and my parents which we don't covet at all for two reasons. Firstly, it means that the end of the holiday is nigh and secondly travelling just isn't that much fun. Kirsten and I went up to help with the luggage which is just as well because they had an amazing amount of it. Once most of it was down I phoned the taxi service, picked up the last little bit of luggage and by the time we got outside the taxi was already there. That is too efficient for words but I think that it was more coincidence because about 5 minutes later another taxi was wandering around outside obviously looking for a party.

We said our final goodbyes and they were off, the wrong way so we waited outside for a few minutes before we saw them tearing up the road on the other side of the village centre heading in the right direction. A last wave and they were gone.

We took our time having breakfast and getting ready before we all headed out. We happened to meet Jean Paul with another student from South Africa who happened to live in Hurlingham, a stones throw away from us. The Van Der Riets soon left us far behind so I spent some time trying to help Caron start parallel turns. I think that the problem is that she is terrified of going out of control everytime her ski's point downhill which is every turn so we tried doing J turns where for a brief moment her ski's point downhill. It sort of worked but I think Caron will have to practice loads.

We met up with the Van Der Riets at Carons favourite crepperie where everyone bar myself had crepes and either hot chocolate or Vin Chaux which is becoming a firm favourite. Had some fun with the video camera filming the expressions of delight as people munched their way through their crepe nutellas.

We all headed up to Coombe a Floret which would be Carons first real run outside of the Super Morzine area. This proved to be a mistake and it almost scared Caron witless and it took almost 45 minutes to complete the run which normally takes less than 5 minutes. Very frustrating but I can remember standing at the top of the same slopes thinking that this can't possibly be the slope but it is. At one stage, caron was side stepping down a steep portion but then later on skied down an even steeper portion. Very unhappy camper and that was effectively the end of Carons skiing for the day.

By this time the weather was really coming in, loads of snow and fairly strong winds so along with Caron and the van der riets headed home while I headed out to super-morzine where I know the runs fairly well which makes it much easier when you can't really see where one is going.

I did Tetras and Zore and Les Germes I don't know how many times. I kept on getting to the top of the lift and thinking that I'd do just one more and then I'd go home because the conditions really weren't great. For some reason I seem to enjoy it when the conditions are a little challenging but it sure makes you have the correct posture because without having the correct posture, it is just impossible to ski. I finally dragged myself home at 16:30, I'd thought that it was about 14:00 and I had promised to help Caron with the washing. Needless to say I was late and as Carl put it, I'd better prepare for some words.

I had a brief bite to eat before heading down to the laundromat. There isn't much to actually do using the laundromat but I think that it was more for moral support rather than actual help. Walking back in the snow was interesting because walking in the pisten bully tracks it is obvious that they exert far fewer kilograms per square centimetre than a person does.

Had supper before we played individual scrabble which I am not really that good at given my spelling inability. I should really play it more often because I am sure that it is good for the brain.

Crashed at 22:00.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Friday 4 Jan, 2008

Everyone woke up really late, I was the first up and I only woke up at 07:30 so everything ran really late. Darrel wanted to do yet another marathon but it wasn't to be for me so he left for the day on his own. I think that he is really savouring his last real day of holiday because tomorrow is a travelling day and travelling with three kids doesn't sound like much fun to me.

After getting children off to ski school which has to be just about the best invention as far as parents are concerned, Carl and I ventured out for the first time since he put his shoulder out. We ran Coombe a Floret and Prolays several times without incident and Carl coped quite well. It's not like we were motoring down but we weren't exactly going slowly either. I think Carl really enjoyed Coombe a Floret even though the end of it is a bit icy and nasty. I think that maybe I should be starting to speed up a bit instead of being so cautious.

We all met Jean Paul on the plateau and we were off with him leading and showing us little things that make the difference. In particular keeping one's body straight and more or less upright and bending one's knees forcing them into the front of one's boots. I did my boots up really tightly today and it definitely felt a bit better. We were on the ski lift and Jean Paul was speaking to a friend of his and wished him “bon chance” which apparently means “Good luck on getting laid” which started Carl off laughing which extracted a guilty look from Jean Paul. "I see you understand a little french!" he said after the call was finished.

A couple of hours of this and we were all tired so we retired for the afternoon. Caron arrived back from her mornings ski just before us so she was quite tired as well. It sounds like Caron is ready to take the next step which will be great.

During the afternoon, apart from Darrell taking Alex skiing and the Van der Riets going off for a little while, it was famdamily afternoon. Heidi and my parents were very worried about the lift from Avoriaz to Geneva because I hadn't received the confirmation SMS. I phoned three times during the afternoon and each time go the same reply that they were still working on the schedule until finally at about 18:00 we received an SMS confirming the pick up time.

At about 16:30 the children went down to the ski school to get medals which turned out to be quite nice and surprisingly, only about half the children received medals. I really would have thought that all the children would have received but the instructors obviously really do watch the children's skiing and only dish out medals to those that crack the grade.

Supper was a combined affair with the whole family eating pizza's and the children watching “Happy Feet” for the I don't know how many time. Darrell seemed very grumpy and only arrived when supper was just about finished and kept pretty much to himself.

By 21:00 I was ready for bed, my eyelids closing involuntarily.

Tomorrow should be a really good day because it is change over day so the slopes should be relatively empty.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Thursday 3 Jan, 2008

Woke up quite early this morning and by that I mean at 06:00 so I had some time to really catch up with writing and transferring GPS tracks as well as photographs which was quite nice. I must have been really early because Megan wasn't hiding behind the door waiting for me to turn a light on. She seems to have very different sleep patterns to Alistair.

I wasn't intending on doing another marathon day today but Darrell definitely wanted to go to Switzerland and it is always much nicer skiing with company so it was off to Switzerland we went. We left at 08:30 which means that we had to wait for some of the lifts to open. The one button lift picked me right off my feet before hurtling me forward. The route that we took went over Cubore and the run down the other side to pick up the chair lift to the top of Grand Conche is appropriately named Mur du Cubore which means “The wall of Cubore” - it is *&%^ steep, by far the steepest red run I have seen. I sort of fell on the way down but it was really more like a lie down.

Me with the dreaded "Mur du Cubore" in the background. Yes, it really is that steep.

On the button lift there was one section where you were basically hanging off the button and somehow Darrell go his ski's mixed up and ended up being dragged the remaining 25% of the lift. Very funny from my view as he bounced his way up the track. The run down the other side into Switzerland brings back very bad memories. I did it the second or third day last trip and that meant that it was basically my second or third day skiing and it is very narrow and icy with a nice drop on the one side. This time it was a walk in the park, it wasn't as icy and I think just having done more skiing it was very easy. Amazing.

Once in Switzerland we spent some time going up and down Ripaille because we enjoyed it so much, these blue runs are really fantastic with some nice bumps in the middle to speed over. This was our first encounter with T-bar lifts this year and true to form, one of us, in this case Darrel, got his jacket hooked and almost wiped out. Great fun and once we had done these a couple of times we did the Grand Paradis run which was absolutely fantastic. We stopped at this tiny crepperie half way down the steeper section which was the antithesis of the commercial crepperies. Very cute and picturesque. The rest of Grand Paradis was a bit of a dog because it involves lots of polling but because the entire valley is always in the shade there was loads of snow on the trees and very pretty.

The Grand Paradix ski lift was awesome, very unlike the typical Swiss lifts. It even had a perspex bubble canopy which encloses the entire chair keeping the elements at bay. I will have to revise my blanket statement about Swiss chair and button lifts.

Once we had dropped down into Les Crosets we couldn't help but go up and do the run under the chair lift which was fantastic. We saw some slalom skiers on the next run practicing, they make it look so unbelievably easy and the speed at which they descend is quite amazing.

At the top of the Abricotine I had an awkward incident, I was going down and this kid forced me to go straight down. I had a big drop on my right about 2' away, and the kid on the left also about 2' away and I couldn't slow down even using a snow plough because it would have knocked the kid over. Normally you just speed out of these situations but there were quite substantial moguls directly ahead and I didn't want to take them at speed with limited manoeuvrability but in the end I didn't have a choice. I was shouting "left, go left" at the kid but he obviously didn't understand me. Darrell, about 2m, away was killing himself laughing.

We got home at about 13:00 having done close on 50km of skiing, including chair lifts of course. Quite knackered so I spent the afternoon with Caron relaxing on the deck chairs and reading. We also spent some time looking for gift for the kids at home.

We were all going out for supper but before that we took the fireworks that caron had purchased and went up to the plateau to set them off which the kids seemed to enjoy. Actually the adults seemed to enjoy it as well jumping around doing the spitzen sparkelen firework dance.

The supper was absolutely fantastic, a cheese fondue in the these surroundings just seems to be the right thing to have. The cheese that they use is called Vaucherin and we are going to have to find some at home. Heidi and Darrel came back to our flat for some coffee afterwards but by then I was so tired that I was nodding off so I retired to bed and left everyone else to enjoy the rest of the evening. Darrell was a bit tense at supper because he, like it seems everyone else, spends the last couple of days of a holiday winding up for work.

The view at the very end of Grand Paradix

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Wednesday 2 Jan, 2008

The day of the big trek over to Morzine. Darrel, Kirsten and I decided to go all the way over to Morzine to check out the skiing there so we were pretty much the first people on the lifts and the sun had only just risen on the higher points. It was great being the first down the runs and it was just an absolutely fresh beautiful day.

It took us and hour to get from Avoriaz to the top of the lifts in Morzine where we decide to have a look at Les Gets which turned out to be an absolutley fantastic days skiing. We even did a few red runs which aren't quite as severe as the red runs around Avoriaz so we coped with them quite well by which I mean, we skied them rather than survived them.

We stopped for lunch at the top of La Rosta which was great, great view, great food albeit a bit expensive. It worked out to be 24 EUR for 3 panini's, two hot chocolates and one Vin Chaux. For some reason things seem more pricey at Morzine, probably to catch all the brits that seem to have invaded here. I was talking to one who told me that he had purchased an apartment for 500 000.00 EUR. Ouch, although I find it hard to believe.

The one red slope we all enjoyed so much that we did it twice, the second time a bit too fast. I went flying past Darrell on the edge of control but managed to keep it all together long enough to slow down. By 13:30 I was starting to get tired and I know that the accidents happen when one is tired so I and Kirsten, thankfully, were keen on heading home. Darrell, on the other hand, just wanted to keep on going and going. I think that he sees his time here running out and he want to do as much as possible so it was a little tricky to cajole him into cutting the afternoon short.

We met everyone on the plateau where Megan and Alistair were practicing on the kiddies slopes. Once the kids had finished we all went over to Le Yeti for some crepes and Vin Chaux. A crepe and a drink each cost 50 EUR and there were only 6 of us but it was very good sitting out there watching the sun go down sipping my Vin Chaux and snacking on a Nutella crepe.

The Vin Chaux went straight to my head and when we got back to the flat, Caron forced me to have another glass so by the time we went up for supper at Heidi and Darrell's I more or less rolled up where I was offered yet more wine, how could I refuse. I should have known that there was going to be an intellectual discussion regarding religion, started by Heidi I might add. I only seem to have these interesting discussions when I am barely able to string two sentences together and now I have to try and spar with both my father and carl who can both more than hold their own even when I haven't been handicapped by the red menace.

After supper all the adults, the younger one's at least, went for a walk around town which looks fantastic at night. They light up the mountain so you get this wonderful scene where the mountains for a backdrop behind the brightly lit town.

Carl and Darrell were looking for a restaurant to take us all out to tomorrow night. I don't want to see this bill but they have been warned. We had a bit of a running snowball fight, again started by Heidi which relieved some of the tension built up earlier during the discussion regarding religion. A restaurant was finally selected and we all buggered off home.

Tonight has been the first night that I haven't been desperate to get to bed by 21:00 and I was still merrily reading “The Long way Down” after 22:00.

The following is Caron and my bedroom, note the wall to wall mattress!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Tuesday 1 Jan, 2008

Another year rolls by, I don't know whether to be happy or sad that they go by so quickly.

The morning started at about 06:00 which is still pitch black here with some inconsiderate moron who can't tell the time setting off a whole lot of crackers.

We had breakfast and then Caron and I headed out and down Proclou and up the Sarusseaux chair lift. I ran Q'mont while Caron went down Tetras and we met at the crepperie for a hot chocolate. We must have been the first customers of the day and we sat on the balcony in the clear morning air and looked out over Morzine and sipped out chocolate. Quite fantastic.

I left Caron to her own devices and went off to meet Jean-Paul for our lesson and was standing in the queue and bumped into Kirsten and Heidi who just happened to be standing in front of me.

Taking lessons is one of those dilemmas where what they tell you, you can read in a book but what they show you, you definitely can't. Especially the little bits of off piste that they show you, Jean Paul showed us a great area near Lindaret which was great for some relatively easy off piste mogulling. Very benign and loads of space which always makes things much easier.

Kirsten distinguished herself on one of the chair lifts when Jean Paul asked me :
Par les voux francaise?
To which I answered :
Jean Paul then looked at kirsten who answered :
Un petit pour.
Which translates to “a little pea” which had Jean Paul chuckling away although we didn't see the humour until much later.

Now I just have to try and put into practice what we were taught which is not as easy as it sounds.

The lesson finished at 13:30 and Kirsten, Caron and Carl went off with the kiddies toboganning while I spent some time trying to practice, careful this afternoon to get back well before the sun went down. The sun here is weird, it never really rises properly, it just sort of skirts the horizon between 08:00 and 16:00.

Had macaroni cheese for supper and were in bed by 09:00. I'm getting so much sleep that by the end of the holiday I should have a lot in reserve. Carl is coping much better with his shoulder and the possiblity that his holiday may have ended than I would have.