Friday, 9 January 2009

The hardest Blog I have ever written

The holiday began with the inevitable Black family crisis. I had pre-ordered the taxi, confirming that we needed ski carriage. 5:30 am arrived with no sign of the taxi – I gave it ten minutes and then called them:

Me – "Hi, I ordered a taxi for this morning could you let me now when it is likely to arrive?"

Taxi firm – "Sorry we have no record of a booking"

Me – "But I booked it three days ago!"

Taxi firm – "Well we have no record"

Me – "Well can you rectify your error and send a taxi"

Taxi firm – "We have nothing available"

I then read out the time, day and person I had spoken to.

Taxi firm – "Sorry we have nothing in the book."

Getting a little bit hysterical and doing a passable 'Vicky Pollard' impression "You have just so ruined our holiday!!!"

Taxi firm – "I’ll do what I can, sir, but can’t promise anything" click,click Buzz

I then moved onto my own personal tribute to the ‘Four Weddings..’ opening scene

Me – “F**K”

Me – “F**K”

Me – “F**K”

While I did this Mrs B calmly phoned some other local taxi companies……….

……….A number of phone calls later:

Me & Mrs B - “F**K”

Me & Mrs B - “F**K”

Me & Mrs B - “F**K”

Fortunately, the phone rang, the original cab firm calling back to informed us they had found someone willing to get up and take us to the airport. Like they were doing us a great big fat favour….It was squeaky bum time as we raced to the airport, fortunately we just about made it to check in.

The accommodation was typically French, i.e small and extremely basic. It did have one great feature however, a panoramic view of a rather busy and tricky bit of piste. The main entertainment when we returned to the Chalet each evening was watching so-called experienced skiers wiping out tired novices who were attempting to side slip their way home. Very entertaining - we had to shut the window though and turn the iPod volume up*, as the screams and shrieks were a bit disturbing.

* 'Murder on the dance floor', was a particular favourite soundtrack to watch the carnage

As it was a catered chalet, we got to share it with two groups.

Group 1 - The Chalet Rep’s family Our rep Kier’s family had come out to join him for New Year. This turned out to be a mixed blessing for him. Kier had only been a rep for three weeks, so his range of experience was not great. This was certainly not the case by the end of the week as his family very considerately put him through an extremely steep learning curve:
• First his brother lost his ski pass
• Then the next day his father had his hired ski poles stolen.
• Next his family went and won the Quiz he had organised – the rest of the Chalet guests from around La Plagne were less than impressed and there were rumblings of foul play.
• Finally he took us out for a guided tour, at which point his mother managed to break her ankle and had to be taken off the mountain in a blood wagon. Kier noticeably started to avoid his family after this….
Eventualy Keir took to using a ginger wig to try and hide from his family

Group 2 – The Welsh family, from the Valleys!!! possibly my worst nightmare as they also had two ankle biters. Other than being Welsh, smokers and a family of second-hand car salesmen they were almost nice. The two little boys, aged 8 & 10 were fairly well behaved (despite a habit of wiping out skiers at every opportunity) but there was always that nagging thought at the back of my mind: “They are going to grow up to be fully-fledged Welshmen.” I would like to point out that my anti-Welsh stance is very much my own problem. On an individual basis I quite like a number of Welsh people. I think it is the whole Leak thing along with all that Yakki Dah Boyo & Oggy Oggy Oggy Oi Oi Oi rubbish. It’s just so undignified …..

My tolerance was not at its best for the holiday as I was suffering from a cold that I could not shake off. (So much for the Heidi principle - a couple of days in the mountain and everyone is running around like spring chickens. Not a chance, I went from sounding like a 40 a-day smoker to a 60 a-day inhaler who had developed consumption and was now using a megaphone so that no one on the mountain missed out on a single decibel of my coughing.) So you can imagine my delight when I was taken out by a French Granny, while I was just standing there talking to Mrs B. This grey haired menace caught the back of one of my skis with hers. Instead of stopping, the myopic garlic-muncher carried on going. In slow motion my legs moved in different directions. I didn’t know what was happening until I tumbled unceremoniously onto the snow. Unusually for a French person she actually stopped and apologised. Probably just a cunning attempt to embarrass me even more. She then attempted to help me up, which would have been a good idea if she had not been half my size…..
Mrs B gamely reading the piste map, she is actually very good at it. Unfortunately she has the sense of direction of Nafman (Our less then accurate car navigation system). As long as I overrule her and take us in the opposite direction we normally get to our intended destination.

While I was actually skiing it was fine but as soon as I stopped (or was knocked over) my body would become racked by coughing fits that at least guaranteed us empty gondolas. Added to this cacophony, I was now producing enough green gunk that I could be easily tracked around the slopes – a sort of snotty Hansel and Gretel, without the nice little old lady (I’m sure she only wanted help with cleaning the inside of her oven. You’d be a bit miffed if you had found two little tykes eating the bests bits of your home). On the Chalet cook’s night off we went out to a little French restaurant. Mrs B was so frustrated about the used tissue mountain that I was creating that she did her tidying up bit and started storing them in one of her pockets. She was mortified when we got outside and she went to empty the tissues into a bin. The pocket had a hole in it and Mrs B had left a nice neat trail of my snot rags throughout the restaurant. While I’m certain the restaurant was not in line to receive any Michelin stars. Now however, thanks to us, its green rating had gone up considerably…..
Rather annoyingly someone pinched my flying goggles. The main suspect remains Mrs B, although I have yet to prove it.

Not a New Year’s Eve to remember
As New Year Eve’s go it was not classic. Mrs B was under the weather and I was now coughing like a 100 a-day consumptive. So, instead of heading for the New Year’s Eve party on the slopes with the rest of the Chalet, we watched the New Year countdown on French TV. Flipping between French and German channels trying to decide which was the worst, since both were like watching 'It’s a knock-out' we decided to award them both 'Null points'. Our European cousins do appear to like slapstick and little else. We went out on the balcony at midnight to watch the firework display, sent a few texts and then retired to bed to lick our wounds.

Putting it all into perspective
The next morning we received a text from my sister to give her a call. The next few minutes were just awful as my sister told me that Richard, her husband, had died suddenly the day before. Mrs B and I were dumb struck. We had last seen Richard on Boxing Day. He had been at his best - cooking for everyone with a huge grin on his face, so full of life.

My sister and Richard had been down in the South of France visiting friends, Richard had blown his nose and my sister described it as like an elephant trumpeting. She turned around to admonish him for making such a noise in someone else’s house (the sort of thing Mrs B would say to me). He just collapsed backwards and was gone…. It was that quick. All attempts to revive him by my sister, his friend James and then the Medics were to no avail.

While the next two days were glorious blue skies it was so at odds with our mood. We needed to see grey stormy skies. As we were stuck in the resort for the next two days we skied but our hearts were not really in it. We were getting a mixture of happy memories of Richard and my sister, inter-spliced with moments of sadness that we would not see him again. His oldest daughter is about the same age that I was when I lost my own father, which brought those memories flooding back.

Returning home
There is just so much to be done when someone dies. Lisa one of my sister’s friends kindly did the legwork of research for funeral directors and managed to narrow it down to two. First up, but not highly recommended, was the ‘Acorn Antiques’ of the funeral business – Lisa reported that a little old lady appeared from a shabby little office and hobbled, zombie-like, towards her. Lisa said the woman looked like she had stepped out of one of her own box’s. While Lisa never saw any of the staff, she could not get the thought out of her head that the rest of the crypt crew were likely to be extras left over from the cast of the Michael Jackson video “Thriller”. My sister declined on the basis that when you have to bury someone you don’t really want it being done by the Living Dead, no matter what experience of the other side they bring with them. This left us with a choice of one and although the lady reminded us of Victoria Wood in one of her more scatty roles she was pleasant enough, even if she did come across a bit like a time share salesman.

If there is anything that comes out of Richard’s untimely death it is surely that we should live our lives to the full. Fortunately, this was something that Richard did. The added bonus is that the family got to see him for Christmas, his father said to me on Boxing Day that he had never seen Richard so happy.

For those of us fortunate enough to have known him, we should be glad that he was part of our lives, all be it too briefly. My thoughts at this time go to my sister, to the children Trinity, Greta and Alex, to Richards’ parents, Heinz and Elaine, his sister Margaret and brother in law Martin, as well as his many friends who will miss him terribly. Hopefully in time the pain of loss will dull and we will be left with many happy memories of Richard.

My sister summed it up when she said that she would not change a single thing of her seven years with Richard. She was given the following poem by friend that has helped her to take it all in.

You can shed tears that he is gone
or you can smile because he has lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that he'll come back
or you can open your eyes and see what he's left.

Your heart can be empty because you can't see him
or you can be full of the love you shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday

You can remember him and only that he has gone
or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
or you can do what he'd want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

Don’t leave it too long before contacting friends and family, you never know what might happen. Summed up in the lyrics of one of my favourite song writers “Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans” John Lennon - Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) 1980. Written just a few short months before he was shot.

Sorry that it is not the normal upbeat BlackLOG sometimes life takes us in different direction…….
Richard Edmund Spohrer (1965-2008)


  1. Mr B, I am so sorry to read of your family's loss. I was intrigued by the title to this post and thought "what could be so bad?"

    I hope you find some comfort in remembering happier times with Richard. x

  2. Thank you Bluesoup your kind thoughts are much appreciated.

  3. I was reading the post and thinking it never rains but it pours, and then you mention the demise of Richard. Thoughts go to you and Mrs B.


  4. Sorry to read that BlackLOG. I really don't know what to say. My thoughts go out to you and your family.

  5. Thanks AV & CS - I thought long and hard about if I should include Richard or not. The BlackLOG is mostly about the funny side of life. However I recently realised while reading some back issues that it also acts as a diary of important events......

  6. I'm so sorry for your loss, you have my deepest condolences.

    I lost a family member just before Christmas, so know just how you feel.

  7. So sorry to hear about the loss of your brother-in-law. It is always such a shock when someone dies so unexpectedly. My heart goes out to his family. You included.

  8. Thank you Perpetualspiral & Loth for your kind thoughts. It is much appreciated, people can be so kind I know my sister has gained a lot of strength from the phone calls, notes and texts that she has received. It's funny but many people seem to shy away from death and don't say anything, which is a little sad. Just a few comforting words can mean a lot when you have lost someone.

  9. What a shock for all of you, I do hope your sister and the children are getting lots of help when needed, but also the space to be able to get back to some sort of normality.

    It always make you think of your own mortality when someone dies who is of a similar age to yourself (I'm a product of 1964).

    Reading about the selection of funeral directors, at least we can still see the funny side of life during the dark times.


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