Elephants on Tightropes
According to Seneca, Romans were entertained in their amphitheatres by the grand spectacle of elephants on tightropes. This has long been one of my favourite images, though today it may have been eclipsed by “Thais on Skis”.After a short drive from our hotel we arrived at a ski resort where our feet were measured and we were provided with appropriately fitting fibreglass boots, skis and those sticky things you use to push yourself off. Putting on the boots I felt like Peter Weller in RoboCop as I clicked tight the clasps. The sensation was further heightened as I clumped the short distance to the beginners’ ski slope – though perhaps my lurching gait was closer to Frankenstein’s monster.
After 20 minutes’ brief instruction we were set loose on the slope to slither and fall at will whilst Korean children, some no more than three years old, expertly navigated around us. There were plenty of collisions, but the only thing injured was my pride.
It was a delight to see how much the Thai students enjoyed themselves, oblivious to the biting cold. By the end of the couple of hours some were becoming quite proficient, taking the chairlift to the top of the slope and skiing down again and again. My achievements were somewhat more modest, inching my way up the slope for a few metres, skis at right angles to the slope, then cajoling my skis into an A-shape so that I could slide with a modicum of control for a few seconds before tumbling to the ground. I have long harboured an ambition suddenly to discover in a moment of revelation that I am an old-aged prodigy at something; I guess that thing isn’t going to be skiing.