In the featured pic above the heading our ‘Estonia-type’ chalet is off to the far right. It’s the middle one in the picture below. It sleeps 11 people and is wonderfully comfy and warm as toast – very well insulated, double-glazed. Its called ‘St Moritz’ for some reason. It used to be called Estonia No.5. I’d have preferred a Sesotho name! Anyway, a rose by any other name . . . Maybe Mahae – ‘rural home’ or ‘rustic home’.
The new chalets they’re selling are smaller, modern, square, lots of glass. They’re OK. They call them ‘edgy’. But they’re nothing like our old “Estonian Wooden Chalet”!
We bought one week of winter skiing (plus three weeks in summer) and we have used it seven winters in the ten years we’ve had it. Now I would sell if I got a buyer. Someone could get a bargain for the last five years, especially if two families shared it.
“Dad why are these people playing in the snow?” shouted my daughter Jessie.
This happened in 2014 but to tell the story I have to take you back to 1973:
On my way back home to South Africa from the ‘States, I flew from New York to London where I had arranged to meet a Harrismith friend Don Inglis, who was working in London for a year, so he knew the place. Turned out he had a rugby match (playing for some Saffer team against the London Irish**) so we scurried around Buck House circle and somewhere else where someone lived or died or married someone, and headed off to Wimbledon for the game in his little Austin something – with five rugby okes squeezed into it.
At the ground the players huddled in a cold shed to change and noticed they were a couple of boerkies short could I play? Sure, I said, but only half the first half, then I had to catch a tube to Heathrow. Thank goodness (it was sleeting outside) Don said ‘Rather don’t risk missing your flight’. So they ran out onto the mud with one blade of grass every ten yards without me and start puffing out steam and shoving some fat Irish blokes around.
Between scrums Don shouted out which tubes and buses I should catch and I left before the halftime whistle to head back to South Africa and home.
So forty years later (2014) daughter Jessie called out: “Dad why are these people playing in the snow?” Playing what, Jess? “I dunno, running around in the snow”. So I go and look: Rugby. London Wasps playing Northampton Saints. The pinkish poms don’t seem to notice there’s a blizzard swirling around their short-pants knees, but I see there’s a Wentzel playing and he’s probably feeling it.
So I explained to her the madness of Poms, and I explained how I hadn’t played rugby in the snow in London long ago. In Harrismith the u/11B’s played first thing Saturday mornings, so I had played on frosty white fields – kaalvoet nogal – but not in an actual blizzard.
My Jess looked at me as if I was stark staring mad. I think she was sorry she asked.
** London Irish? Old Wimbledonians (below)? I dunno. All Poms look the same to us Africans . . .
Obertauern in Austria and I’m learning to ski. The paraat Austrian ski instructor is earnestly telling us to “snor-plau, snor-plau” but we’ve been “snor-plauing” for an hour and we only have two days to ski! This won’t do, so I head off for the ski-lift.
“Oy, where are you going?” shouts herr instructor. I point ‘up there.’ “But you can’t even snor-plau!” he exclaims, him being used to things being done as they should be done. He’s right, of course, but there’s the matter of the two days (less this hour we’ve already wasted).
I discover that when you hop off the ski-lift gravity does not take a short break to allow you to get your bearings, so my first descent is backwards standing up for twenty metres, then backwards lying down for a few hundred metres, then various undignified ways until I lose a ski which then gives a bit of traction, so I can dig one boot in the snow and stop.
So I can then retrieve the other ski and get back to the ski-lift and start again.
After a while I work out a good system: Down at full speed at an angle across the slope till I cannon into the deep drift on the side. Then back across the slope to the other side, till ditto. Zig-Zag I go, accumulating more snow with each crash so I look like a huge semi-human snowball. It’s abominable, but it is more fun than snor plau.
Too much snow accumulates on the corduroy trousers, so I decide to try another way: Straight down the slope to dodge the deep drifts.
Well . . .
Whistling along at terminal velocity I notice that there’s nothing to stop one at the bottom (which I haven’t reached till now, having been on my face long before the bottom). Below the ski-lift start, the slope simply ends against a building. Said building houses a below-ground restaurant where people can sit and eat while looking up the slope at eye-level.
Approaching the restaurant window at speed I close my eyes and lie back and hear a smack as my skis go through the grill under the window and protrude right into the restaurant above an occupied table where some sane guests (who can probably snor-plau) are eating. Some of our group, notably Volke – the CEO of Aitch’s company, our host on the trip, whose brother owns the restaurant, which is why we’re here – come up to me and pour gluwein down my throat and laugh at me, refusing to help me up or out of my skis. I’m soaked through my corduroys and cotton shirt under my anorak and my ankles are breaking, but do they care, as they laugh and take pictures?
I hang up my skis when I’m finally freed. Call it a day with limbs intact. One’s constitution can only stand so much fun.
snor-plau – snow plough, I suppose – I never did learn to do it. Even after skiing again in Lesotho: Still no brakes.