What can I say? Thanks girls.
The 'now that I'm 40' list of things I'm going to do (and have probably been wanting to do for a long time) is well underway, only 24 hours into my fun forties. Ali and I got up at 5:30 am on the 19th February to drive to the Cairngorm mountain range for our snowboarding debut. We had booked a lesson with the Ski + Snowboard School. Knowing that I find it difficult to spend money on anything that can't be justified as functional/necessary, some relatives gave me a financial contribution to the day. The best thing was that Ali came too and although the oldest in our group of six, we were by far the most energetic and studious. It was the best birthday I've ever had, not only because we did something fun, novel and exciting but because I fulfilled a decade-long dream of unleashing the snowboarder within.

Queuing with Bryan for my tow debut.
We found ourselves under the methodical and patient instruction of Bryan, whose older brother, Barry, was teaching a level 2 group nearby. At the start of the lesson, having climbed to the top of the nursery slope, Bryan asked us all to state what our personal (snowboarding) goals were for the day. Mine were simple, knowing that this might be my one and only lesson, perhaps my one and only day on the slopes until another milestone birthday: "I'd like to be able to take a tow up the hill and snowboard down, safely and in control, using turns" (i.e. not sliding sideways). However, it seems I was aiming too high. Bryan's first aim for us all was to be able to stand up on the board without falling over or taking off uncontrollably down the mountain. We hid our disappointment at his suggestion that linking turns was virtually impossible at the end of one lesson, and that we wouldn't be going anywhere near a tow. Bryan was to be surprised. What he didn't know was (1) we were determined; (2) we were fairly fit (we could reascend the nursery slopes 3 times while other class members did so once); (3) we'd had a sneaky practice before class and already knew that we could stand up on the board. The fun was just starting.

After my first fall-free, linked-turn descent.

What we also concealed from Bryan was that within 20 minutes of being on the board (before the lesson started) I had already sprained (thought dislocated at first) my left thumb. My thumb, hand and forearm were throbbing and I feared having to drop-out. I opted for Ibuprofen and tucking my thumb into the main part of my glove, keeping it out of harm's way. The helmet gave me confidence to get up some speed although a bulk of the day was spent practising slow, controlled movements - sliding on the heel edge, sliding on the toe edge, turning 180 degrees on each edge, etc. By missing half our lunch break to practise some more we were linking turns by 2:30. "You two are ripping!" said Bryan when we climbed  back up the slope, or "You nailed it!" Imagine how chuffed we were.

Our rapid progress persuaded Bryan to help fulfill all our dreams for the day - he offered to introduce us to the tows. He rounded off the lesson and said his goodbyes in the tow queue, assuming we would all get left behind in a heap at the tow station. Using the T-bar with a board is much harder than with skis and we weren't even instructed on how to deal with the short downhill section two thirds of the way up, or how to disembark. The truth is, he didn't think we'd make it.....but we did. Well, I fell off near the top but joined up with the others as they descended. Bryan showed off his moves, finding little jumps for us to try (that had been another 'joke' goal) and coaching us in the big bad world of the pistes. My thighs were burning from dedication to correct posture, and my coccyx aching from some downhill, backward falls but nothing could take away the thrill of our achievements. Bryan announced that if we return for another lesson we can progress straight to level 3. We were the best level 1 boarders he had ever had.

I was concerned in the run up to the day that it would be a disaster, that my belief that snowboarding was an achievable goal (given the time constraints) was entirely misplaced. I could see myself doing it in my head (and I couldn't say the same for other things, like swinging on a trapeze or swallowing a sword) but what if I was wrong? It would have been such a disappointment to have been unable to do it, simply because I have longed to try for so long. There aren't many things in my life like that, that I've longed and strived for, except for being accepted by VSO as a volunteer and broadcasting my first radio feature. As it happens, I wasn't wrong. I found the snowboarder within me and achieved just what we set out to. Endorphines pumped round my body for the rest of the day, masking all aches and pains. That's until I got up this morning. I can't open a jam jar due to my sprained thumb but who cares? Thanks Ali, for coming. Thanks friends and family who spurred me on. Thanks for the donations and thanks mum for taking care of Freda and Edie for the day. Seth Westcott watch out.

20/2/2010 09:15:55 am

Welcome to the world of 40s! And high praise for a stunning snowboarding debut - just too late for Vancouver, but...


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