The spring of my discontent. Perisher, NSW, Australia. 2010

Last Saturday I was out skiing with my wife and friends on what was a beautiful day. I thought to myself, “it just doesn’t get much better than this”. The sun was shining and it had snowed the night before. In short, it was a perfect spring day to go skiing.

With such good conditions, it surprised me to notice that I was in a very bad mood.

At first I couldn’t put my finger on why. My wife, Engogirl picked up on my dark mood and asked me if there was something the matter. I said that for some reason, everything was bugging me and that it wasn’t anybody’s fault and that it was just a strange head space I was in at the time.

I was going to try and work things out in my own mind.

Since I hate the whole resort thing with the crowded ski lifts, the waiting in line while strangers ski over my skis and trash them, I go back-country skiing with telemark skis.

I’ve been skiing for years but I’ve never really learnt how to ski properly. Skis are basically long snow shoes for me. My balance is crap plus I have the added disadvantage that I’m not keen on falling at speed which means I dread going down hill. For someone who can’t ski well, I’ve done a lot of back country skiing and snow camping, but the deal for me is that skiing is a means to an end. I just like being out in the bush away from the crowds.

I know that for some people skiing is all about the physical activity and developing the skill. Not for me though, I simply don’t have the aptitude or the desire to get good at it. Generally I just like to get out and be in nature.

So why was I so pissed off on Saturday?

Maybe it was because my old leather ski boots (over 15 years old) had finally bitten the dust and all the new telemark boots are plastic, which I find anathema. I rented some older leather boots for the weekend and as I plodded along, thinking dark cranky thoughts, I felt a blister growing on my heel.

Then there was the cross-country ski instructor who made a point of skiing right up to my wife, and stopping to block her way to show his distain for our group.

What a wanker!

As the day wore on and the temperature rose, the snow became stickier and began to ball up under the my skis but the snow in the shady areas had turned to ice. The skiing experience was like a mixture of trying glide across fly paper and slipping on a banana skin. I was in a constant jerky state of almost falling over for most of the day. So very unaesthetic.

In summary, I was having a John Howard (our ex prime minister) of a day. Short and bloody irritating!

As each thing annoyed me I started to think about how I wanted things to go better than they were, on such a nice day and in such good company, then it struck me why I was having such a bad day.

I had broken with my usual habit of having low expectations!

The good company, beautiful day and surroundings had lulled me into thinking that I was going to have a great day and every thing was going to go smoothly. But as the day progressed all the little niggles added up to a general feeling of incoherent discontent that grew into a smouldering rage.

I should’ve remembered old Seneca’s warnings about how fortune’s favours never last and how we shouldn’t get our hopes up because that leads to disappointment and then onto unhappiness.

Stupiddy, stuppidy me!

Here’s a few short videos (a total of 24 minutes) by Alain de Botton about Seneca on anger.

[youtube hJ0g7IKWG7E]

[youtube bUxCL7hbQiA]

[youtube KFKBxDC8L9U]

9 thoughts on “The spring of my discontent. Perisher, NSW, Australia. 2010”

  1. I haven’t listened to the Seneca clips yet, but will. I think this show was on PBS and I loved it!

    When my feet are in jeopardy so is my mood. It’s as simple as that these days.

  2. The image of the knarly tree skeleton seems a fitting illustration of frustration. Seems perfect, even with the lovely blue sky. High expectations aren’t always a bad thing, though. Whatever one’s expectations, however, the real art is to be able to accept whatever happens as a gift… even the experience of “gliding across fly paper”
    Loved the expression, a “John Howard sort of day”.

  3. I love your definition of John Howard. I’ve never tried skiing, maybe one day. I should start a bucket list & put skiing at the top with horse riding

  4. Ok. I’ve been thinking about this post. Then, I ran across this poem by Ai and thought of it again. I guess I think your “discontent” defies deductive reasoning in a way. There were all the reasons you mentioned, yes. But, none seemed definitive, did it? Sometimes people, surroundings, weather aren’t all that is required to have a good day. We have to fit into the day and I don’t think you were ever going to fit into it no matter how many beautiful people or skies surrounded you. Sounds like even in your prime, skiing wasn’t a passion. Now, Plastic boots are anathema to you and old leather boots are no longer made.

    You had no chance at a good day.

    I’d be finding me some outside bush territory to enjoy that does not require bindings. Time is enough of a binding for all of us.

    Now we’re middle aged,
    Bearing the curse, not the luck of the Irish,
    On our shoulders like crosses.
    We know that loss is just the outcome of living,
    The dross that’s left after you turn gold back into iron
    And end up in Rio with a mulatta, who’s got a habit,
    But he doesn’t care. He’s flying blind
    And I am right behind him.

  5. Pat

    De Button’s videos on the “Consolations of philosophy” are REQUIRED viewing!


    I felt like the tree. All bitter and twisted.


    If you ever try skiing, don’t make the mistake I did and try and teach yourself. Get lessons and you won’t develop all the bad habits I have, that get in the way of making it more enjoyable. Also, I think that if you haven’t tried skiing yet, maybe you’re not really interested in doing it. A friend of mine wrote, what I think is a very interesting blog post about really wanting to do things.


    Boy o boy that was a bleak little poem. I still think my mood was brought on by the mounting irritations and high expectations. You are so right about skiing not being my passion. Like I said, it’s the whole being out there in the bush that rings my bell, not the skiing itself.

  6. Razz, I think you’re just being honest, which is far preferable to those folk who waltz through life claiming everything’s just PERFICK when it obviously isn’t. Sorry everything was so irritating but instead of pretending it was great you showed typical Razzbuffnik straight-talking. And that’s why we read your stuff.

    PS don’t bother visiting Epicurienne right now. Having a few bitter and twisted moments, like WHY DIDN’T THEY CREATE 36 HOUR DAYS so I can get everything done? Seriously? I need a wife. Applications gratefully received.

  7. Action Girl has moods EXACTLY like the one you describe. As little things go… if not wrong, then less than you hope, her mood will darken and darken. Luckily, after having witnessed this for over 20 years now, I know how to apply the panacea. Good food. For her, good food cures all and, from what I’ve read from you, again, it sounds like you two are eerily on the same page again.

    For what ever reason, I seem to be mostly immune to this sort of situation which either makes me a bit of a simple, smiling dolt, or serene. Or possibly a serene dolt. I’m not sure.

    I think it’s not so much about low expectations as much as letting the little crap that you can’t do anything about anyway, go.

    Or the dolt thing.


  8. Epic

    Nice to hear from you. The lucky thing was that I caught myself getting annoyed and I was able to tell the others I was with that it wasn’t them, but just my own mental state.

    As for your blog, maybe you should amalgamate your various things under one banner.


    I usually can combat sinking feelings by preparing myself with low expectations. Most of the time I can easily cope with variations to my expectations. The thing that caught me out on this particular occasion was that I lulled myself into thinking because everything looked perfect, it would be perfect…..

    I was wrong!



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