By Ernie Metcalfe
It was very good to get back to home comforts at the end of our holiday, even if a little delayed. The first G&T for a week was a Mrs Metcalfe special. And went down very well - literally! Sunday was spent catching up on news, post, etc. including, wonder of wonders, reconciling the latest bank statement down to the last penny. Come Monday, however, something was missing - you good people - my skiing friends. Or at least those of you who went to Alpe D'Huez.
So to take my mind off skiing I spent most of the day spreading compost. Maybe not as exciting as following Brian or Janet Winstanley down a fast run, but satisfying enough in its own way - especially as I had two very friendly robins for company. Mind you it was only cupboard love on their part as they devoured small insects, wood lice, worms that seemed far too large for a robin to eat, and an imprudent spider which scuttled from its hiding place. They had a feast. I had nostalgia!
Anyway, enough of my ramblings about the first gardening efforts of the year, back to some impressions of our holiday. From the start there was the natural camaraderie and friendliness of a group of people with a passion for a shared interest. Age or background did not matter. A love of skiing did, and there was some very good skiing indeed to be had. This was aided by the excellent weather of the first four days. Cold at times, certainly, but positively tropical compared with Cervinia three years ago. I wasn't on that holiday, or even in the club then, but coincidentally skiing in Cervinia with son Michael at the same time. You will all have your own impressions of your favourite runs or areas at Alpe D'Huez but there was surely enough variety to keep everyone happy for a week. Though things might have become a touch repetitive had we been there any longer.
Concerning the hotel the so-called refurbishment was interesting to say the least. Why do hoteliers paint rooms brilliant white when there is every prospect of them being occupied by children? We all know how much they respect furniture and decorations. Or again, what kind of decorator paints walls and ceilings and ignores door and window frames?
As for the food I found it generally tasty and at times very good. This was in spite of succumbing, like so many, to a mild bout of tummy trouble. There have been occasions in the past when I have had to eat much worse, or go hungry.
I found the staff obliging and friendly, but quickly gave up any idea of trying to practise my French as they were all Swedish. Even in the mountain restaurants little or no French was required. The proverbially language challenged Brit could manage perfectly well in English all week - and all without having to shout louder at the natives!
However any shortcomings at the hotel were more than made up for by the company. This was, as always, overwhelmingly friendly. We will undoubtedly be doing anyone we introduce to the club a big favour. There were new friendships to make and old ones to renew. Lots of laughs and always a helping hand if needed, particularly when there was a bottle of wine to finish.
There were many good stories too, especially from Anne Stevenson on the chair lifts - who by her own admission could "talk for Scotland". Thankyou Anne, you made many an otherwise dull ride quite a pleasure. We were all very sorry that Pat Ashworth's injury curtailed her skiing. Mind you it did help to sharpen up her sudoku skills and left her probably the best read person on holiday. As a reassurance the rescue services were quick and efficient.
But for me the applause given to Brian Richards when he donated our collection for him to St Anne's hospice, and Derek Draper's offer to increase this by organising it through gift aid, summed up the spirit in the Club. It was a pleasure and a lot of fun to be skiing with you. Once again a big thankyou to all who skied with me, drank with me, or just said a friendly hello. Here's to next time.