My Naughty Brother!
Having an older brother does have its advantages, but on this occasion, I really didn't think so.
My dad taught us all to ski (Mum included) when I was seven and we picked it up pretty quickly as young kids do. Mark and I loved bombing about on the snow and, as is sibling protocol, we became quite competitive. After a year on the nursery slope, we moved onto the real mountain. We could ski pretty well at this point.
What we didn’t do well was the ski lifts, which, in the 1980s, were not quite as sophisticated as they are today. But, unless you wanted to side-step for hours up the mountain (leg-burner), there was no other alternative. The dreaded T-bar lift was uncomfortable, cumbersome and pretty lethal. It would come around the corner at break-neck speed and you had to stand in its direct path; the aim being to grab onto the bar and allow it to drag you up the moutain. Except, catching a T-bar such as this was a bit like catching The Snitch! Many a Brit had tried and failed to master the Austrian lift system, and we were given to wonder why the lift-man didn’t come out and help us from his hut or slow it down for goodness sake! He did neither - probably because it must’ve been like watching a continual episode of You’ve Been Framed!
Anyway, it’s 1984, somewhere in Austria and Mark and I are standing side by side, waiting to get onto this T-bar. We look behind us. It’s coming, it’s coming, getting closer, closer, get ready….Now! We reach out our arms, grab on and shove the bar under our bottoms. Miraculously, we manage it and are yanked up the slope with an aggressive jolt. The bar is at the perfect height for Mark and somewhere halfway up my back! (A design fault in this feat of engineering meant that when partnered with me, my dad once made one perilous journey with the bar somewhere around his calves!)
It was mid -transit and some way up that Mark decides, with a mischievous glint, to play a game. He starts moving his left ski out of his tracks into my right one.
"Stop it!" I say pushing him back to his side. He tries again, teasing, this time criss-crossing his ski tips over the top of mine. The bar starts riding up my back. My skis wobble. Then, the inevitable… I fall off and slide backwards into pine trees, losing a ski and both poles. Mark looks back at me aghast, but what can he do? He can’t let go, it's too steep, so he continues helplessly up the slope, and I can only watch as his royal blue salopettes disappear out of view.
Oh no! What was I going to do? I was in the middle of the forest and the snow was deep. I only had one ski and no poles. How was I going to get down? How would I ever find Mum and Dad? I couldn't speak German. I was lost. Maybe forever….
I begin to cry - great big, hot tears, streaming into my goggles.