It wasn’t a terrifically long, steep, or spectacular ski run to be honest. I avoided the small bumps at the side and kept to the groom. But as I reached the foot of the slope I experienced a glow of triumph. Had I been sure no one was looking I might have allowed myself a small clenching of the fist and a modest punch in the air.
It was the first ski run of winter. And I would bet a large number of our devalued Brexit-hit pounds that no one else on the slope that day had felt such a sense of achievement at conquering Hemel Hempstead’s toughest run.
Astonishingly my legs still worked and so did most of my body’s other components, as far as I could tell. I hadn’t been at all sure they would.
It was all I could have hoped for from a comeback and more. The reason I was so ridiculously pleased with myself at the Snow Centre was that a few months earlier I wasn’t entirely sure I would walk again, let alone get in some turns on a ski slope.
I had spent most of last season lounging about in hospital – I made myself so much at home in fact that I was there for much longer than would normally be considered polite, while enjoying a pretty thorough reconfiguration of most of my internal organs.
One day a doctor believed he was giving me good news, I think, when he said: ‘We’re confident you’ll walk again.’ But then added gently: ‘But probably not ski.’
However, here I was at the start of the season and the snow, indoors in Hertfordshire at least, was in good shape. I was ready for another few runs. That fact is down to the skill and dedication of the amazing people at Harefield Hospital, the surgeons (led by the extraordinary Mr Jullien Gaer who, luckily for me, is not a man to give up easily), nurses, physios, catering staff, cardiac rehab team, everyone – not to mention the unbelievable and totally invaluable support, love and encouragement from wonderful friends and family.
I was under orders from Harefield to provide photographic evidence of my return to the slopes – and I was able to do just that.
To cut a long story short (not something I normally like to do), my skiing plans for last season were thrown into some disarray because of a veritable feast of cardiac surgery, albeit outrageously inconvenient, that became more dramatically complicated by the hour. The saga wended its way, with little input from me, through nearly a month of being in a coma (and being brought back to the land of the living a number of times), a two-month stay in hospital, six weeks in a wheelchair (which was a salutary experience and which gave me a sudden understanding of how inconsiderate are those drivers, including me, who half block pavements by parking with two wheels up the kerb) and the surreal experience of learning how to walk again.
The summer and autumn were spent, with walks on the beach and gentle cycle rides around the flat coastal lanes of Norfolk, trying to restore a modicum of muscle to wasted limbs – hence my glee at feeling the snow under my feet at Hemel Hempstead.
Next stop the Alps! I understand they have some nice gentle runs waiting there for me.
*More information about the ski lessons, sledging and snow fun, children’s parties and other activities available at snowy Hemel Hempstead at www.thesnowcentre.com, or on 0844 770 7227.