28 August 2010

As I watch my children grow, it brings back long-buried memories of my own distant youth. When I saw my five-year-old son, Ben, sliding hesitantly down the mildest gradient on a beginners’ slope, his skis bound at the tips with a rubber “edgie-wedgie” to hold them in a snowplough position, I was transported back to a time when I was in exactly the same position, childishly reliant on the edgie-wedgie to keep my skis from sliding apart: I was 36 years old.
In skiing, as in so many other pursuits from martial arts to driving a car, Ben has a clear start on me. We took him to the snow on the weekend of what would have been his yellow-belt Shinbudo grading, recognition of his first six months of martial arts training. He was a bit disappointed, but it was worth it because he loved skiing.
I loved it, too. Our family travelled there with my mate Chris* and his family. This is the same Chris with whom Ben and I recently went camping. But skiing has many advantages over camping, the most prominent being that you don’t have to build the ski lodge yourself.
We stayed in a warm, luxurious, ready constructed building with four bathrooms rather than none, a Miele oven rather than a campfire, central heating rather than a campfire, and electric lighting rather than a campfire. It was not at all like being cavemen, which I suspect Chris found a bit galling.
I cunningly convinced Ben to enrol in ski school by presenting it as an alternative to normal school, and he filed into the classroom with the same never-look-back nonchalance with which he abandons me in the school playground in the morning. Meanwhile, I booked myself a private lesson with an instructor. Regular readers will recall that I seem to suffer from some kind of learning difficulty.
Things that most people find fairly easy – such as driving – I find impossible. It was very difficult for me to stand up on skis in the first place, and that was so long ago I was sure I would have forgotten how to do it.
I told the instructor this was going to be the longest two hours of his life. On the chairlift, I asked him what the procedure was if he lost someone on the slopes.
“Go through the pockets, remove all the valuables, and cover the body with snow,” he said.
Actually, I skied quite well, although I didn’t make as much progress as Ben, who was able to ski into my arms by the end of the weekend.
“This is too fun,” he told me. “I want to go to ski school every day forever.” Which is when I had to break it to him that he had to complete another 13 years of fl at school first.
A couple of weeks later, Ben and I were in Legoland in the UK, with my brother and my mate Guy. Ben went to the Legoland Driving School for three- to five-year-olds, sat through a two-minute lecture (turn the wheel to steer, press the pedal to go) and drove a few laps around an obstacle-free racecourse in Lego dodgem cars at about 6kmh. “Finally, there’s a driving test even you could pass,” said my brother and Guy, almost simultaneously.
When the littlies got out of the dodgems, they had to wave their arms in the air, then pat their heads while rubbing their stomachs.
“Ah, no you couldn’t,” chorused my brother and Guy.
They all passed, and were awarded a Legoland driving permit, which was just another of the theme park’s evil ploys to force you to buy a massively overpriced photograph of your own child. And Ben, once again more than 30 years ahead of me, became the only male licence holder in our little family.

* Not Chris Ryan