Skiing is a funny old thing. You enter a little micro-climate for the duration of your holiday. You make friends and you exist entirely in your own little world. The outside world seems exactly that, outside.
We are skiing this week in Garmisch, a German ski resort. Having been brought up skiing in the French, Austrian and Italian Alps, Germany is a different and quite wonderful proposition. It is clean, ruthlessly efficient and full of polite law abiding citizens. Perfect for someone quite so British as myself. With the exception of the food which is quite frankly disgusting unless you are a 12 year old boy with a passion for Frankfurters. However, as the sun has dutifully shone all week and they have merrily served me beer and alcohol throughout the day I will drop this point.
So who is here? Not Matt, I have left him guarding the vision at home. Ed, the boys and the grandparents. A good ski holiday mix. 3 young boys to routinely scare their mother. Ed, my ski buddy and the grandparents to lesiurely breakfast.
Day 1, the boys were packed off to ski school, the sun put it's hat on and Ed and I found our snow legs again. Beautifully pisted slopes meant a great mornings skiing.
William returned from ski school fit to burst, he had spotted the grandparents on the slopes who had finally emerged from breakfasting. He wasn't quite sure what he had witnessed. "Granny was skiing at like 3mph and Grandpa looked like he was sitting on the toilet, OMG" squeeled William and then collapsed in fits of laughter onto the floor. George returned having face planted that morning and looking like a war hero with blood stained clothing and face. "It'll make a man of him" said Granny. William 1. Granny 1.
That afternoon, we set off as a team of 7 to conquer the mountain, I offered to lead a nervous Granny, only for her to be cut up by a small snowboarder. I held back only to watch the small child fall directly in front of me. Only the fall turned into something more serious, the child was hurt and alone. I jumped out of my skis and assessed the situation as a newly qualified first aider, what more could the child need? On a serious note, the child needed help, so I sat and helplessly spoke English which he didn't understand. However the wonderful world of sign language meant that before too long I had commandeered German skiers to form a ski barrier around us and the blood wagon arrived with the mountain paramedics. The child nestled into me as he was bandaged and prepared for the wagon, language was no longer a barrier and I wiped his tears as he was driven away.
The following morning, Ed and I set off for what looked like another great days skiing. First run down is a super red, I led, I was feeling good. I reached the bottom, turned round, no Ed. Gosh he was slow this morning. A few moments more. Ok really where has he gone? I look up to see the familiar vertical crossed skis. Ed had crashed into the barrier by the chairlift. Eventually he limped down and I took him straight to the first aid station to be bandaged and then feed him a beer. I'm sure that's what the manual said to do.
Granny and Grandpa rolled breakfasting into lunch that day, so I was left in sole charge of 3 overexcited boys while Ed recuperated with his beer. The best solution seemed to be to frighten them on the timed slalom race. I have to admit, I was really scared too. Freddie went first, being the smallest and clearly the least scared, I went last in case I needed to mop up any more casualties, I was getting good at that. It was totally exhilarating, the best fun, I've had in ages. It turns out I'm a bit of a speed junkie. Oh and competitive too. None of the boys could beat me. They even took me down a black run to confirm this.
At the end of the day, we rolled home to our hotel which has a wonderful spa. Just the tonic after our antics on the mountain. Let's have a sauna boys. William was keen so we sloped off. We clearly had forgotten we were in Germany, and as such, they are just not British. Saunas are both mixed and naked. Quite a life experience for William.. Well what goes on tour...
We were excited, properly excited. We had done it, we held it together week after week, in cold, uncomfortable conditions and passed our instructors course. I think even the less experienced could have predicted what might have come next. We fell apart.
Saturday came and brought the first aid course, a compulsory part of the instructors course and the final piece of the jigsaw. Could we meet at 8.30am. Sorry, 8.30? Haven't you been reading my blog, I'm quite tired, I've been very busy and would quite like a lie in with a cup of tea and several rounds of Candy Crush. Sure I'll be there. Secretly I was looking forward to a few rounds of CPR and the recovery position. That mixed with a few chest thrusts, that always causes a few giggles had the makings of a decent day. It did, but I was tired and the afternoon was a more sedate affair with more class based work. The highlight ended up with the chance to save Tom after his motorbike accident. Phil controlled the procedure reading from his book whilst I lay on the floor holding Tom's head to much amusement all round.
Now there's Rich. He has been helping my son and his friend learn to sail their 29er. A quite frankly ridiculous boat. Rich has an insatiable desire for life, so despite my best efforts to meet at a sensible 1pm on Sunday, Rich was having none of it and we met at 9.30. My date with my bed was going to have to wait another week. Up, off and out we went. I didn't feel brilliant, my voice had pretty much gone and I was definitely tired.
Once the boys had been set in motion, Matt and I agreed to sail the 12 o'clock race together in the vision. We signed on, smirked and lept in the boat. We had a certain pride to maintain. Matt's daughter Abi was racing, as was William, George and Simon. We meant business, we discussed our start. We planned to fly over the start line, starting from way back and crossing as the starting gun went. The one minute gun sounded, we pulled our sails in tight only for the wind to die and we drifted over the start line in last place. Great.
We began to pick up speed and gain places until we sat in 2nd place, we were mightily pleased with ourselves and even congratulated each other on our fine sailing, course made good and all that. That was until a young boy named William took it upon himself to teach us the rules of the road. "Starboard" he shouted. Sorry, William, what happened to ladies first? "Starboard", the little grinning face repeated as he held his position firm and pushed us off course. So there are rules. I thought that Mother rules trumped all. I had hoped to shout our loud, "Your mother coming through, please keep clear". But no, it appears that isn't acceptable. Really?
We limped over the finish line, last, just as we started.
Were were pretty broken, our voices had finally gone as our glands throbbed. But we were happy. We sail because we love it and we love to support those around us. The sun did shine all day and now I'm finally off to bed to play Candy Crush.
This weekend was the big one. It mattered. Could we hold it together for the moderation day on Sunday? We had without doubt given it our all. Our poor families had been abandoned for our G14's, countless biscuits and the visions.
I woke on Saturday morning with sore shoulders from sailing the day before. Ed had long left with George for Hayling Island, so I liberally applied deep heat to my shoulders by myself. I admit it wasn't the easiest of tasks, I roughly sprayed it in the right direction, the smell drove the cat out, so I opened the window. I quickly changed and took a quick glance in the mirror as I left the room, only to discover that my entire body from face down was bright red. I stood and stared for several minutes to decide whether it was rising further. Deep panic rose inside. Could I die from deep heat over application? Should I tell William to phone the emergency services? Who would notice? I reeked of deep heat, was a little itchy and I was late.
It it turns out I didn't die but I did smell and itch all day. We had a great day on the water, backwards sailing, rudderless sailing, sailing close to the wind, we meant business. The sun shone and our spirits soared. That evening was our club's annual rigging out supper. Usually a great event, with fine food and top speakers. Preparations were in full swing, so the only space left for our final debrief before moderation was the ladies changing room. We sat on the benches amongst wet bags and dripping showers and it was boiling. The heating was on full for the evening, I was getting very itchy again.
We we had an hour to go home, change before the rigging out supper. The guest speaker that evening turned out to be our moderator for the next day. So we needed to be on our best behaviour, keep a low profile and not to giggle during the speech. Keeping a low profile has never been my best attribute, so we managed not only be introduced, but additionally to be continually referenced to throughout the speech. Marvellous.
The following morning I woke at 5am after a fretful 4 hour sleep, this time Ben Ainslie failed to meet me in my dreams. I tried to visualise land drills and remember key points. I gave up, put my light on and cuddled my G14. The sun rose, it was a stunning morning. My heart was raced making the simplest of tasks difficult.
Driving along the Warwick Road, my brain emptied itself. People noticed, I heard constant cries of "Smile, Jane". I must have looked very vacant. I didn't want to smile, I had a score to settle with sailing and I needed to focus. I met Matt and Phil and as we rigged and prepared, our nerves collectively jangled, we struggled to remember our own names even. The wind was light, the sun shone and we seemed race through the drills and we were done. Pause. Breathe. Relax. Smile. No, none of those felt possible whilst we waited to hear the outcome. The Sunday racers drifted into the club, we ate more biscuits and waited.
We gathered for the debrief, I think I may have held my breath. We passed. Momentarily stunned into silence, none of us spoke. Matt croaked a quiet thank you. I wanted to cry. It had been a long hard process, something we had thrown our hearts and souls and possibly a little more into. We sat at the bar, watched the late afternoon sun dappling on the water and raised our glasses to all those who had helped us along the way. We were exhausted, broken, a little itchy but we had done it.
I've always been a bit of a giggler. If you are a fellow giggler, you will understand that all you need to do is look at someone to start. I remember being sent to stand in the corridor for the duration of a French lesson for giggling. Last night at the end of a long weekend's course we got the giggles.
This weekend, we had a full course schedule with downwind sailing, gybing, presentations, single handers and leading sessions. As I collected the boys from school I set my mind to the week ahead. Look, shouted Freddie. It's snowing. Seriously? In that case I'm having a second glass of wine.
I decided the best policy in this scenario was to ignore the weather forecast, layer up, take a deep breath and get on with it. Tom was away, so we had 3 abreast in a Vision practicing Gybing in a range of gusts. Matt and I have become fairly attuned with each other in the boat, we can read each other and generally balance each other out. Apart from the odd cry of "Come on, be brave Jane" we generally bob along. The introduction of Phil in the boat and with one of us at all times having to sit in the Instructor Position, our equilibrium was broken. I fear Phil may have been surprised by my relentless commands of "Get in, No, out, out, out". Matt poked his head through the falls and as ever, giggled.
Our second day, was in the single handers. We had a mix or Hartleys, Picos and Teras. I sailed Barts Bash in a Tera and spend the majority of weekends rigging them for my sons so I was particularly looking forward to this. I was hoping to bide my time, happily taking the Hartley and waiting for my moment of glory.
My time came, Matt's coming alongside session involved me taking the Tera. I stepped in, it did seem smaller than I had hoped. Where to put myself? Sitting on the side is the best position, however this did cause the boat to tip so I opted for the kneeling in the middle option. The boat had water in the bottom so I immediately soaked my legs and felt the cold water seep through my wetsuit to my legs. Deep breath. Time to tack. Woah. The boom knocked my bobble hat off at the same time I entangled the main sheet round the tiller and pulled the tiller extension off. I whistled for help every revolution as I did a multitude of 360's lying in the wet boat. I was out of ear shot, so I had to deal with this myself.
The day ended with knots. Bowlines, clove hitches, round turn and two half hitches. Could we do a rolling hitch? We were tired. We sat crossed legged on the floor with a rope rigged under the whiteboard to do this. I caught sight of Matt, a smirk. The smirk grew into uncontrollable giggles. We were done.
I'm not really one to watch the weather forecast. My youngest Freddie has always been entranced by it, he rather likes Carol. I'm more of a look out of the window and wing it type of girl. On Sundays however, I open my window to see how much breeze floats in.
Well that's all changed since I've picked up the sailing baton. I watch it like a hawk. It is going to a be a westerly? That's dastardly at Olton Mere. How strong? Oh how I obsess with those BBC wind arrows that shoot up and down the country.
This weekend was going to be a windy one, with Twitter and Facebook reports of races and squads been cancelled, my blood pressure was slowly rising. I had agreed with my sailing pal Matt that we would race the Vision in the Icicle Series. No. Wimping. Out.
I woke on Sunday morning, I'd been dreaming of sailing with Ben Ainslie. It was good. We even managed to dance the waltz that evening to celebrate. I opened my bedroom window, some habits die hard. My paper flew around my bedroom, my nerves raced around my body like an electric shock. Man, it was really windy.
I arrived, rigged, joked and laughed about my dream and we set of in the Vision. My heart felt like it my burst. God I was nervous. Matt is an excellent sailing partner for me, he largely laughs his way round the course and you can't help but join in. We survived the first race, one capsize. Nothing to write home about.
We walked into the clubhouse like conquering heros. Nothing. Seriously guys? Right, clearly we were going to have to do the 2nd race to earn our stripes. Deep breath, wee and chocolate and off we set again.
The winds seemed to have picked up even more. One monster gust and bang, over we went, I leapt onto the centre board, small moment of glory, the boat came up and Matt climbed in. Smiles. Timing possibly wasn't our finest virtue as we executed the second part of the capsize, as Matt pulled me in a we caught another gust and I was sent headfirst into the water closely followed by Matt. Oh crickey that was proper scary. I wanted to cry, this was a Daddy moment. Where was he?
We survived, but after final capsize of similar proportions with another headfirst dive we called it a day. Once back at the pontoon, Matt lay down too exhausted to move. Had we earned our stripes? Oh yes we had.
I've never been very good with the cold. I deal with it by firstly curling my hands into a ball, then into my jacket, followed slowly giving up and crying. It's worked as a general rule up until now.
I remember being 8 years old, with 2 frozen plaits whilst skiing, frozen, really frozen. A few tears, quickly enabled a Daddy hug and a hot chocolate. That's how it works.
This weekend was going to be a game changer for me. It was set to be one of the coldest weekends this year and I was due to spend all weekend out on the water, Saturday as a crew member on a coaching rib and Sunday I had my Instructors Pre- Assessment all day. I was going to have to man up.
I had a couple of tools up my sleeve however, one was in the form of a lovely Volvo XC90 that I had won for the weekend which sported the greatest feature ever to grace a car, a heated steering wheel and secondly an Olympian dose of Adrenaline..
My husband sat in bed on Saturday morning and mused, " Oh listen, the weather forecaster has just said, you'll be fine as long as you have plenty of layers on and you stay out of the wind!". Fine, I could achieve layers, I'm past worrying about looking fat in cold situations, hiding from the wind on a rib in the middle of a lake and on a sailing boat would prove to be tricky.
We set off, the temperature gauge in the car read zero, I clutched my warm steering wheel hoping to infuse some heat into my hands and my body. Soon, way to soon, I found myself out on the water looking for my inner brave. The coaches were looking for help, not tears. First job, could I tie up the wet painter at the front of the boat. Seriously, did they not know that that involved getting wet gloves which would translate directly to frozen hands? Yes of course, no problem.
Predictably, it didn't take long for my hands to get cold but as I watched these young kids pushing their boats hard, falling in the water, smiling, laughing, fighting their way for top spot, I felt humbled. If they could cope so could I.
Sunday, dawned a new day, a fresh breeze and a good dose of Adrenaline and a freshly dried pair of gloves. I set off for the Sailing Club tightly gripping the warm steering wheel of my now beloved XC90. It was going to be a tough day, passing this was going to be no breeze for me, no pun intended.
I arrived, the others were already rigging the boats so I went off to prepare the rescue boat. Deactivate the alarm, check the boat for safety equipment, get the fuel tank, start the engine. I tugged at the cord, nothing. 20 tugs later, nothing. I was conscious that time was pressing and the assessor was on her way, I willed, I prayed, I tugged nothing. The only thing to do was to swap boats and start again. This boat had several inches of water in, so I had to pump it dry before I could start the process. I tugged, nothing. Man, this weather. Finally after 20 minutes of starting I got the engine to go, in my excitement I had forgotten to undo the alarm and set off in reverse with the alarm still attached. A sharp tug, I fell backwards into the boat. Thank god I was alone.
I was warm with my many layers and I had started to sweat, small mercies I think they say. We set off on the water with my heart in my mouth. For the next 7 hours, I tacked, gybed, hiked, laughed and didn't give one thought to the cold.
I passed the assessment, delighted beyond words. I also passed another major milestone, I finally learnt to deal with the cold.
Today I woke with a battered face and finger, I have no recollection of any incident on the water and I fear I may have an adrenaline low. The XC90 and its warm steering wheel are going back home. Thanks for a great weekend.
I've spent the last 13 1/2 years of my life worrying, it's not easy being a mother, even less so of 3 vivacious boys.
This weekend I was teased heartily for taking a safety boat out to ensure that my son and his friend had cover whilst learning to sail their 29er. Cries of they will be fine, what's the worst that can happen? In my head. Lots. That's what we do mothers, worry.
Possibly what they had failed to realise was that I'd been sailing that morning in a Hartley 12 that was heavily reefed to counteract the gusts and crazy winds of Storm Imogen. Reefing the boat meant that I couldn't point up to the wind and I ended up parallel parking against the dam wall. My knees were bruised as was faith in my sailing ability.
My son, my baby, now aged 13 was taking this beast of a boat, which was utterly unsailable in my newly adjusted opinion. I mean what could go wrong. If I could only crouch in a heavily reefed learner boat, what hope did they have? Entanglement, cut heads, bashed limbs, ok, let's not go there..
I ignored the remarks and set off in the safety boat. My, Oh, My. What a spectacle! The boys had the most exhilarating sail, they caught the gusts, massive smiles beamed across their faces as they trapezed and hung out of this truly ridiculous boat. They capsized lots. Were they hurt? No. Did they need me? Once. The mast was stuck in the mud and I needed to give them a gentle tug out of it. That's 1 - 0 I think doubters. I was clearly required.
Seriously, we won't always get it right, we only try our best. I thought the worrying would lessen with age, as it turns out, it only gets worse as they try more demanding things which are beyond my personal ability.
Bring back the days of endless jigsaws, CBeebies and sticky fingers. No chance. I'm firmly in the camp of terrified mother.