nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
I am home from my skiing holiday, and lo! it was good. The aforementioned course was brilliant. While I would not proclaim myself a champion skater, I was respectable and it was a lot of fun. I'll definitely be doing more of it in future. Also bonus language practice thanks to the tiny group of two German speakers and two English speakers* each of whom knew the other language a bit, but not sufficiently to make either one dominate conversation*. The Alps were spiky and impressive even when the föhn was blasting a hair-dryer at the snow**, and a glass of wine with dinner less than a third of the price of Norway. It was all very easy and restful and I didn't have a cold during it (or, so far, after) for the first time in years.*** I expect next year to revert to where my heart lies, in the high white wilderness of the Norwegian fells, or at least Finland, but for this year the logistically easy and more populous version with shops was definitely what I needed. I managed just enough fitness to make the most of it, though at times it felt very noticeable to me that I had a veneer of energy laid over a pit of absence. But much as ice starts on the top of the water rather than the bottom, the veneer can in time be built into the real thing.

Back to work tomorrow! I feel simultaneously refreshed and reinvigorated for it and terrified of my inbox.

* The coach was Swedish and explained everything twice.

** Except the day it rained. I did my course in the morning, a diligent 3km of practice afterwards, and then went to the 'sauna world' to get rather more pleasantly drenched and hang around in a heated pool outdoors in the rain.

*** I have now not had a cold for about 5-6 weeks. This is amazing, maybe I've finally run out of new ones.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
I have decided to give structure to my forthcoming holiday by booking myself a course of three mornings of group lessons in cross-country skiing skate technique at the extremely well-regarded school in Seefeld, where I shall be next week.

I am not entirely sure whether this is a brilliant idea that will teach me exciting new skills and be enormous fun, or whether I am completely out of my mind. I am definitely not ideally fit for it, but since at the moment my max distance skating is about 15m, I expect to fall over from technique fail long before my lungs/shoulders/legs give out. We shall see.

Naturally, I have not yet packed.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
I am back from my holiday. It was good. It was very relaxing in that for a week I was too busy or tired to think about anything at home or work, and it was exhausting in that for a week I was too busy or tired to think about anything other than what I was doing. My internal monologue for the skiing part can be basically summed up as follows:

balance balance OK balance left right left right glide glide hill ankles edge edge edge edge edge flex fuck edge OK relax ankles weight weight ankles knees weight weight weight weight slip pole edge down down down knees in IN IN IN shoulders that way lichen poles ooh footprints argh CONCENTRATE turn glide turn turn turn ice turn edge edge weight! edge edgeedgeedgeedgeedgeglide pole glide glide etc etc.

And so on, with occasional singing. 'The Hills Are Alive' is excellent for navigating those downhills that are within ones capacity and will actually go better for relaxing. The beginning of Chesterton's 'Lepanto' can provide momentum up the steeper bits. I have eaten my bodyweight in food, don't need to see porridge for another year, enjoyed the sauna, and, inevitably, had a cold for the second half of the week. I managed relatively little reading, slept well when I wasn't blowing my nose and once I had remembered to turn the radiator not down, but off, spent a week away from the internet, and have started, but not completed, unpacking.

I had a great time.

Photo on LJ...
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
Apparently it is 8 January 2016 today. I’m not sure how it can be so, but reputable sources say that it is, so I suppose I must believe them. A whole week into the new year! A whole week gone at work. Work has actually been quite good; that is, it has been much the same as usual, but I have had vastly more energy and inclination for it than I did in the last couple of weeks of term before Christmas.

Anyway, I had a thoroughly enjoyable Christmas holiday, including:

• Many delightful presents. I am particularly hoping that the digital radio will get me into radio listening more regularly (not just the cricket). I’ve dropped the habit in recent years, which is silly because I really enjoy it.
• An excellent train journey up, a very trying journey down.
• Much food, including the successful cooking of the hare. You get an enormous quantity of meat for £8.50 on a hare.
• Visible snow twice! A miracle given the weather. We had one actually cold day, on New Year’s Day, which happily involved a walk, although the pace that three year olds walk means that I had to go and run up a nearby hill and then catch up half-way through in order not to freeze.
• Some splendid entertainment, of which reviews to come, and also the karaoke, which was a great success. Middle Sister’s rendition of Dire Straights’ ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is fortunately greatly improved since I last heard it and is now quite impressive.
• No work for a fortnight, and most other people being off for all of that, meaning few emails to return to.
• Surprisingly little reading, including only a tiny bit of Yuletide. I am looking on that as some fanfic treats to look forward to in the rest of winter.
• Some successful sales shopping: after saying I was not getting winter work skirts any more, I bought a new one, also drinking glasses, a warm cardigan, and if I get to the shops this lunchtime, possibly a work jacket. [ETA: I didn't get a jacket, it turns out that the reason it was marked down was that it looked like a sack when worn.]

The train problems were caused by a damaged viaduct on the west coast line and a tree on the east coast one, both caused by the absolutely appalling weather in northern England and southern Scotland. Seeing some of the areas of Leeds and York that flooded was staggering; there were areas that haven’t flooded in many decades looking like rivers. Meanwhile Cameron is claiming that he’s investing new money in a Leeds flood scheme, when it's the same money already announced, much of which the council came up with. I would like to think that this ‘winter’ is a wake-up call to the whole country and its politicians on climate change, but I fear it won’t be.

And speaking of the weather, according to the Independent “the coldest winter in 58 years is expected to hit the country.” I think we can all say “yeah, right” to that one. Still, there was actually frost this morning for only the second time this season, and a bit of moderate chill will be no bad thing. Meanwhile it has been -40C in northern Norway, with some interesting pictures. Though I can’t link to the best ones, because this is the week of the Tour de Ski, so I can’t look at any websites that might have skiing news on until I have got home and caught up with the videos. There is nothing like watching winter sports each night to ease the return to the office routine.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
I had a great holiday. The scenery was beautiful, the weather was fantastic - sunny, but not over warm, with the occasional snow shower to keep things fresh and not too much wind - the sun was high and daylight hours long, the northern lights managed to be out on my last night at the same time as me*, the skiing facilities were brilliant, I was reasonably competent, my hotel room was very pleasant**, and I had some very nice food. The restorative powers of a large apple doughnut are remarkable. A week off work in which I haven’t even been able to do my unpacking is a small price to pay***.

Some random comments:

• Seldom have I seen such a large concentration of moustache-wearers. Finnish men appear to develop a compulsion aged c. 50 to go out and grow one.

• It is vital as a British skier in Finland to accept from the start that you will be comparatively rubbish. Then when you are overtaken by 7 year olds, 70 year olds, women with multiple babies in a sledge, and blind people (not joking), you will not be downhearted, and instead can enjoy overtaking 5 year olds, 75 year olds, and the rare Scandinavian who doesn’t like downhills.

• I am going to set up the Lapland Airport Coach Safari Company. On the way from the airport to my hotel I saw a fox (red) slinking in the edge of the wood (looking exactly like this print), and an arctic hare, and on the way back to the airport, two reindeer. They are paler in colour than I had anticipated. I also saw a second hare (from my hotel bedroom window) and a capercaillie. Birdlife was otherwise disappointing – magpies and great tits do not count, and the Siberian jays for which the reason is known must have been on holiday in Siberia.

• I was quite pleased with my skiing. I did c. 125km over 6 days, plus a day on the downhill pistes (advantage of an evening flight home). I wasn’t as fast on the flat as I’d have liked, but I definitely improved my XC downhill confidence and technique, which I'd set as a personal goal.

Some photographs on LJ, which is much easier to upload them to.

*And then I went for a walk for an hour at midnight in case they came back, which they did a bit, but which was probably not the greatest idea. I had my pyjamas on inside my ski kit.

**Although the English-language news channels were Euronews and France 24 UK. I learnt a lot more than I would have anticipated about the French municipal elections and their impact on Hollande’s government.

***Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood film, which I watched this afternoon, was a large price to pay. Utter drivel.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
Back home from Austria, with photos on my LJ.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
Link to LJ post on my holiday in Uzbekistan.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
Fortunately, so do flight paths, as overland would take a while. I am going there in September, so if anyone has recommendations for things to do and see I'd be very grateful to hear them. I have some guidebooks and will read them, but can't say I know much about the modern city.

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