by Robert Williams

Des was doing nothing in particular one morning when a letter popped through his letterbox. He went into the hall, picked the letter up and was about to just about to open it when the doorbell rang. Des opened the door to see Clive, Wayne and Mrs Greasy all standing there, looking slightly suspicious.

"What do you all want?" said Des.

"Oh, hello Des," said Clive. "Received any post this morning?"

"Yes, I'm just about to open it."

Des opened the envelope and learnt that he had won a two-week skiing holiday for five in the Alps.

"For five??" said Des. "That's...hang on a minute! The opening to this story is almost exactly the same as Volume 6, Chapter 8! You lot all played a joke on me and Mick when you posted me a letter saying I'd won a mystery cruise for five, and we ended spending all week on the cross-channel ferry! This is just another wind-up!"

"Well look at the postmark then!" said Clive.

"Um...Swindon...oh! I remember!" exclaimed Des. "I actually did enter a competition to win a skiing holiday in 'Reader's Digest'!"

"Apology?" said Clive.

"Yes, all right, I'm sorry," said Des. "This is very annoying. I didn't want to go on a skiing holiday. I wanted the runners up prize - a signed photograph of Eamonn Holmes!"

"What, you mean that block of flats they've just built in New Malden?" said Mrs Greasy.

"No, no," said Des. "Anyway, what do you lot want, if it isn't to send me joke letters?"

"We're just bored!" said Wayne.

"In fact, we were so bored we decided to come round your house," said Clive. "Can we come on your skiing holiday then?"

"I suppose so," said Des. "I've got to find five people to come..."

"Well there's us three," said Clive.

"And Mick," said Des. "So that makes four. I need one other person."

Des, Clive, Wayne and Mrs Greasy stood there thinking.

"Hmmm..." said Clive.

"Ummm...." said Des.

"What about you then, Des!" said Wayne.

"Oh yes...of course!" said Des. "How could I forget?...anyway, the Alps. Where are they anyway?"

"France," said Clive.

"Not France!!" exclaimed Des.

"Yes, France," said Clive.

"Oh," said Des. "Do you think they'll let us back in after the last two times? I don't think they liked us very much."

"No one likes you very much!!" exclaimed Clive.

"I'd better remember to take my phrase book this time," said Des.

It was soon after Christmas that Des decided to take the holiday. He and the others loaded themselves into the van, with Des at the wheel and Mick in the passenger seat.

"Right Des, are you sure you've got everything?" said Mick.

"Yes, absolutely positive," said Des.

"Anorak? Ear muffs? Phrase book? Toothbrush?"

"Yes, got all those," said Des. "I've definitely remembered everything!"

"Boots? Gloves? Skis..."

"Skis!" exclaimed Des. "Oh, I knew I'd forgotten something! I'll have to go and buy some!"

The others groaned. Des drove into town, and to the sports shop where the others had already bought their skis. He parked on a double yellow line, and Des went into the shop leaving Mick to explain to the traffic warden.

"Err, it's not actually a double yellow line, it's the slime trails of two giant slugs."

"Oh sorry, yes, of course it is, my mistake," said the traffic warden, moving on.

After spending two hours in the shop, Des finally found a pair of skis he liked, and emerged from the shop. He dumped them in the back of the van, just managing to avoid major injury to most of the occupants, and drove off.

"Are you sure you know the way to France?" said Mick.

"Yes," said Des. "We need to go on the M25."

"Correct," said Mick.

"And then join the M4."

"No, no, no!" exclaimed Mick, burying his head in his hands. "The other way! M25, then M26 and M20, and then we join the Channel Tunnel!"

"That's roughly what I said," said Des.

They rapidly drove down to Folkestone, then travelled through the Channel Tunnel and arrived in France, where Des caused havoc by once again forgetting that they drive on the other side of the road.

Eventually they made it to the ski resort at Chamonix in the Alps. They drove in behind a coach of British holidaymakers. Before long, the coach ground to a halt just outside the resort, and Des ground to a halt behind them.

"What have they stopped for?" said Des. "I wish they'd get out of the way!"

"Those holidaymakers are getting off the coach," said Mick, leaning out of the window. "They're being met by their chalet girls and boys."

"Where's our one then?" said Des.

"I don't know," said Mick.

"Well I can't just the van stop here, I've got to find somewhere to park," said Des. He backed up the van, and drove around looking for the car park.

Eventually he parked somewhere, a good distance away. The nine of them disembarked from the van, and walked back to the resort with their bags. The coach had now gone, and all the holidaymakers had disappeared into their chalets. There was just one young lady standing around, shivering, looking at her watch.

"She must be our chalet girl," said Mick. "She's going to look after us, make our beds, cook our meals..."

"Cook our meals??!?!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy. "That's my job!!"

"Not for the next two weeks!" said Clive, grinning. "He, he, he!"

"That's what you think!" said Mrs Greasy.

They went up to the chalet girl.

"Do you think she's French?" asked Des.

"I don't know," said Mick.

"Here's the phrase book," said Des, thrusting it into Mick's hand. "Say hello, and tell her we're sorry we're a bit late."

Mick groaned. He flicked through the phrase book, looking up each word.

"Ahem," said Mick. "Bonjour!...Je...suis...desole...nous...sommes...en retard..."

"Ne vous en faites pas!" said the chalet girl.

"What does that mean?" said Des, turning to Mick.

"Umm..." said Mick, flicking through the book, and taking a long time about it.

"Oh never mind," said Des. "Ask her what her name is."

There was a pause as Mick searched through the phrase book.

"Errr...comment...vous...appelez-vous?" said Mick, in his best English accent.

"Je m'appelle Sharon," said the chalet girl. "D'ou etes-vous?"

Mick frantically searched through the phrase book, while Des stood there grinning.

"J'habite...a Tolworth...en...Angleterre..." said Mick.

"You're from England?!" said Sharon.

"Yes!" said Des.

"Well why didn't you say so?!" exclaimed Sharon. "I thought you were French!"

"We thought you were French!" said Mick.

"I'm from Lewisham! I'm working over here for the winter season," explained Sharon. "I'm your chalet girl, and I'll be looking after you, doing all the cleaning and making the beds, and cooking your meals..."

Mrs Greasy gave Sharon the look of death when she mentioned cooking.

"Anyway, I'll show you all to your chalet," said Sharon. They followed her up to their chalet.

"This is all very nice," said Mick, as they looked around.

"Especially the kitchen," said Mrs Greasy. "I think I'll enjoy spending plenty of time here!" she exclaimed, glaring at Sharon.

It was getting quite late by now, so Wayne decided to spend the evening trying to pick up BBC2 on his portable television, and Des, Mick and Clive had plenty of amusement watching Mrs Greasy trying to take over the kitchen from Sharon. They spent hours arguing.

"All right then!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy. "Let's ask them! Des, Mick, Clive! What would you rather have?! Lamb noisettes and vegetable rosti cooked extremely badly by Sharon, or cod and chips cooked wonderfully by me?!"

Des, Mick and Clive had to think long and hard about this.

"What a tough decision this is!" said Clive sarcastically.

"I think it had to be..lamb noisettes and vegetable rosti!" said Mick. The other two agreed. Mrs Greasy frowned.

"Well I'd rather 'ave cod 'n' chips!" said Wayne, walking in.

"Well you would!" said Clive.

After their meal of lamb noisettes and vegetable rosti with cod and chops, the gang settled down and tried to find something in English on the television. Failing to manage this, they instead had a sing-song, initiated by Des. Due to this, Mick, Clive, Mrs Greasy and Wayne opted for an early night.

Mrs Greasy rose extra early the next morning, in order to cook breakfast before Sharon could have a chance.

"Breakfast time!" proclaimed Mrs G to the others when they came down.

"Oh no," groaned Des.

"Oh no!" exclaimed Sharon.

"Go on Sharon, cook us a proper breakfast," said Clive.

"With pleasure," said Sharon. She threw Mrs Greasy's excuse for bacon and eggs in the bin, much to her disgust.

"So are we going skiing today then?" said Mick.

"Skiing??!" said Des, alarmed. "Well...maybe tomorrow...I thought we'd build a snowman today."

"Well the rest of you can build a snowman, I'm going skiing!" said Clive.

Mrs Greasy, who was not giving in to Sharon, stayed in the chalet to cook lunch while Sharon was cleaning out the toilets. Clive went to his room to get ready to go skiing, Wayne disappeared off somewhere and Des and Mick went out to build a snowman.

"Where did you get that scarf and hat?" said Mick.

"They're Clive's!" sniggered Des.

They spent a good hour building their snowman. As they put the finishing touches to it - Clive's scarf and hat - they saw Clive himself walking up to them with his skis on his back. Des and Mick quickly stood in front of the snowman so he wouldn't see.

"Brrrrr, I'm cold!" said Clive. "Someone's half-inched my scarf and hat!"

"Oh dear!" said Des. "I wonder who that could have been!"

"Have you finished your snowman? Let's have a look," said Clive.

"Oh, you don't want to see it, it's not very good..."

"Look out!!" exclaimed Clive.

Des and Mick looked behind them and saw Wayne heading rapidly towards them on a snowboard. They leapt out the way just as Wayne careered into their snowman. Snow went everywhere, and Clive's hat and scarf flew into the air and landed on top of Clive.

"Ah, there they are!" said Clive. "I'm going off skiing, see you later!"

"Wayne!!" exclaimed Des, brushing the snow off his anorak. "You've ruined it!"

"Hey Des, yer snowman's not much good!" exclaimed Wayne. "Hey, have yer ever tried snowboardin'! It's much more fun than borin' old skiin'!"

"Maybe some other day," said Des.

"Come on Des, Wayne's destroyed our snowman, we might as well go skiing now," said Mick.

"Shouldn't we find a skiing instructor first?" said Des.

"Bonjour, mes amis," said a man coming up behind them.

"Are you French?" said Des. "Do you speak English?"

"Oui!" said the man. Des looked confused.

"He means yes," said Mick.

"Can I be of ze assistance?" he said. "My name is Pierre-Jean Verdigris. I am a skiing instructor. I can teach anyvun to ski!"

"Well...all right then..." said Des, apprehensively. He and Mick went back to a smoke-filled chalet, thanks to Mrs Greasy who had already burnt ten sausages, and they fetched their skis. They met Pierre-Jean at the bottom of the ski lift.

"We're...not going...all the way...up there...are we??" said Des, nervously.

"Of course!" said Pierre-Jean.

"Umm...I'm going home," said Des, going to walk off.

"Come on, Des!" said Mick. Des sighed, and boarded the ski lift with Mick and Pierre-Jean.

As they went higher and higher, Des got more and more nervous.

"Don't look down, Des!" said Mick. Des looked down, and saw the ski resort a very long way down. He gasped, and froze.

"I want to go home," he whined.

Eventually they made it to the top of the ski slope, where Clive was already showing off his skiing skills, and Wayne was getting in everybody's way by snowboarding.

"I'm not doing this," said Des.

"Yes you are," said Mick. "Get your skis on."

"Right," said Pierre-Jean. "It's all very simple..."

But Des never found out what Pierre-Jean said next. As soon as he had put his skis on, he began to slide down the slope.

"Oh Des!" groaned Mick. "Come back!"

"Oh no!" exclaimed Des, sliding rapidly down the slope. He tried to slow himself down and compose himself, and to his surprise he started to ski quite nicely down the slope.

"Gosh!" thought Des. "This is not as difficult as I thought!"

He skied down the snow-covered slopes of the Alps, and was doing rather well until he heard a familiar voice behind him.

"Des!!!" exclaimed Wayne. "Watch out!!!"

Des looked behind him and saw Wayne on his snowboard careering towards him. When he looked back he was alarmed to see a tree hurtling towards him. In utter confusion, Des just closed his eyes, and the next thing he knew was Wayne running in the back of him, and then the two of them running into the tree.

When Des finally regained consciousness, he found himself in the local hospital with his leg in plaster. It was visiting time, and Clive, Wayne, Mick and Mrs G were there.

"Comment allez-vous?" said a nurse, looking at him.

"Huh? Where am I?" mumbled Des.

"Pardon, je n'ai pas saisi," said the nurse.

"What??? said Des.

"Ca va?" said Clive, grinning.

"Stop talking in foreign," moaned Des. "Where am I?"

"It's typical of you to break your leg the first time you ever ski!" exclaimed Clive.

"Is this still France?" said Des.

"Yes it is," said Mick. "You've broken your leg."

"Oh no," groaned Des. "Can't I at least be transferred to an English hospital?"

"No way!" said Clive. "We've still got nearly two weeks left of our holiday, and we're not going home yet! I'm really getting the hang of this skiing lark!"

"Hang on," said Des. "How's Wayne? I remember...he crashed into me!"

"Me?!" said Wayne. "I'm fine! I landed on top of yer! I've been snowboardin' all mornin'!"

"Tell you what," said Des. "If I see that instructor chappie, I'll strangle him!"

"Bonjour!" said Pierre-Jean, who happened to be there. Des growled.

The gang paid regular visits to Des in hospital over the next two weeks.

"I'm getting really good at this skiing," said Mick. "Pierre-Jean's an excellent instructor!"

"And I've won the snowboardin' competition!" exclaimed Wayne.

"Can we go home yet?" moaned Des. "I can't understand a word anyone's saying round here, and they keep serving me frogs' legs and snails! At least it's better than Mrs Greasy's cooking!"

"Talking of Mrs Greasy, she and Sharon nearly came to blows last night!" said Mick. "That was until Mrs G tasted some of her cooking, and she was really impressed! Now Sharon's actually giving Mrs G a few cookery lessons while the rest of us are out on the slopes!"

"Wonders will never cease," groaned Des. "How much longer till we go home?!"

"One more week," said Mick.

And one week later, Des was at last well enough to be let out of hospital. He hobbled up to the ski resort at Chamonix, where Mick, Clive, Wayne and Mrs Greasy had packed their things and were leaving their chalet.

"What a great fortnight that was!" said Mick. "I really enjoyed it!"

"So did I!" said Clive. "Oh hello, Des."

"Hello," groaned Des.

"I'm so glad you won that competition for us!" said Clive. "I've loved the last two weeks! We must come back next year!"

"Oh yes," said Des, sarcastically. "I'd really love another two weeks in hospital. And all this because I wanted a signed picture of Eamonn Holmes."

"I'm sorry, did someone say my name?" said a familiar face, coming up to them.

"Eamonn Holmes!" exclaimed Des. "What are you doing here?"

"I've come here on holiday! Looks like you didn't have such a great time!" said Eamonn, seeing Des's leg in plaster.

"No," said Des. "But if you could give me your autograph, that'll make up for it!"

Eamonn happily autographed Des's plastered leg.

"So it was worth it in the end, then!" said Des, happily. "And perhaps now that Mrs Greasy has had some cookery lessons, she might cook us some decent food!"

"I wouldn't bank on it," sighed Mick, looking at their packed lunches. "Let's go home."

Copyright © Robert Williams

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