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Something like 18 months in the planning, my 10 week Sabbatical to do my BASI Ski Instructor's Course in Meribel, did not get off to the best of starts nor, indeed, did it end in the way I envisaged!!

Irene England Meribel- newtonmore guest house

Having been roused, by John, from a very deep sleep at 02.30 on 6th January to catch my 06.30 flight to Geneva, you can imagine my dismay on seeing that a meagre 3 inches of snow had brought Edinburgh Airport to a complete standstill, all flights cancelled.

All was not lost, though, because Easyjet rose to the occasion, promptly transferring my booking to the 10.25 flight out of Glasgow. After a somewhat intrepid journey in our mighty X-Trail across a very snowy & icy M8 (good job John can really drive the thing!), I checked in on time and got up, up and away.

Some 8 weeks later, Easyjet were, once again, called upon for services above and beyond. They were simply magnificent getting me home, 14 days earlier than planned, my Course having been rudely curtailed by an out-of-control snowboarder who scythed into me, damaging my medial cruciate ligament, preventing any further walking, let alone skiing.

In between times, however, I very much enjoyed myself.

Irene England Meribel- newtonmore guest houseAs you'd expect for such a well-renowned qualification, the regime was demanding, the training rigorous and the skiing very challenging at times. We were skiing for 6 hours a day, 6 days a week, going hard at it most of the time.

Evenings were then taken up with "homework", grinding through the BASI Manual, so my new Kindle was virtually ignored, though my i-Pod proved its worth keeping me company.

For most of my stay, I was fortunate to be able to enjoy some peace and quiet because I had moved. Through the good offices of some contacts at the Eagle Ski Club (thanks Hugh & Alan), I relocated to a room in the chalet right next door to the main one. There was simply no way that I was going to spend the whole 10 weeks, sleeping on a mattress on the floor of a small "cupboard", sharing facilities with 4 other students. No way, Jose!!

Other than that failing on the part of New Generation, the main chalet was very good, with friendly, helpful staff. Good food at breakfast & dinner and, of course, with afternoon tea & cake, when required. What more could a girl want?

Out on the slopes each day, I found Meribel & the 3 Vallees to be a truly magnificent ski area, one I'd not been to before either. Overall it was a strangely quiet season (recession?) , except for the 2 half-term weeks, when it was madness & mayhem!!

Irene England Meribel- newtonmore guest houseNew Generation, the company I'd chosen to go with, may not have been great at organising adequate sleeping arrangements, but in all other respects, they were beyond reproach. I benefited from top-notch teaching, superb coaching and encouragement from instructors for whom nothing was too much trouble. I was pleased to pass my Level One Qualification at the end of the 2nd week and then my First Aid Module a week later.

I soon settled into a few "routines" – a daily lunch of healthy salad, not-so-healthy pain au chocolat and a hot chocolate at Les Castors, a glass of wine or a beer for a measly Euro at Sammy's Euro Bar (Sammy, one of the students went to the Cash & Carry for supplies and sold everything for one Euro - get the idea?) Sometimes, for a change, I also went to the Merybar, where I qualified for the substantial "Saisonnaires" discounts on everything.

My other regular "failing" was the weekly Euro edition of Saturday's Telegraph, which helped keep me sane with the crosswords & the word games!!

On the subject of "spare time activities", I have to say that I fail to understand but have a sneaking admiration for, the stamina of some of my fellow students (of the considerably younger generation), who were able to party, party until 4.30/5.00 am and still make it to the start of lessons at 9.00 am (Well, nearly make it, if truth be told). I am also in awe of their parents who were footing their not inconsiderable credit card bills – Meribel just is not cheap!!

Irene England Meribel- newtonmore guest houseAlso, quite what they saw in Friends, Friends and yet more Friends, episodes of which were endlessly on the TV next door, I shall never know. Does this qualify me as a Boring Old Fuddy Duddy? I guess it might.

As I mentioned earlier, all this enjoyment came to an abrupt end on the afternoon of 3rd March, when an errant snowboarder and I had an unscheduled and entirely unexpected liaison, courtesy of his complete lack of control.

My sincere thanks must go to the medical team whose efforts minimised the longer term damage to my knee, to the boys & girls of the New Gen team and to the Easyjet team who got me home very smoothly and efficiently 2 weeks ahead of schedule, with no fuss or bother at all, indeed, with 3 hunky guys at each end to help with me in the wheelchair, my skis and my luggage – all 26 kilos of it!!

On then to next year, 2012, when I am planning to go back to complete the 2 week Assessment, with a 2 week warm up prior to that. (New Gen's Instructors kind enough to tell me that my progress during the 8 weeks means that this is all I shall need - praise indeed, I think.)

Another 4 weeks on the slopes to look forward to – sheer bliss.

Quite what I'll find for John to do in my absence, I don't know yet.

Irene.