I was sitting on the lavatory one day, just contemplating life, wondering what contribution I could make to the cause of popular nudity, when I was filled with the overwhelming desire to visit the Alps.
I first went there as a teenager with a party. Our guide took us to a plateau with one of the deepest precipices in the range. Some brave souls walked to the edge and calmly looked over. I walked to within ten feet (better make then twenty!) and crawled on my belly the rest of the way. I just don’t like heights, my one and only phobia, my heightophobia.
But anyway, back to talking about the present (the past, actually, though you can read it as the historic present if that makes it more lively for you), about 4 weeks later I flew out to Chamonix in the French Alps. The hoteliers of Chamonix must have been tipped off that I was coming and raised their tariffs by 300%.
It was a good winter for snow, everyone said so, and the town was full of happy skiers. I don't ski myself, in fact I've never been the sporting kind, though my grandfather was a professional cricketer. He was a silent man, too, who only ever spoke to tell my grandmother to shut up. But though I'd never been a sportsman, neither had I been a swot, though I was shit hot at mental arithmetic. Even my head master said so. He paraded me at assembly. "School", he said, "I want everyonel to know that this sad pathetic little prick standing next to me is shit hot at mental arithmetic". I felt so proud.
Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, to give it its Sunday name, is a commune in Haute-Savoie and was host to the first ever Winter Olympics in 1924. It was a good place to be for a couple of days. The mountains were all around, you could take the air into your lungs without taking your life in your hands, and, most pleasing of all, the tourists were off up on the pistes. (I can never hear that word piste without recalling our schoolboy joke. Question: What is French for 'follow the drunk?'. Answer: Suivez la piste.)
Very jolly. And does anyone remember this one? (French readers of the blog - and there are one or two - à noter). Je ne suis pas qui je suis car si je suis qui je suis je ne suis pas qui je suis.
It was the first full sentence I could say in French along with the lyrics of J'attendrai. You don't know the song? Well now's your chance....
On n'en fait plus de pareilles aujourd'hui. I think I must have had a crush on Rina Ketty, though she'll have been an old woman when I first heard the song.
Chamonix also has a charming little river running through it, albeit a bit chilly for falling into when you're drunk, so no good for James Joyce or popular nudists.