I don't get the snow. It's cold, for one thing, and what is the one thing we are taught as proper Australian children? Cold is bad. If cold isn't bad, why does the rest of the county malign Melbourne for being damp and dreary? Cold is bad. My mother was frequently bemoaning the drafts creeping up her skirts and pantsuits. She paid almost evangelical attention to the arrangement of the draft extruder. Not that we called it a draft extruder. We were simple folk, and could not afford complicated turns of phrase that included triple-syllabled words like 'extruder'. Instead, we called it The Door Sausage. Classy, hey.
When I say simple folk, I should point out that we were what unkind people would call white trash. I like to think that toff and trash come in all the colours of the rainbow. Like Angelina Jolie's children. I distinctly remember a time when the gas was cut off, and my mother resorted to using a wood-burning stove in the kitchen that I had previously imagined to be decorative.
My mother's obsession with the perceived nastiness of The Cold is, most likely, why I am predisposed to hate the snow. Why would you want to go somewhere that it is so chilly that the water nestling in the clouds freezes, becomes too heavy for the clouds to hold up anymore, and falls to the earth? It's pretty, I'll give you that, but it is, well, cold. And wet. If you fall over, generally wet coldness gets into your clothes. No matter how well insulated you are, cold frozen things get inside your clothes, melt, and become wet coldness. Inside your clothes. The thought is so horrific, the only thing that comes close is the policeman in the that seventies horror film, “When A Stranger Calls,” saying ‘The calls are coming from inside the house!’
There is, of course, no such thing as the personal door sausage, protecting you from the cold at all times, so I would rather not subject myself to the risk of it getting at me. As well as that, there are the alleged leisure activities associated with the snow. As far as I can tell, these involve hurtling down the side of a mountain. Some people, it seems, are not impressed with gravity, and the speed with which she drags things from a great height down into her crushing bosom, so they help her out. By standing on sticks. For some reason, which I would know if I hadn’t decided that year 11 physics class was the one best spent shoplifting LEGO, standing on flat sticks helps you plunge toward oblivion so much faster than simply falling.
I have attempted both skiing and snowboarding, and neither of them hold any great interest for me. Perhaps I’m not an adrenaline junkie, like all the other people who go to all the extreme and sweaty effort of clambering up to the top of a mountain, only to hurl themselves off it again. Either that, or I get all the adrenaline I need standing in front of three hen’s nights, four buck’s parties and a pack of drunk bogans at a comedy club, talking about how I think Bindi Irwin looks like a botched animatronic. Also, I am not entirely comfortable with the idea that, when zipping downhill on a slippery stick, I am frequently forced into using my face as a braking mechanism.
Having decided the snow is not for me, you can imagine how delighted I was to be invited to the top of a mountain this year, not once, but twice. Plus, before you can say “RSVP,” I was informed that, while nothing at my place of business is compulsory, I would be ‘letting the team down’ if I didn’t attend. Being the joyous team player that I am, I rolled my eyes and resigned myself to my fate. The first weekend wasn’t so bad. I discovered that there was Gluehwein* in abundance, and I discovered the delights of the Ice Bar. At Mt Buller last year, I was invited to the opening of the Ice Bar, where I slammed down a shot of something blue, before retreating to the indoors and Poon*. This year, however, having decided I would never again attempt to stand on slippery sticks, I took myself off to the Ice Bar and had a beer. It is amazing. You rug up in lots of protective clothing, plonk yourself on a bar stool, and drink beer. That never gets warm. It is a miracle of thermodynamics, which, again, I would understand better if I hadn’t decided to eschew my physics class in order to sneak around Barkly Square shopping centre, filling my pockets with Danish toys.
With the thought of all these gastronomic and alcoholic delights in mind, I was very much looking forward to the following weekend atop Mt Hotham. Oh dear. What a mistake. Hotham, it seems, is all about the skiing and the boarding and other hurties pursuits. The sitting and drinking and having a fun old time was not in evidence. It all started well. Work had organised a stretch Hummer to take us to Essendon airport, where we boarded a private plane and flew to Hotham. Much more civilised than driving for a trillion hours. Then we got to something that claimed to be a hotel. It was a hostel, at best. Hideous dorm rooms with three or four beds per room. The view was of snow. Not delightful snow capped mountains, and glorious clean mountain air. No, just snow. Close up. Piled against barred windows. I felt like I was in some kind of science-fiction comic-book prison, high atop a mountain, buried under twenty feet of ice, to prevent the dangerous super-powered criminals from escaping.
The only thing that wasn’t escaping, however, was the smell. Urine, to be precise. Well, my floor smelled of urine. One floor smelled like fish. Another, like toilet lollies – you know those little yellow blocks you see in men’s urinals? Yeah. That smell… There was one floor that smelled of steak, but only from 6pm-9pm, then it went back to being the piss floor.
The rest of the weekend was like a comedy of errors. Just when I thought the tide of horror was about to turn to good, something else would go unspeakably wrong. The midnight fire alarm, evacuating me into the snow in my pyjamas. The bain-maire buffet where vegetables were not an option, because they weren’t offered. The ten minute lunch queue which ended with the discovery that the only alternative to chips that was available, was chips. Chips that left very little change from a ten dollar note, mind you. The karaoke night that was supposed to run itself, but didn’t, and I was the only person in the room who’d run a karaoke night. This turn of events did, however, offer me the opportunity to sing alternative lyrics to New York, New York.
I wanna wake up in a hotel that doesn’t stink.
There is, I’m sure, a moral to this story, but I have no idea what it is. There are, however, recipes. Now the cold weather has abandoned us, there is probably no need for these winter warmers, but feel free to make them anyway.
1 bottle red wine (cheap but not nasty)
1 cup sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tbsp orange rind
1 cinnamon stick
handful of cloves
Put everything in a pot and gently heat. Don’t boil. Simmer for about an hour. Strain out the lumpy bits and let it sit somewhere for a couple of days. Reheat and serve in mugs, over a dash of brandy.
This is the best food ever. Like stodgy nachos. With the added bonus revolting innuendo as you describe how you are eating the poon.
Frozen oven chips (those beer battered ones are good)
Bacon (chopped into bits)
Cook the chips until they’re ready. Cover with bacon and cheese. Grill until cheese melts. Pour gravy on top. Push your face into it and devour.