An extremely busy spell since Christmas, if not before, turning down job offers left, right and centre, and struggling to accommodate favourite clients’ pleas for help, had left me desperately in need of a break last week. I was so looking forward to my skiing holiday, especially after only having a mini ski break over a long weekend last year for one reason or another. It’s been a busy time family-wise too, with my younger son’s wedding this July coming hot on the heels of his elder brother’s last summer: food tastings to attend, outfits to be tracked down, cake recipes to be trialled….
So when I managed to trip upstairs carrying a full tea tray a couple of days before my holiday, I suppose I should have heeded the warning signals that I really needed to slow down. Apart from bruised knuckles, a sore lip and a tender nose, I actually got off quite lightly – even the contents of the tea tray survived intact, save for a tiny chip on the inside lip of the teapot and a puddle of spilt milk, soon lapped up by my very concerned spaniel. But did I take this as a sign that I was doing too much and needed to slow down? Of course I didn’t!
Arriving in Chamonix on Saturday to a beautiful and luxurious chalet with family and friends, the scene was set for a perfect week of rest and relaxation. Or so I thought… Day 1, framed with blue skies and glorious sunshine, saw me crashing spectacularly with my future daughter-in-law on one of the first runs down, falling to the ground when my skis got tangled with someone else’s coming off a chairlift and collapsing in an inelegant heap just standing still at the top of a run when someone happened to catch the back of my skis! What on earth was going on? I haven’t fallen as much in years! I’m tempted to blame the errant menopausal balance hormones, but who knows?!
Undaunted, I survived – and indeed thoroughly enjoyed – Day 1, and off we went again for our second day, up before the first lift opened, no less, and first on the immaculately prepared black run right from the very top of the mountain – bliss! No further incidents until we decided to have a go on the boarder cross course for fun: easy one first, which was great fun – exhilarating even! Then came the medium course: I did at least have the sense to hesitate before embarking on this one as it started with a (to me) seemingly huge wu tang, but I’d watched the others go over it and as long as you didn’t take the run-up too fast, it looked doable from the top. Sure enough, the first jump was scary but thrilling, and I was really getting into the swing of the rest of the course, loving every minute, when a second jump took me completely by surprise. I managed to land it, but had clearly congratulated myself far too soon, as a third jump followed almost immediately and saw me landing ignominiously in a bank of snow at the side of the track. Ouf! Now I understand where the expression “to knock the stuffing out of someone” comes from. I was so winded that I was literally unable to speak for quite a few minutes when my friends rushed over to check what I’d done this time! Battered, bruised, but still gung ho, I staggered back onto my skis and rejoined the rest of the pack, very glad that our next stop was for a much-needed coffee!
The latter stages of the morning passed in a series of delightful runs, and we were heading down the mountain to join our non-skiing friend for lunch, when disaster struck once and for all. I must have been feeling tired, as I’d fallen behind the rest of the group and was just picking my way surely and steadily down the end of the Chamois black run, when I suddenly found myself tumbling head over heels down the steep piste. I still have no idea what happened, but I managed to lose a pole en route and covered a fair distance before finally managing to stop myself, skis strangely still glued to my boots, but very shaken and stirred. A fellow skier behind me looked extremely worried as she raced up with my pole, having presumably seen the whole thing. At that stage, I was too much in shock to want to move, but reassured her that I felt ok, if winded. After composing myself, and waving away several other concerned enquiries, I finally struggled to my feet and gingerly traversed away again. Fortunately the slope had flattened out into a blue by this stage and I managed to turn on my right side, but the minute I attempted to turn on my left knee, over I went again. Idiot, I thought: stop trembling and pull yourself together! Up I wobbled again, but exactly the same thing happened: I appeared to have swapped my left knee for jelly…
I finally accepted that it was time to admit defeat and took out my phone to see several concerned messages from the family What’s App group. Was I ok? Well, no: I really don’t think I was! As I replied to that effect, I looked up to see the most welcome sight of my sons and two friends trudging manfully back up the slope to my rescue. They had been some distance away, out of sight through a tunnel in the rock, so this was quite a heroic feat – no wonder they were all exhausted and out of breath when they finally reached me! Panic over, for me at least, especially as my friends are an osteopath and an acupuncturist respectively, so I knew I’d be in safe hands….
To cut a long story short, they diagnosed ligament damage, and we established that there was no way I could walk on that knee, even with support and without skis. Without further ado we called out the mountain rescue service, who didn’t speak English, somewhat surprisingly, when my son first tried – fortunately my French hadn’t deserted me along with my balance, so I took over! They speedily and efficiently got me down the mountain and straight into the X-ray room of the local medical centre in Argentière: a very slick and impressive operation; they really couldn’t have been nicer. As my first major accident in over 30 years of skiing, it was a pretty drastic way of finally getting a go in a blood wagon, but I can finally confirm that it was a very smooth ride…. And the upshot? Diagnosis confirmed: I’d ruptured my anterior cruciate ligament and would be out of action for the rest of the holiday – and beyond. Silver lining: I learned some nice new vocab; who knew une atelle was a brace?! And my French was clearly still good enough for people to be surprised when I said I was “anglaise”; small mercies…..
The moral of the story? Listen to your body when it’s clearly trying to tell you that enough is enough! Enforced rest might not be quite what I had in mind for this holiday and the next few weeks, but it’s evidently what I needed and am destined to have, like it or not. Even more tellingly, when one of my first thoughts the following day was that I should have brought my laptop so I could carry on with some work, I realised just how much I’d let things get on top of me. I’m on holiday, for heaven’s sake! I AM allowed to give myself time to sit, relax, read, chat or knit. Work is NOT the be-all and end-all! A salutary lesson, perhaps, and one I shall try very hard to heed. It could have been a whole lot worse after all…