My wife's god daughter has really captured me and my wife in this drawing. Even though she has spent more time on my wife's hair and purple hands, it is surely the impish grin, smaller stature and seeming gleeful Rumplestiltskin style leap of joy that shows she knows more about me than I do. Thanks Ellie.
We flew to Geneva at lunchtime, meeting the friend whose birthday we're celebrating at Gatwick and then picking up various others in our party in Switzerland, whilst others arrived later. Six of us got a mini-bus from Geneva to Chamonix and then up to the little village where our chalet is situated. I had been to this area before as a 10 year old, when I'd been on a school trip (and I think I'd come back to Mont Blanc with my parents a few years after that). Then we'd seen Chris Tarrant by Lake Geneva, who had run away when I (a dedicated Tiswas fan) had shouted "It's Chris Tarrant". He had deftly gathered his family, jumped into a car and was away before we could reach him. I am impressed with this fan-avoiding skills now, but at the time was disappointed that he didn't want to meet me, when I enjoyed his work so much. I had always hoped I might be someone's phone-a friend on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and when he said, "Hello, Richard, this is Chris Tarrant," I was going to act surprised and say, "What, from Tiswas?" He'd no doubt chortle that little friendly laugh of his (that I know, due to his behaviour in Switzerland in 1978 is as false as three of the answers on his board) and say, "Well, yes, I used to be on Tiswas." Then I was going to say, "What are you up to these days?" Again he'd gurn to the camera, but this time you'd be able to detect a little genuine annoyance on his face and he'd probably say, "Oh, I am just involved in a little show called Who Wants To Be A Millionaire." I might make some comment wondering if it was a reality TV show and wish him luck on his quest to make that much money, but then I would say, "I saw you at Lake Geneva in the late seventies and shouted your name and you ran away. Why did you do that Chris? Why? No, you can't phone a friend."
But alas I never got to be anyone's phone a friend (I think Al Murray might have asked me, but I couldn't guarantee being near a phone at the time of recording. (I suspected I might have already told you this story and indeed I have. If you want to see it in a slightly different version go here).
The other memory from that school-trip was of course driving past a wooden house near to the France/Swiss border, spotting a pretty young woman on the balcony and waving at her, and having her wave back. As we drove out of Switzerland and into France I fancied that this might have been the very road we drove along. There were certainly houses like the one I remembered. Would I see my French girlfriend again? Now she'd be in her 50s, but my love was not a shallow one based on youth or appearance, but a true connection of souls. I told my wife that I was looking out for this woman and that if I spotted her and she waved back again then obviously I would have to annul our marriage and go and live with my first love. My wife seemed to think our marriage contract took precedence, but she doesn't understand anything about love. I imagine that the Frenchwoman has been waiting for the thirty-odd years for my return, standing on the balcony, rejecting any other suitors and never having a family. But I didn't see her on the balcony today, so I think she might just have popped into the bathroom when I passed. Or maybe thinking about it I was looking at the wrong side of the road. I think we were heading into Switzerland, not away from it last time. Ah well. I'll be back in 2048.
Up in the mountains the snow lay deep around our chalet. It's been a while since I've been on a communal holiday and I don't know most of the people I am here with, but we're getting on well so far, even if it does feel a bit like being in the Big Brother house, especially given that half the people are sharing the loft (and I have put cameras in there and am relaying the feed on to television). My wife and I have got our own room though.
And interestingly for me there is no internet in the chalet (or seemingly anywhere near our place of abode). It will be the first time for years that I will spend a week without pretty constant access to the web. I will be writing the blogs though, even if I can't put them up immediately. And maybe it will be good for me to largely get away from something that probably takes up a bit too much of my time. Weird though!
It's a disparate group ranging from stand-up comedians to professional sky-divers. At dinner I discovered that one of my chalet-mates works for the Prince of Dubai. The Prince has his own professional sky-diving team and this tall and super fit guy is in it! I asked how professional sky diving competitions are judged, imagining that the judging panel had to jump behind the athletes, perhaps all sat at a little table with its own parachute. Or is there a referee in a black and white striped top who sky-dives above the action, looking for infractions, pointlessly blowing a whistle if he spots someone doing something wrong. But apparently someone just jumps before or after the skydivers and films them from above and below and the judgement is made from that film. Which is a bit dull. If the Prince of Dubai wants to employ me to spice up the skydiving world a little bit then I am available. I'd put in some sharks with parachutes or maybe put the skydivers on horses (but the horses wouldn't have parachutes). I am sure I would also work out some Me1 Vs Me2 skydiving action, were it not for the fact that all the Mes are too scared to jump out of a plane (aside from that one time when I was attached to another man).
A couple of us have never skied before, whilst others, like the sky-diver, are super proficient. I think we might have the whole spectrum of bravery represented here, but as I remarked at dinner there was no way to guess as yet who would be braver and more daring skier, me or the professional skydiver. Only time would tell.
No skiing today, of course, though we might have a lesson tomorrow afternoon. I don't know if it will be my thing and I suspect that I am not going to be as much of a party animal as my chalet-mates and it's going to be hard to keep up with the diet (though hopefully the skiing should burn off some of the cheese and wine that I consumed tonight. I am slightly tentative about the whole thing and there was a sign that this might not be my forte when I almost slipped over on the walk from the chalet to the restaurant. But I am going to give it my best and just hope that my many falls will lead to bouncing, not breaking.