Become a Subscriber

Advertise With Us

Search
Become a Contributor
Discover More at Our Partner Site

From Our Advertisers

Shop for Books by Our Contributors

Also Recommended

Global Adventure with Judith Fein and Paul Ross

Support This Site
Navigation
Powered by Squarespace
Explore
25 Van Ness 25-word essays 40 State 40 Days 99cent store Adventure Travel Africa Aging Air Saftey air travel Airline fiasco Airline Passenger Bill of Rights airline safety Airplane airplane seat selection airport fiasco Alaska all-inclusive resort American Airlines American ignorance Amish Amsterdam Amtrak anger Arab Arabia architecture Argentina Arizona arm chair travel Art Asia Authentic Travel awards Backpack travel bad day baggage Bahamas Bali Balloon Festival ban whale watching Bangkok Barcelona beach being arrested Being authentic Belize Bellingham Washington belly dancing Belmont University Bhutan bicycling bike tour bikes bikes as therapy Billy the Kid bioluminescence Bird watching Birding birthday book contest Boycott Brattany Brazil Breaking news British Columbia Budget travel Buenos Aires Burma bus travel Cahokia Mounds Cairo California Cambodia Camino de Santiago Camping Canada Canadian Geese Cancer car travel Caribbean Caribbean rainforest Carnac Carnival Caving Central America Ceramics change your life Cheap travel Cheap trips cherish life Chetumal children China Christmas Christmas Day Bomber Claridges Class trip Classic Hotels claustrophobic flyer climate change coffee Colombia color contest continental airlines controversy Cook Islands Copenhagen Costa Rica courage cowboy culture Creative travel creative writing crisis Croatia Crop Circles cruise travel cruising Cuba cuisine Culinary travel Cultural travel Culture Cusco CVS cycling Czech Republic dance Death Death Valley National Park Denmark dining dining guide divorce Dominican Republic Dordogne Dubai Earthquake Easter Eco Travel eco-tourism eco-travel Ecuador Egypt elephant seal emergency preparedness England environmental commentary environmental problems Ethiopia Europe European Union excellence in travel writing expat living expats Faith falling family family resort family travel family vacation Fat Tuesday fear festival fiesta Filipino restaurant finances fitnees flight Florida Food forgetfulness forgiveness France French Camp Friendship frustrated flyer gadgets Galapagos Garifuna Gaspe Peninsula Genealogy Germany Ghana gift guide Girona giveaway Glastonbury Festival global curiosity Global eating habits global nomad global warming good day Gorilla Trek Government GPS Grand Canyon grandparents Greece grief guys getaway Haiti happiness Hawaii healing healing journey Helicopter tours hiking Historical travel Holiday Celebrations Home Honduras honeymoon horseback riding hotels How to how-to humor Hurricanes i do not love Venice i need a vacation Iceland Volcano Incas independenc India Indonesia inn reviews Inner Child Internal Reflection international marriage iPhone app Ireland Islam Israel Istanbul Italy Jack London Jamaica Japan JetBlue Jewish journaling Judith Fein Jules Older Kansas Karl Rove Kenya kindness of strangers Language Las Vegas Latin America learning vacations Leukemia Library life lessons life transformation literature living abroad living like a local London Los Angeles loss Louvre at night love luxury hotels luxury travel Maine Malta Manatee Mardi Gras marriage Masonic Temple Massage Maui Maya meditation Mexico Michigan Middle East Military wedding Minnesota Missouri Molokai money Montana Monterey Moose Morocco mother's day mother-son travel motorcycle travel multigenerational vacation Music Musings Myanmar Namibia Nancy King National Prayer Day Native America nature Nepal Nevada New Mexico New Orleans New Year New York New Zealand Newfoundland Nicaragua Nigeria NNew Mexico noise Northwest Airlines Pilots Norway Nova Scotia Ohio Older parents Olive Oil Olympic Peninsula Washington orcas Oregon Orkney Islands outdoors Pacific Northwest Parent's love Paris Partners Passover Paul Ross Pennsylvania personal essay Peru Pets Philippines photography contest Pilots Plane plastic plastic bags Poem Poetry police Politics Portugal postcards Pottery poverty Prague Prayer procrastination pueblo culture Puerto Rico Q&A Quebec Quito ranch vacation random acts of kindness rap song reading reasons to travel recession rejuvenation relaxation Religion Religious holidays remembering mothers Responsible travel. Sustainable travel restaurant reviews revolution River Rafting Road trip roadtrip romance romantic travel Rosemary Beach runway delay Russia Sacred Places sadness Safari sailing Samba music San Andrés de Teixido San Francisco Santa Fe Sardinia Saudi Arabia Scotland sea kayaking Sedona self discovery senior travel Serbia Shakespeare Shamanism shame Shopping short stories Sicily Siena silence Sisters ski vacation skiing Slow travel Slum Tourism Slumdog Millionaire small-group travel Soaking tub Sociology Songwriting South America South Dakota Southeast Asia soviet satellite Spa Spain spirituality Springtime SSan Francisco St. Louis St. Petersburg Standing Stones Steinbeck stress stuff happens Sumatra Summer cottage surfing surviving disaster Sushine Coast Switzerland Tacoma Taiwan Tanzania Taos Taxi Taxi Driver Tbex Texas Thailand The Netherlands the writing life Tokyo Tourism train trip Transformative travel transportation trash travel travel advice travel agents Travel Blogging travel commentary travel confession travel contest travel essay travel gear travel hassles travel humor Travel interrupted travel musings travel opinion travel photography Travel Reviews travel safe travel safety travel security travel technology travel traditions travel trends travel videos Travel with Kids Travel Writing traveling alone traveling with kids traveling with teens trekking trip to the dentist truffles TSA complaints Ttrain trip Tunisia turbulence Turkey Tuscany typhoon UFOs Uganda uncensored travel opinion UNESCO World Heritage Site Union Station United Arab Emirates United Kingdom Upstate New York Utah vacation vacation rental vacation tips Valentine's Day Vancouver Venezuela Venice Venice California Vermont Veterans Day Vietnam Vinayaka Chaturthi virtual vacation Wales Walking Washington Washington D.C. water project waves we don't care airlines weather wedding White Oaks Pottery White Sands National Monument why I fly why not to cruise why travel wildlife spotting wine Women travel workout World Festivals world peace World War I World War II writer's block Writing Yoga Yucatan Peninsula zombie boot camp
« Welcome to Glastonbury, England | Main | Meet Our New Partners, PerpetualExplorer.com »
Tuesday
Oct082013

Alcohol, Altitude And The Middle Class: I’m out of my depth.

by Martin Nolan

Growing up on a council estate in England, there wasn’t much opportunity to strap two pieces of wood to my feet and slide down a hill. There were plenty of hills but not too many skis. In fact, there was only one person on the estate who had gone skiing. He was the guy who had fancy tea bags and premium range biscuits. In England council estates are areas where low income families reside (like trailer parks but with bricks, mortar and no tornados). They are for working class families, who work all year to save enough money to go on a package Holiday to Spain. We didn’t indulge in expensive tea and we certainly didn’t indulge in skiing. If it was Victorian times, we would have been the good natured chimney sweeps and everyone knows chimney sweeps don’t ski. 

Council Estate, England. Photo file via Wikipedia Commons.

In the intermitting years, I had become wealthier and skiing had become more affordable. Although only ever so slightly. So it wasn’t until my early twenties that I was able to go skiing. It was an attempt to expand my horizons beyond my football loving, gambling, sun seeking past that lead me to book a trip to St Anton with Crystal Ski. I pretty much chose the resort because the people there seemed to like a drink. So in hindsight, it may not have been that big a departure from my usual ways.  A leopard can’t change his spots and all that.  So I packed my bag and went to the capital of Après Ski.

Travelling by myself did not come naturally. I’m basically a socially inept, mumbling wreck of a human being. Mumbling became a way to avoid my ill timed comments from being heard. My jaw was starting to ache from constantly having to dislodge my foot from it. Since my filter wasn’t capable of stopping the words passing through my teeth, I could at least say it in a way that they wouldn’t properly hear it. People being offended were replaced by nods of politeness. No one ever wants to admit they weren’t listening properly.

So booking a shared chalet may not have been the greatest of ideas. Strangers, small talk, me. A potential melting pot of problems. “Have a few drinks... you’re really charming when you loosen up”. That was my well thought through plan. Use social lubricant to slide your way into the group.

So I arrive in this large sprawling town-like resort. I had dressed for winter but it was surprisingly sunny. Not warm, just sunny. I had read some interesting facts about the resort. It has a nickname of St Manton. Apparently men outnumber women by 8 to 1. That was fine by me because the worst thing that could happen if I insulted a man was to get punched. Women slap you, then cry and then their boyfriend punches you. That is known as the triple whammy.  

St. Anton Ski Resort. Photo by Finnur Malmquist via Flickr common license.

I arrived at the chalet and met two of the other guests. A Lance and an Orlando. Where I grew up Orlando was where Mickey Mouse lived, not a name. I knew I would have to struggle to find common ground with these people. I tentatively tested the waters with what I thought was a suitably manly sentence. “Some of the totty out there” ( Totty is generally a middle class word for women. One I’ve never used before or since).  Although people were confused about whether it was a question or a statement, I could also see that they were intrigued by my voice, which had somehow wandered into a parody of Downton Abbey. They must have thought I was mocking them. The only way to avoid embarrassment was to keep the accent up for the whole week. They politely answered that they didn’t think the standard of women was too great. They looked fine from what I had seen. Tall, leggy and wrapped in Gucci. I mean girls were wrapped in Gucci on the estate but I’m not sure it was real. Unless Gucci had decided to target local markets as a channel of distribution.  

They were polite enough to invite me out for the night. These boys were raised well. They did warn me, though, that drinking on a mountain is a bit different. Silly boys. The one thing working class people know how to do is drink. I would impress them with the number of jars I could throw back and still maintain my silly accent.

Bravado is man’s biggest downfall. Altitude thins your blood. Thin blood means that alcohol hits you quicker. I had kicked back three beers before they had finished theirs. In fact, before any of the other returnees had even started to drink.  The accent started to slip. No matter, because in my head I was in that charming drunk zone. The reality was I’d entered the slurring drunk zone half a beer ago. Some choice anecdotes emerged. Suddenly these people were enlightened by a recital of every socially inept encounter I’d ever had in my life. So much so that they could probably have written a deprecating biography about me. The girls had to deal with questions like “Is that what you are wearing out?” A genuine question but in the state I was in it sounded like an insult. Alcohol is mumbling’s kryptonite. If only I had mumbled it.

The night went from bad to worse. I was in bed before nine trying to combat a spinning room. The next morning I awoke to a frosty reception. No, not from the snow outside but from the other inhabitants of the chalet. I apologized. They were polite enough but I got the sense that they saw me as an outsider. They were right. I was. There was no hiding it.

We were obviously from different worlds. Skiing is great but at that stage in my life there was very little chance of me being able to socially navigate the little differences between classes. I hoped that being in a lively young crowd might mask some of them. In fact, it highlighted them and many more.

Ah well, I may just have to find another destination to be shunned from. I hear Canada is nice. Pretty friendly bunch, aren’t they?

 

Growing up on a council estate in England, Martin Nolan always been fascinated by all things travel and travel related. He writes a blog called The Travel Ramble and has visited a wide variety of destinations from India to France. You can follow Martin on Twitter @martinnolan7 

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (3)

Canada IS nice. Maybe you should start in Quebec, where they're more forgiving of faux pas from the English-speaking.

Nice piece, mate.

— jules

October 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjules older

Yeah, come on over, Martin - skiing in Canada is a middle-class sport - we aren't too ritzy! Leave your alter-ego at home and bring yourself - you'll be fine. Fun piece of writing!

October 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMaureen Magee

haha thanks guys.

I made it out to Canada earlier this year, and to the relief of everyone I didn't damage Anglo-Canadian relations too much. Although, I'm not sure whether that's because they couldn't understand my funny accent.

Martin

October 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMartin Nolan

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...