We have always spent Christmas and New year in Champery since my mother died in 2009. There seemed no need to remain in England after that; and even less so after Louise died in 2011. The three of us come here and try and avoid the madness that overtakes even rational people at Christmas time. The only presents I give are to Ross and Tommy; friends may receive small tokens from our travels, Christmas biscuits from the Basel market or home-made chutneys, if I’ve made any!
This year we are lucky in that there has been a huge snowfall and our first few days on the slopes are bathed in sunshine and fresh, good snow. It is also a big moment for me as it’s the first time back on skis with my new hip, less than five months old, and I need to see how my poor calf-less sarcoma leg will support my titanium wonder.
On Christmas eve we are thrilled to be invited to our Chilean/Scottish cousins for an evening of seafood, empanadas and champagne; this is their annual tradition. On Christmas day we always have lunch in La Cremaillere in Goat Village, Montriond, with old London friends who have a place in Les Gets. The boys exchange silly gifts; Tommy is especially pleased with his map-of-the-region boxers, with the town of Abondance strategically placed over the crotch.
The good news is that I can ski again, when the conditions are kind. I have difficulties when the piste is rock hard (sarcoma leg doesn’t edge so I slide everywhere), or in poor conditions (I get vertigo), or when the slopes are busy (terrified of being run over by other skiers), so when the weather changes after Christmas I sit at home and read my Christmas books!
However, the news is not all good as my sarcoma ankle and ‘calf’ are very sore and crampy after a couple of days. It’s depressing when the body begins to fail you!
For New Year we have a grand sit-down for 22; everyone brings a dish. I make a beef Wellington with beef provided by our Les Gets friends (thank you Jane & Trevor).
The bad weather sets in, storm Eleanor from England sweeps in here in early January with such a force of torrential rain and flooding so severe that it makes the Swiss national news. Mud and slurry engulf houses, trees and boulders are swept down the mountains through the village. Order is restored pretty quickly though – this is Switzerland! (Thank you Tim for the photos)
But the excellent base for the season is largely destroyed – the slopes are covered in striations bearing witness to the downpour; there are big slides; the piste is hard as hell and I give up after one morning of slipping all over the place, even though the sun is shining. A good lunch with old friends is just reward for my perseverance.
So here I am writing this on a sunny day when I should be up there, but common sense is winning out. I will limit my activities to lunch at the top of the cable car with Ross once he has done his Sunday exercise – climbing up the mountains on skins. Definitely not for me… Happy New Year!