• Simon Truckle

Skiing in Greece, extract from Love's Labours

Updated: 3 days ago

Hania was a good place for Scott’s first introduction to skiing, having just four slopes ranging from not-very-steep to something you’d need a spirit level to prove wasn’t horizontal. With a drag lift and a chair lift, it was the perfect resort for learners or the terminally timid. Scott had both legs firmly in the first category but not so much in the latter, and once he realised that the rope which pulled him up went almost as fast as the skiers going down, he decided the beginners’ slope was a bit dull. So he graduated to the second steepest slope, where he discovered what all learner skiers usually get taught: that the most important aspect of the sport is learning how to stop.

The technique he adopted was unique and a new entry in the skiing coaching manual. It involved using his face as a brake. At a certain speed, his skis would cross, he would be pitched headfirst into the snow and his head would slowly bring him to a halt. After six or seven performances of this, he arrived at the bottom bruised, cold and wet.

It being Scott’s first time, he lacked any proper ski wear and had elected for an outfit that had drawn more than a few glances from the more fashion-conscious around him, which, in fact, was everyone. He was wearing a pair of jeans, a black leather biker jacket, woollen gloves and a fur-lined green ex-army hat which had droopy ear flaps and made him look like rather like a very sickly spaniel. The gloves were now soaked and frozen, providing the warmth one might get from wearing a bag of frozen peas strapped to each hand.

Limping into the café for a reviving brandy and hot chocolate was like walking into heaven. It had a wood-burning stove in the middle of the room, which was blazing so intensely that the other skiers had stripped off their many layers and were wearing just T-shirts, ski bottoms and boots. With his hands too numb for any useful movement, Scott managed to slide the gloves off and wriggle out of his jacket, but the hat was a bridge too far.

The rest of the room represented the elite of the local Greek populace, resplendent in the latest ski wear. Under normal circumstances, Scott’s appearance as the scruffiest and least well-equipped skier in the room would have drawn a few glances. As a man wearing a t-shirt, jeans steaming so much they appeared to be on fire and a green furry hat with earflaps, he might as well have been on a podium.

Standing nonchalantly with a steaming mug gripped in both useless hands, he tried to ignore the rivulets of sweat pouring down his face from his hyper-heating head and silently willed his hands to recover. Even as they recovered some movement, it still proved impossible to undo the hat’s ties, which were knotted under his chin and frozen solid. The impression held by most of the room that they were in the company of a dangerous maniac was not alleviated by Scott, in desperation, clumping up to the bar and miming slicing a knife across his throat while smiling amiably. The girl serving at the counter was just edging away when the appearance of Taffos cleared up any lingering confusion. Scott was able, with the help of Taffos, to remove his hat but had to suffer the entire room pissing themselves at his expense as Taffos explained that he wasn’t mad, he was just a bit of a useless English wanker. ...........

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