Monday, December 8, 2008

Hop Swiss Part Two - Wouldn't It Be Good To Be In Your Town



The day after the chef had his emotional meltdown, we were understandably keen to distance ourselves from the hotel and keep a low profile, and were given a free day to wander around Switzerland - although this posed a significant problem for me as with a burst eardrum, there was no way I wanted to get out of bed. To alleviate the pain in my ear that made my ear sound it like it playing a Pantera song at full feedback and pass the time while I waited for everyone to return with tales of adventure and armfuls of cheap chocolate, it was decided that I would be put in charge of drawing the table tennis tournament. I think it was more or less like when they give the div kid a colouring book so they'll stop whinging, as I was in an insufferable mood, especially when the catering staf, now minus a chef, took to referring to me as that kid who was sick on the mini bus. It's amazing how quickly you can pick up the German for vomit when someone says the same thing constantly. Colin, the only other person left in the Hotel as it happened, had taken to standing on our room balcony threatening to expose himself to passers by, at which point we realised that there were no passers by, Colin was again talking to himself, and to make matters worse he had a jacket with so many zips on it if he did want to expose himself it would take half an hour to perform the act. Eventually tiring on the act of putting little pieces of paper together to make a tournament, I made my first venture into the town alone, heading to the general store past some grumpy locals and some cows who couldn't be reached for comment. I was feeling better until a German woman with oddly shaped armpits and a trolley full of chocolate smashed right into my legs and then proceeded to swear at me in German - at first I thought she had said hey get out of the way kid who vomited on the mini bus - so I swore back in Scottish. A man with a wonderfully droppy moustache and a red dickie bow then came up on behalf of the local tourist board and assured me that not everyone was as rude as her, and then he said something which I swear was this is a nice town, Nik Kershaw holidays here, but I'm doubtful that is the case. I didn't have the heart to tell him he was speaking entirely into my bad ear, because he was positively spinning his dickie bow in delight that he had set me straight on the virtues of Switzerland, and then returned to the milk aisle to load up on dairy. As I walked back to the Hotel Schönbuhl nursing armfuls of chocolate, an old French woman in a jogging suit leapt out from what seemed like behind the refuge of the indolent indifferent cattle to tell me that the public transport system in Interlaken was in need of an upgrade. I figured at this point, this was what Switzerland was like, people just coming up for a friendly chat or to say bizarre things. Certainly, my stories matched up with those of a girl called Elaine (big forehead, nice hair, penchant for Marti Pellow, eyes like the He-Man character Mantenna) who was bailed up on a bus for her opinions on the Swiss Ice Hockey team. My conversation with Elaine however came to an abrupt end when she had to go and play table tennis as assigned by the official "made with marker pens and some paper from the much nicer than the catering department accounts department" table tennis schedule. Elaine thought table tennis sucked, I was put out that no one appreciated my hard work, and as always, the cows were unavailable for comment...

All through the day, well, presumably, certainly Colin and Elaine had speculated about it, there had been plenty of speculation as to what would happen at dinner. Fredrik hadn't been seen since the quite emotional rejection of his custard treat at the welcoming dinner the night before, and I was glad I didn't know my Coogee Bay Hotel style horror stories about angry chefs at that point. In the end, it was his apprentice who did the honours, delivering us his speciality, ice cream scooped out of a giant bucket with a giant scoop. No topping. We figured that as patrons we were entitled to at least a little topping, or maybe just a glimpse of topping, but no one was game to put their hand up and be the Kilwinning equivalent of Oliver Twist, not even the teachers. As we ate our sturdy plain vanilla treat, I came to realise that my absence and my illness had left me a little isolated from the group, especially when my friend Scott, who looked a little like Gene Hackman if he was a Scottish teenager from Dalry, told me all about the toboggan run at Heimwehfluh that he and all these other people had discovered - naturally, since I wasn't one of the all these other people, I was suffering from exclusion syndrome, and no one knew who Nik Kershaw was so that was a wasted anecdote. Keen to rebuild the bridge between us, the hotel owner Urs decided to tell us over the microphone a fascinating skiing anecdote about the time he didn't win something or other, but I wasn't listening, fascinating as I'm sure the tales of shooping down the mountain in a respectable fifth were, my mind was on social redemption. So far everything I had done was a solitary pursuit, mostly because I had a busted eardrum, but I had drawn a table tennis tournament, I had gone for a walk, I had drunk pina coladas illegally from the staff room, and I had lay awake listening to Colin babble on to himself about whether he believed in cod (my hearing wasn't the best). I decided that the only thing to do was to push through the pain barrier and become the perfect tourist and friend, that I would put down my KLF and Clivelles and Cole tape and start engaging with this mystical land...not right away mind you, I still had one last crossword puzzle to finish off while I stayed awake trying not to get my hand put in a plate of cold water...it was bad enough being the vomiting kid without...you know...

The next day I wouldn't have had a lot of choice anyway - it was a designated group activity so even if I had my ear hanging off the side of my head I would have been dragged out of bed by the PE teachers anyway. I was never more faux positive in my entire life, I was a regular little tour guide, as we prepared as a group to go up the Alps, which having seen Toblerone I presumed were all the same size, on a train that was clean and alpine fresh. I shared out my stash of tapes so people would have something to listen to on their walkman, I got some Fruit and Nut from people I didn't normally talk to, I made enthusiastic noises about the beauty of the scenery which seemed inappropriate just as the train went past some people having a cheeky piss in the lake...so they weren't all conversational winners. It was also the first, well one of the first, times I realised I could make up for any looks based shortcomings with a cool and trendy knowledge of popular music and culture. Armed with little more than a Now 14 tape and the lyrics to It's A Fine Day by OPUS III, I was able to weave myself into a much more interesting person than I deserved to be regarded as. My ear didn't even hurt so I convinced myself that my eardrum had been some sort of psychosomatic reaction to stress, at which point a little voice in my head said don't ruin it by saying psychosomatic, you aren't The Prodigy. We were definitely now a tightly bonded group of Scottish explorers, and as the train got to the top of the mountain, it was a genuinely magnificent sight whichever one of the Alps we had just got a train to. What was an even better sight was a large group of children who had decided there was no better way to spend a sunny Swiss morning than by listening to me talk about music. Yes, this was truly living, and in my minds eye, I can see a dejected and sad Colin, with no one listening to his ghostly theories, hunched over at the back, looking a bit grumpy and fed up. Life was good, and I was king of the world...well, king of Kilwinning school trips anyway...

Of course, as with all my life lessons, I never saw it coming. I was feeling really good about myself in my big over the top jazzed up early 90s warm puffy mega zip covered in logos jacket and big baggy pants with extra leg room, and I was standing on the edge of a small drop on a little snowy soapbox, with a can of Coke (the presence of the can of coke in my life at this point is a continuing mystery as I don't drink coke on the grounds that it's an even multinational corporation with questionable labor practices, and it makes my stomach grumble) espousing a theory on the temporal nature of life and how we had to appreciate the wonderful mom...oh, wait, maybe it was about Opus III instead, whatever it was, I was taking advantage of my popularity surge to say something when Elaine, dear sweet bug eyed Elaine, hit me right between the eyes with a snowball. It was thrown, I believe, in quasi flirtacious fun, and the correct and proper response, one that would have got me a winch I believe, would have been to take the snowball on the chin, laugh it off, and throw a snowball back, as is the traditional custom. My chin is sound, I was hit by a snowball with a rock in it once and laughed it off, but this one caught me in an awkward spot, and it broke in mid air, bits of it hitting me in the eye and another bit hitting me (it will all make sense now) right in the ear, my bad ear. Combined with the sheer surprise, it knocked me off my little soapbox like ledge, and I fell face down into the snow, and then, even worse, kept sliding for a while while my little legs tried to stop me from sliding. Even worse (when you are on your third and worse in a story, it's never good) I was also now making a coke trail in the ice as I was dragging the can along with me. I didn't slide that far to be honest, but it was enough for some people to think that was dead, because I didn't move - that was out of sheer embarrassment, and had I been allowed to, I would have been quite content to lie there in my snowy social grave, but I had to get up, I was forced to get up...the coke can was really pressing onto the back of my neck....

And then, things got even worse...

12 comments:

Kath Lockett said...

Oh Miles....what a tragic and yet cliff-hanger ending to your second instalment!

Charles Gramlich said...

The vomit kid. Now there's a nickname.

Mad Cat Lady said...

Wow - I love multiepisodic seriesessesss *coff* hard to stop

That's the only fault I find with new doctor who. I miss the six part episodes.

It's like David Tennant has suddenly morphed into Tom Baker.

Woot!
(word verification: finga)

squib said...

oh no! Come on, what happened next?!

Miles McClagan said...

Ah, and there's still plenty more tragedy to come...

Luckily it didn't catch on as a nickname, maybe it would have if I'd stayed in Kilwinning...

Doctor Who, let's not talk about the Sylvester McCoy debacle then...

I'll get there, I promise! Eventually!

Jannie said...

You poor little (or big,) fellow. Your bad ear. I've had compacted snow to the eye - it freaking hurts.

And more tragedy to come. God, what next? That coke froze you to the ice? A cow chased you to a chocolate factory? MORE CUSTARD???

Mad Cat Lady said...

If he hadn’t taken such a derivative approach to the character, he could have been good. But a midget scatty version of Tom Baker was never going to work.

Miles McClagan said...

It would have been a great ending if on our final night we'd been infused with more custard wouldn't it...if he'd had a 2nd crack at it and failed again...we might never have seen him again!

Sylvester McCoy was Dr Who when I lived in the UK, everyone just hated him...one bloke wrote the paper demanding Chris Barrie play him, but I can't see Arnold Rimmer as Dr Who...

Aunty Evil said...

This is hilarious!

Miles McClagan said...

Thankyou, I appreciate that! My burst eardrum came good for something!

Baino said...

Sorry Nurse Baino is a little late doing the rounds. . .this has the makings of a phenomenal holiday. And I thought my chicken pox whilst on a camping holiday in Tassie a few years ago was funny! Haven't hear of Nick Kershaw for years!Maybe he took to a snowy grave?

Miles McClagan said...

Nik Kershaw (as covered in great detail on Get This!) still tours, and I can't remember whether it was him or Howard Jones who toured with his parents running the merch stall...I got chicken pox when I was on holiday in Scotland, but it's not a great story, got it, slept it off, thanks for the present...