My notes, the first for some time begin in mountain sunshine (somewhere in France) with a broken wrist.
It’s been a strange few days all in all, full of travel speed at times and some pain. I conclude as a way of introduction deduction that snowboarding isn’t easy, not that I ever imagined it to be and that ski culture, despite having his amusing slides, must be one of the ultimate conformation exercises “ known to man”.
So what is there to find here….a hole minor eco system in fact, containing in truth more water than the mountain snow that surround it.
Up here in the mountains it could be easy to forget that there exists anything of significance below. And so a life is enacted in these remote spaces to a different rhythm, if only for a while. A week in the snow, can show you many things about others and yourself, if that is you care to remove your sunglasses for a moment and take a look.
It starts or started for me with finding an outfit, not being much of an outdoor type I had to a large extent be unaware of the contents in snow rock and mountain shops. Obviously I had set a foot or two inside a good many, so I had a sense of the contents, but I really hadn’t lifted my shades previously to realise exactly what they contained and why. Yes I had missed the fact that there’s a whole sub culture out there, walking and talking the snowy life. There’ s the right jacket, the trousers, boots, gloves and all, that need to be purchased before you can put one foot into the snow.
The fact that half of Londoners walk around in ski jacket seems to have passed me by (until that day) which I must admit made me laugh on hindsight. Quiet were I imagined they found their coats, I don’t know!
Anyway we arrived to this high place where everyone is wearing this kit of many colours and striding around with mountain intent. Our hotel, our club (med) contained an unusually large example of such types, while being somehow not quite themselves in this place..a place not unlike some awesome human zoo in fact, when feeding time starts. It’s then that the coloured mammals arrive downstairs and start munching away at the various goodies on offer.
My, how they eat! You could feed an African tribe for a month on the food in just one sitting.
So each day we arrive to eat find our preferred spot around the watering hole take our fill (usually 3 courses) and look around at our fellow inhabitants. Patterns soon emerge. The red faces sky instructors, wearing their equally red outfits sit together at the far end of the lounge, comfortable in their own idea of themselves, smugly relaxed they recline wearing a thinly disguised expression of contempt for the lesser tanned faces around them. Yet unaware, it would seem of how ridiculous they look themselves with their invisible white goggles around their eyes. But no, don’t forget up here there’s a different system, up here white goggle really count for something.
With them at the top of the tree are the entertainers, the hotel staff that smile at you at all times and kindly say “bonjour” at every passing. Not that I have a real problem with this Disney style behaviour, as it is quite infectious apparently, and well designed for crowd management. Only it’ s fake, which of course everyone realises except the children, and when you look into their faces in between this Disney' s moments another quite sad and sometimes one can imagine ugly picture emerges.
So we are to be entertained for morning until night and led through our time here as if we were inhabitants of a television box. Most it would seem, agree to agree for there are no life boats on this liner in the snow. Anyway you can't really “get off” even if you wanted to. The ark must go on and you, the coloured passenger the parrot, the ostrich, or red elephant, must take your place.
So I find myself here, here with the camel beside me, a broken wrist to carry and the sound of ski boots passing, a fish out of water, with myself.
There can be an ocean between people sometimes; if you think your world is “the world” you can be seriously mistaken. Just raise your sunglasses and take a closer look, you might just be surprised (like I) at what you might find living at the top of a mountain.
A return. From mountain high to a snow less descent. Further to my notes from yesterday, I would like to add a couple of points.
Something almost inevitable as the effects of gravity on a falling glass object, is the most unfortunate sense of attainment most people seem to display once they have been taught a few elementary rules. In a group those with a particularly strong sense of showmanship like to elevate themselves from the rest. This lamentable transcendental preoccupation most commonly found in the most ordinary, takes hold of their behaviour patterns, hence forth, to produce very recognisable twitches and eye contact most often associated with the pseudo elite, otherwise known as the mediocrity syndrome.
Of course there are many levels of such behaviour. For once the primary bullshitters have established their lofty social place, those weaker in will than them, dutifully fall into place. A natural order then develops provided that is, all participants readily agree to be subject to the terms most unnaturally arrived upon according to the percentage of those individuals most in need of control. In such a dynamic neither party is either stronger or weaker than the other, as both sides require the acknowledgment of the other sides in order to maintain their relative sense of self. So with this obvious relegation of the relative, they continue their roles in this lamentable charade.
The recognition of the relative term inevitably permits freedom of action for the individual, regardless of such external judgments. It is the internal judgment that is in fact the most important to act upon. If the individual ignores the personal for the collective, it can lead to personal error, far more damaging than those that occur from the dissatisfaction of the collective. And so we arrive at physical limitations, limits far more telling and therefore necessary to “listen to” then those of theory, especially someone else’s.
My wrist been the case in point here, was broken for a combination of bad luck and will.
One’s body does not always behave in accordance to one’s will. It is limited but they are at least real limits established by the physical. And so it was weak ankle that didn’t support my knee, which in turn failed to help me maintain balance under pressure that inevitably caused the fractured wrist. Such are the materials with which we are made, each with different qualities but all ultimately perishable.
Prof J.J Knowitall
Head of Natural Sciences
Noah’s Ark Institute of High Mountains and Melting Snow