If you read my last post, you will know that we are suffering a few issues with a full scale Viking invasion.
Last night, The Vikings went a’Viking once again. Yes –you might not know that Viking, or more correctly, Vikingr, is actually a verb used to describe men behaving badly with beards, backpacks and broadswords.
Eventually, defined by their terrible behaviour, these men became known as ‘The Vikings’…
Like the Ancient Britons, we have tried several routes to tolerance of the invading Viking horde. “They are from the land of the midnight sun,” we told ourselves, “so although it is dark, perhaps they don’t realise that it is night and that others wish to sleep.”
As my favourite wordsmith Kit Hesketh-Harvey stated in his superb eulogy to ‘Hundreds of Norwegians on the London Underground’: “Eight o’clock the sun will rise; Quarter past, beddy byes…!” He has it right. It’s “Brighter and much warmer on the London Underground!”
I have to say that acoustics is an oft overlooked property of a stone stairwell. Apart from the Vikings, singing in their ski boots as they ascend and descend, I am aware of only two other aficianados. These are Led Zeppelin and my friend’s cat, Benjamin. The Other OTHER Fab Four; Messrs Paige, Plant, Jones and Bonham achieved the amazing, hollow sound on the drum track for ‘When the Levee Breaks’ by recording it in the stairway of an abattoir. The sweet sound that it produced is a more pleasant reason to think of the abattoir providing a Stairway to Heaven.
Benjamin, on the other hand, is an operatic cat whom we discovered will perform only with the amplification and echo effects afforded by the historic, cantilevered stone stairway of a 400 year old mansion.
Last night, we were treated to arpeggios of whoops and yells, which resonated around the stone staircase beautifully to produce the PERFECT Nessun Dorma. Not the famous Puccini aria; Nessun Dorma is, of course, Italian for ‘No-one Sleeps..!’
Tonight, we closed the bathroom window; not because it was -17°C outside, but to prevent any further disturbances in the garden furniture from intruding on our slumber. Patio furniture, however, seemed to be off the Viking agenda tonight. There was a cacophony of clattering in the room above, which we decided could be produced only by a group of people playing Giant Jenga very badly, while simultaneously performing Riverdance in clogs. Or maybe they just dropped a load of flat-pack furniture. Whatever it was, even the cast of ‘Stomp’ could not better The Vikings for the volume and repertoire of percussive effects achieved from everyday items found in a small, self-catering apartment.
Of course, closing the bathroom window meant that the room attained the sort of temperatures that would sustain Nuclear Fusion, even with the central heating thermostat turned down to 15°C. The underfloor heating is particularly efficient. With all the radiators switched off, we were in a quandary as to how to dry our ski gloves, but they dried perfectly; placed upon a floor tile hot enough to fry eggs. The skill was making sure that leather ski gloves and Mystery Muncher (who has already claimed the zip on a fleece jacket) maintained a tolerable degree of separation…
It was not a good night’s sleep, but we still managed to arise at 06:30 with the alarm. The dogs like to howl along to the tune of the alarm. Had there not been other guests here, we would have let them!
It was a cold morning. Even Rosie was lifting her paws alternately like a frilled lizard and crying a little as she went outside. This re-ignited the “to boot or not to boot” debate. We decided “to boot” and spent the morning looking at doggie shoes, inaccurately measuring puppy feet, accurately re-measuring them and checking out Amazon.de in English and Amazon.it in Italiano until we found the boots of our dreams, we hope. They should be delivered presently. Ain’t Amazon great? My UK account is active on the German and Italian sites and automatically lets me know what can be delivered from the UK to Italy!
Doggie clothing has been quite a consideration for us. There was very little information available on the internet. We bought the pups water-resistant slush suits to keep them dry and Equafleeces to keep them warm. Both help to keep the snow from balling up in their fur. Their ears haven’t been too much of a problem, but we saw impeccable Jugaad on the internet the other day; a spaniel wearing a pair of oven gloves; one over each ear! (For further information on keeping your puppies comfortable in the cold, see Winterised World Wide Walkies – 10 Tips to Keep Chilly Canines Cosy!)
Today, we walked The Fab Four at the motorhome park. It had been swept of snow, so they could run and play out of the deep snow, which seemed to work well. We returned home through the deeper snow, but they were much less iced up and cold once we got back.
Once again, our deadline to ski had slipped back to 12pm, although we couldn’t entirely blame The Vikings. They had departed for the slopes at 8am, after treating us to stairwell symphony of shouts. It was a beautiful sunny day and we skied over to Champoluc. I feel like I have re-discovered my ski legs and am making much more effortless turns. The snow was beautiful until we got to Champoluc, where we found ourselves on a sticky piste of man-made snow, which really grabbed our skis!
We stopped at Belvedere, which means ‘Beautiful View.’ “Is that the Matterhorn?” I asked Mark, indicating a pointy mountain. “I think it is!” I gushed. “Would you like a photo of it?” His reply was succinct. “No!” he said. So I skied on. “We have loads of photos of the Matterhorn!” he said. “But NOT ‘Pizza side’…” I supplicated… “They’re all ‘Cuckoo Clock side’!”
The Matterhorn seemed to follow us around – now I started to see it everywhere! We came back up to the Goat run (Sarezza) – I could see it there. I could see it from the lift back up to Gressoney. Unfortunately, it was not sufficient to take my mind off my now freezing fingers, which were really beginning to hurt! We had planned to ski over to the Whistle hut at Bedemie for coffee and a fruit flan; “Shall we go home for coffee and see the puppies?” The answer to that came before you could even think “Matterhorn.” It was the opposite of the answer that I always get when I say “Can I take a picture?”
The pups came out and played on the sunny terrace, chasing each other and tumbling in the snow. They got lots of fuss from Sylvia and other guests at lunch. We refused several offers for each of them… “I weel steel heem!” one lady said of Kai. “They are becoming VIP dogs!” Sylvia said! I can’t deny it; we have always known that they are VIPs – Very Important Puppies!
Tuesday – The Vikings subjected us to 12 hours of…SILENCE! Joyous, quiet sleep with just the snow-muffled hush of the mountains. We even dared to open the bathroom window at 3am, certain of hearing only the tranquil sound of the River Lys, caressing her way down the valley ‘neath her blanket of snow and ice.
We had mentioned ‘The Big Group’ to Sylvia yesterday. Her immediate response was “Noisy?!”
She said that she would have a word with their leader, Erik Bluenose or someone. We weren’t sure that it would help; we laid odds of 50:50 that Sylvia having a word would make them MORE noisy. However, they clearly took on board that their popularity ratings were low – and perhaps they recalled that they were, after all, defeated UTTERLY by The Brits in 1066. Remember Stamford Bridge, Erik? (NOT the Chelsea stadium. The battle!)
It was cold, cold, cold again today, so we made up our mind to have a later start on the mountain. Reports from around the Alps are ‘Baltic’ from Paradiski, -20°C from La Thuile and ‘Bastard Cold’ from me in Italy!
As time passed by, we decided not to ski and just have an easy day, which was LUXURY! We reviewed the films from ‘Pup Cam’ to see what the pups got up to when they were Home Alone. We felt really bad. They were quiet most of the time, but we caught them searching the apartment for us and then all gathering on the back of the sofa and having a forlorn howl! I wanted to cry. It’s going to make it even harder to leave them.
We did really enjoy just slacking around and playing with the pups. We took them out for a couple of walks; the last one up the black run. It was fun watching them chase the ball up and downhill. I decided that I would slide back down the slope on my behind, which was giggle-making fun – until I realised that I couldn’t stop…!
I did practise my self-arrest; an essential winter mountaineering skill; “Kindly accompany yourself down the station, Madam.”
For more information on the limitations of Self Arrest, see “With Great Powder Comes Great Responsibility.”