Don't mention the war in ski-lift argy-bargy

'Canadians are programmed to apologise for everything and take the side of everyone but their husband'

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The Independent Online

Last week it was rambler rage – last week it was … ski-lift rage. I’m in sunny Courchevel 1850 – or downtown Moscow as it was known until the rouble crashed.

Whenever I go skiing I can’t help but admire the people who built the endless network of ski lifts that allows me to climb vertical cliffs and reach the summit of distant peaks while in the comfort of a chair, listening to some chinless wonder called Hugo go on about how “toootaaaly blaaaadddeered” he got the night before with Tarquin and Aurelia.

The only flaw is the queuing. This is something that the French have just never got the hang of. One can only sit back and admire their Gallic gall when it comes to getting to the front. I put up with it for a couple of days but I finally snapped when a middle-aged man, who really should have known better, started barging past my wife and me.

My French is pretty good (even if I say so myself) and I turned and inquired as to whether there was some sort of emergency that the gentleman had to attend to? He told me in no uncertain terms to relax and then proceeded to start trying to shove his way past us again. I plonked a ski pole firmly in between his skis and brought his advance to a shuddering halt.

He went mental – he started shouting and telling me that if I didn’t like the way things happened up here then I should go back to Paris. I informed him that I wasn’t Parisian, but English. This was even worse. He screamed at me that, if I didn’t get used to the local ways, I should go back to England. I asked him whether, by local ways, he meant behaving like an arsehole? Chests were puffed ... and then my Canadian wife intervened.

There is a big problem in having a Canadian wife if you are someone not afraid to have an argument; Canadians are pre-programmed to apologise for everything and take the side of anyone but their husband. And so Stacey started apologising profusely to the brute for him having his queue-barging interrupted so rudely.

Fortunately, I was not alone. We are staying with one of my best friends –French Fred – a girl who does not stand for any nonsense. She laid into the guy with gusto. She informed him that her family had been coming here for more than 30 years and that she had never, ever encountered anybody who had behaved so rudely and that he should be ashamed of himself.

The man faltered under this new attack and withdrew slightly to consider his position. I patted Fred on the back and congratulated her on her fighting spirit. It was a shame, I continued, that her countrymen couldn’t have shown a little more of the same when the Germans arrived uninvited back in the 1940s … I couldn’t resist, but Fred is used to my ribbing. Stacey took the opportunity to apologise to the Frenchman one more time.

Three minutes later, a familiar ski started trying to barge its way past mine again. Some traits are just entrenched in the national psyche....