This little missive is all about our trip to Soll in Austria. I have to start though with a question about our trip home. Do Easy Jet employ Gay Pilots?

This is not meant to be offensive to any group in particular, I believe I know what gayness is like. For the last week I have been Gay. For each of the last 6 days my brother and his wife have been busily coaching me in the art of skiing. For art, it what it certainly is. To compare skiing with snow boarding is like comparing a drummer with a violinist, or a piano player with a road navvy.

It has all been a beautiful experience for me, their kindness and patience has been almost a bottomless pit. Their qualifications in this respect are dubious , one is a Horton, simply the most unkind family one could ever wish to meet. The other is of Scottish decent and when was the last time anyone met a kind Glaswegian? Their subject matter is a 60 year old has been, this sounds like a proper soap opera don’t you think?

Nothing could be further from the truth though. My “old boiler” likes me to go skiing with them, she is not a skier herself. However what she likes about it is this. Her life has not been easy married to a swaggering, self confident, opinionated oaf of a bloke who is full of his own vim and vigour with enough left over for charitable donations. When he is sent off for a days skiing with these two family members what returns is a shattered, knackered, quivering, snivelling wreck, who cry’s at the slightest thing. She is then reassured he is a human being after all who can be fixed up and taken for a bit of “après ski”.

Here repairs can begin and it’s not long before he turns back towards the monster he was, complete with his red cape, not the one you see a super hero wearing, no, this one looks like its been hanging from a flag pole at Rorkes Drift or the Alamo. Still there in spirit but not quite what it was, something one could almost live with, not quite Gay but certainly less bovver than it was, and somehow less formidable even with the underpants on the outside of the trousers.

All this is difficult for the subject matter to deal with. Reaching the end of the gondola ride he gets out, full of determination, keen to put behind him the difficulties of the previous day. The Skis are clipped on, he moves to the edge of today’s first run, looks over the edge at the hideous drop before him and promptly bursts into tears. Fortunately he is wearing goggles and the foam round the edge can absorb the moisture produced so little of his predicament is betrayed.

There is a pre planned system in place with these 2 coaches one will be the guide, caressing and cajoling the subject down the hideously steep slope, the other will be the sweeper.
The “sweeper” is a very important job, it means hanging back ready to gather up any debris left by the subject in the event of a crash, be they skis, poles, hats, gloves or limbs. When a fall occurs stuff can be spread all over the place, sometimes a ski or pole will detach and stick in the snow whilst the crasher continues his ungainly, unattractive Newtonian motion. The modern ski equipment is a superior design, absolutely brilliant, it will however be no where near to the human wreckage that was wearing it. The amount of energy used trying to gather it all up is measured in kilowatts. Then there is the putting it all back on whilst hanging on to the cliff face with only teeth and lips available, all the rest of the body engaged in trying to mash the stuff back into place. So the sweeper is a much valued companion.

The guide ( just how far do you think Ward Bonds Wagon train would have got without Flint McCullough ?) is a very special person more like a nurse, finding the preferred route down , the best snow, avoiding ice, also they have to be able to sympathise with the terror that the subject has going through his mind. Quite a job, not one for someone with an overdose of testosterone, this would mean an expensive visit from a helicopter, so in my personal view a job best done by a gentleman of the female persuasion.

My duo work so well together it is almost poetry. It is certainly a pleasures to witness. The only place it falls to bits is the sweeper thinks he is a centre forward. A Thiery Henry if you like. By the time subject matter is over the first tentative turn, Thiery is at the bottom in the back of the net, shouting things like, “come on wanker” and “I thought you raced a motorcycle for a living once?” , ” are you Gay?”, “Tosser” and other pieces of psychological encouragement. None of which work of course.

When a human being is concentrating so hard to stay alive the brain shuts down all the stuff not necessary, like hearing and growing hair, to concentrate on things like sight, the eyes are massive, more like a Bush Baby’s and breathing, the lungs are pumping and keeping the blood from boiling, the subject is sweating like a glass blowers bottom. It gets even more tense as the speed picks up, often times approaching double figures. The brain struggles to cope with the information coming at it, not just the speed but the volume as well until the point is reached during a turn where you are pointing directly down the hill and things really start to pick up speed then a dark veil is drawn over any thought process aaaggghh!
If you have managed by some luck to have completed the turn, things settle down again whilst you traverse at a hideous pace to the next one.

If things have not gone well then I’m afraid it’s out with the hard core infantryman’s language and you have a face plant. Still it means you are a bit further down the hill, that can be considered a bonus if you are an optimist. The thing that gets distorted most though is this concept of speed, if you are good at what you are doing, racing a motorcycle, a car, or downhill skiing, everything is moving at a slow controllable pace. Michael Schumacher has enough spare mental capacity at 200 mph to order a chinese take away over the radio. Valentino Rossi can smile and wave at a camera man whist cornering. It’s not just easy when you are in your comfort zone it’s a piece of piss!

Out of it though life can be a bit exciting. There is, at one of the après ski venues, a singer with the band ( obla de obla dah) who went out skiing for the first time. During his set he was telling his audience how horrific it was particularly the 80 mph face plant he suffered. The guy that went up with him had filmed the incident and was at the same time showing it on a screen behind the band. The 80mph face plant actually happened at about walking pace, it doesn’t lessen the horror he felt though, his brain was screaming at him ” this is WHAAY out of our area of expertise you twat, what are you playing at? I can’t function at this speed”. He can still sing well, in a smoky pub though.

That’s something else that is a bit queer! You know how in the UK if you are caught smoking in a public place? You can be taken out and summarily shot in the back of the head? ( I have no difficulty with this by the way, in fact It is a very reasonable response). Not in Austria you don’t, you can smoke in pubs, restaurants even and, AND! some let you take your dog in! Every Austrian smokes the dirty bastard. Still the Appel strudel makes up for it, the Apricot strudel helps as well. How did they get away with that smoking exception in the EU?

Incidentally I have also found how the Austrians have lost their triple A rating with S&P. When I first heard of this I found it so difficult to comprehend. The Austrians know how to live, their buildings are always warm and superbly crafted using masses of heavy wood often nicely carved. They are well short of beggars and poor people ( maybe they are turned into fertiliser when discovered) . Public engineering works are constructed to last. In heavy snow falls roads don’t stay blocked for more than a moment. Nothing is cheap! no one seems to go without! Heaven then? The minimum wage though is €10 an hour, just think about running a business where you have to pay by law even a complete nob head ( they do have there fare share of those) so much? So even Austria isn’t perfect, it is bloody close though.

The case of the Gay pilot.
We arrived at Innsbruck flughaven a couple of hours before we needed to, only to discover our plane from Liverpool had not yet left. Easy Jet are not Ryan Air so we were given a refreshment voucher for a lunch which nearly covered it. We were then given an arrival time and an approximate departure. Oh good oh! it is on its way at last. We sat by a window to watch it land at 2.55 pm, there was a mist at around 2-300 feet but there was plenty of aircraft leaving and landing. It is not a straight forward place to have an airport is Innsbruck, the approach is through a long valley with mountains on either side, some with a church on the top for goodness sake and you approach the runway over the city for quite some distance. You would think though with all the technology available these days it is allot easier than bombing the Sorpe, Eder or Mohne dams.
When our aircraft came into view ,( half of the runway was blocked from our sight by a building), it was at about 100 feet pointing up with its wheels retracted on full gas! The bastard! He nearly had it down and had chickened out at about 50 feet! He then landed at Munich a 2 1/2 hour coach trip away. The cost to easyJet must be in the 10s of thousands. Do not employ pilots who appear to have a mincing gait is the moral to this tale.

Innsbruck airport is a nice place small and friendly the security is almost a pleasure scoring 8/10, no, no need to take your shoes off. We had to swap this for Munich , an obvious monument to der modern Deutschland. It is no good fighting the fatherland, the people of England know this, we are your friends we want the same things. The fatherland is the mightiest formidable force the earth will ever witness. Lay down your weapons and join us.

Blimey I don ‘t know what happened there ! I turned into Lord Haw Haw again, a radio broadcast gig I did for a while in the 40s, it was fun at the time but the past is the past.

Munich now though has a huge airport all very modern, the terminal building can be measured in the 10s of hectares with no directions to Easy Jet Check in! Luckily I had been reading Sherlock Homes so with some elementary deduction a few metaphorical pipes of tobacco ( Sherlock some times measured his problems in pipe full’s) and asking a policeman we were eventually successful. We were also given another refreshment voucher,I like Easy Jet! Then did the ” right strip off, throw your clothes in the pile, get ready for ze shower” security system. I never complained, Sue was mightily pleased, right up until a jackbooted individual approached me with a pair of pliers, I knew he had taken a fancy to my single gold filling, it must have shown up on the metal detector. I gave him one of my Kenneth Williams looks and he backed off.
We were back home checking on the blackberries in my freezer by 1-30 am. Travelling since 8-30 am ! You can get from Derby to Cape town in that time you know.

In conclusion then.
Liverpool Airport- a bit scruffy but dead friendly – nice 8/10
Liverpool airport security. 7/10
Overnight parking and hotel at Liverpool Airport “Hampton by Hilton” absolutely bloody perfect don’t even consider anything else.
Easy Jet almost a pleasure, don’t waste any money on extras like priority boarding the snobs moved with the rest of us lowlifes.
Innsbruck Airport 10/10
Security 8/10
Soll decent value for skiers and wankers alike don’t go anywhere else.
Munich airport avoid it if you can. Unless of course you are in a Lancaster or a Wellington.


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