In which I plan my getaway

Liz Jones

The last time I went skiing, I was 18 years old, studying journalism in London. I had made a glamorous, rich friend called Sue Needleman, and she suggested we go together. I, of course, didn’t have any money, so I borrowed it off my dad (years later, he wrote me a letter, asking for his money back, which I thought was rather mean). Sue chose a resort in France called Montgenèvre. I couldn’t afford the outfits, so I borrowed a pair of salopettes.

I remember being met at the airport by the two chalet girls: capable, confident young women who drove in the snow, could speak French, and cook, and ski. I, of course, could do none of these things. The whole holiday made me nervous: getting the right ski pass, snapping on the boots, trying to stand upright on the nursery slopes. I hated the cold, too, and actually cried because my borrowed glove had a hole in it. I think I felt the cold so badly because I was so thin: I was
8st 2lb on that holiday.

Isn’t it odd how women remember vacations not for the wonderful time they had, but for how much they weighed? A family were staying in our chalet, and the children told me I looked just like Lorraine Chase, which in those days was a compliment. But the other reason I remember that holiday so well is that it was the first time I tried to have sex.

I need some distance from my life to try to figure out what to do with it. Because I think I’ve reached breaking point

His name was Michel, and I think he worked in the kitchen of one of the hotels; he smelled of tea towels, anyway. He came back to my chalet one night. We kissed on the sofa and I thought, for a few brief minutes, that my life was about to become normal. That I would do normal things like everyone else, ie, have a boyfriend instead of suffer from agoraphobia, which meant I very often couldn’t leave my horrid London flat to go to lectures. Anyway, we went downstairs to my little room in the chalet. He pulled at my salopettes. In the horrid strip lighting, I could see that his toenails were filthy. Oddly, this didn’t put me off. He kissed me some more, and then he tried to have sex with me. And he tried. And he tried some more. Oh dear. This isn’t how it is supposed to happen! What is wrong with me? Eventually, he gave up. I couldn’t look him in the face. I had no idea why I couldn’t do it, why I had gone so rigid. Even today, snow makes me nervous.

So why, then, am I about to go on a skiing mini break? Well, I could go somewhere hot, but I don’t think my body is up to a bikini at the moment. I quite fancy the idea of going somewhere with a spa and a log fire, so that I can just sit snuggled up with a book. Sod the actual skiing. And I really need a holiday, just a couple of mornings where I don’t have to get up and walk dogs and feed cats and muck out horses. I know it’s a terrible time to leave Dream, but she’s in good hands with Nicola.

I need some distance from my life to try to figure out what to do with it. Because I think I’ve reached breaking point. Last Friday, having just returned from Paris where I’d been working all week (I’d got up at 1am to drive four hours to Heathrow to catch a plane, then worked till 11pm), I drove to London to interview someone. After an hour in a London hotel, I drove the four hours home; twice, I almost fell asleep at the wheel. At one point, I saw a tree trunk coming towards me and woke with a start at the last minute. I finally fell into bed after yet another 21-hour day.

The next morning, I couldn’t move. I threw up. I couldn’t drink water. I had reached total collapse. I had such a terrible migraine I couldn’t even remember my name; I think I blacked out at one point. My body was telling me I couldn’t take any more. I couldn’t take the stress or the hours or the hard work. I realised, as I lay in bed for two days, that I had to make a change in my life. Put myself first. Go in pursuit of happiness.


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