Authors: Richard Blanchard
Richard Blanchard's debut novel
was completed in 2013. It draws on his life experiences: being an avid skier; becoming a father late in life and losing close friends too early in theirs. His previous short story work generated critical acclaim.
Born in 1962, Richard Blanchard grew up in Liverpool. After graduating from the University of Westminster, he built a career as an executive in the retail industry. He still lives in Liverpool with his wife and two sons.
Praise for Richard Blanchard
“â¦ a superb piece of prose, and really engrossing. His writing really has dynamism.”
(London School of Journalism)
“In my opinion Richard Blanchard is a staggeringly good writer with his own unique original voice.”
Mark Davies Markham
The Boy George musical
“With prose as taut as a guitar string, Richard Blanchard dissects the workings of the male mind.”
(TV writer â
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
Irish orator, philosopher, & politician (1729 â 1797)
Copyright Â© 2013 Richard Blanchard
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study, or criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, this publication may only be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in any form or by any means, with the prior permission in writing of the publishers, or in the case of reprographic reproduction in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside those terms should be sent to the publishers.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data.
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
is an imprint of Troubador Publishing Ltd
For John Young
Peace, love, hugs 'n stuff.
Author and John Young skiing the ValÃ©e Blanche
“Haaarâ¦Oomph!” I am falling and laughing, ripped from a skiing heaven to an icy earth.
It's a juicy fall; the impact of which bellows half-used air from my lungs and sloshes the water content of my body around like a drunk's glass. Maybe I wasn't in skiing heaven though. I am falling head first into abundant off-piste snow, casting suffocating ice particles into my mouth, which I vainly try to spit out. My red carving skis are in the sky above me, chopping air like un-tethered helicopter blades. The perverse laughter is because my body is actually relieved to surrender to gravity after so much toil. I try to set a defiant smile into the gorgeous lateafternoon sun for the sake of both my ego and my friends, as I flash rapidly over their elongated Lowry-like shadows. Pompous parents sneer that pride comes before a fall, but I am not sure I have much.
But you may ask myself, how did I get here? My fall may have started twenty yards back when I tipped off a narrow track, but its source was surely when my stags arranged for me to ski off-piste on Vallee Blanche under Mont Blanc. In hindsight this was unwise when I have so little experience; but I had made so much progress. Maybe the fall was inevitable when I let this stag group come together. My latest fall adds scorn to the disdain, embarrassment, hatred, panic and unerring inevitability that my stags are individually feeling. Perhaps I should blame it just on that bastard Robert, who hijacked the destination of this trip from Johnny, my best man. The worst fate I would have befallen there would have been vomiting the whisky produce of a Macallan distillery over trampled Highland heather. Perhaps setting foot on the plane last Wednesday was the real downfall. All of this is prefaced by the embarrassing moment I was told by Sophia's dad that we were getting vii married on Saturday the 25
of April because he had secured a slot at his country club. I accepted this fate far too easily.
My soul travels downhill uneasily; I am a pollutant, stripping away the high mountain snow, producing floodwater and misery in the valley below. I curl my neck upwards to try and pivot on my shoulders and pull my skis under me. An unseen hump does it for me, sending me airborne where I can manoeuvre my skis. I now slide faster from the combination of the flip and a more severe slope, but feel more control as I am almost in an upright sitting position. The view would be aweinspiring, mountain peaks jostling for supremacy, some cloaked in patchy snow, some nakedly showing their body of jagged rock. I read a sign way back at the top at the Aiguille Du Midi station that said the glacier below me is moving at a centimetre an hour. Apparently it takes ninety years or so to ride this natural escalator into Chamonix, as proven by the recently discovered skeleton of a climber. The heart of a crevasse defies all expectation; how can something so white be so vibrantly blue? You keep staring at it to build up your belief that you haven't gone colour blind. This beauty is now a life-threatening beast. Blue lines drop away in every direction, encircling my journey. My flight instinct kicks in. Stop my fall. Alter my fate. I cycle my legs frantically, casting off huge splashes of snow. I turn my torso to the hill; my ski gloves claw vainly uphill at nothing fixed. My last desperate acts are slowing me but not enough. I am sucked towards the cavernous crevasses and shattered seracs. Stalactites glisten and welcome me to their wintry desolation; they may soon present their sharpened edges to my supplicant body.
Hell, I fell because of me. I surrendered to this downfall. Pompous parents sneer that pride comes before a fall, and so they should.
I lift off and silence falls, no scraping and clawing just heavenly silence.
Prince rips a vocal chord and cranks up his rubber-taut funk in my iPhone earphones. His lyric invokes the spread of AIDSinduced death and hysteria from France, the destination of my journey ahead.
Sophia, my wife-to-be, drives me onward to Manchester airport; but I exist in Prince's visceral music and a splendid isolation. She drives hunched forward, compensating for the ill-positioned steering wheel and seat. Glancing into the rear-view mirror she seeks the face of our son. Her straight, brown bobbed hair curves achingly down her cheek as she lifts her chin. Her lips wriggle, as she engages him in some reassuring babble. I often see this scene, but am often outside its intimacy with or without my musical exclusion. This beautiful device was released from its box yesterday; a pop of compressed Chinese factory air landed in my Chester office as the bottom of the Apple box hit my desk. This perk from work will undoubtedly result in more for me to do.
A plane hangs low in the sky alongside our rear view mirror, a monumental cacophony of beaten metal. Banking south over polluted devalued properties; I speculate its destination to be the wonderful freespirited San Francisco, the plane crammed with pioneers going west, exhausting both spent fuel and Virgin's Cool Britannia brand presence. The fumes trouble me personally; the brand hurts me professionally. As a copywriter working for the mosquito-sized budget airline ByeFly, I wince at the challenge of feebly attacking them. Working on their account would be a dream. I squirm anxiously in my seat and imagine pitching my latest campaign idea to Richard Branson; a poster campaign to attract new customers for them. I press the projector remote to reveal a photograph of a naked couple reclining discreetly in a business-class seat: the lady astride him with her right arm covering her breasts. The strap line underneath would boast: “Lose your virginity in style”. I also imagine the sneers the plane is now attracting from the irate ruddy-faced Cheshire set nearby.