Have you got the Jewish Chronicle?” I always loudly ask in London newsagents. I like to do my bit for interfaith relations… never the “JC” for me.
But when I said it last weekend, all I got was a blank stare and guttural muttering, in what sounded like German. This could have been because I was in a village in Austrian mountains.
Two days earlier, I had no idea I’d be in Lech, but as I was walking down Oxford Street in rush hour, I had suddenly felt the mountains calling me… the snow-covered peaks, the fresh air — the schnitzel. I’d had my annual medical check-up two weeks earlier and everything was OK, although my doctor had alleged I was now 15 stone. “That’s the perfect weight,” he said, “if you are six foot five. But you are five foot seven.” We then spent 15 minutes discussing the accuracy of his ruler: I argued it must have been made in China, as I was definitely five foot eight or even nine.
So I didn’t ask his professional opinion on my proposed ski trip. If he can’t even measure me properly, why should I listen to his advice? Although later I gave serious thought to doing something about it, but the idea of being stretched on a rack didn’t appeal, even though the receptionist of a Harley Street cosmetic surgery had said she’d heard it didn’t hurt. “Well, not after the first three inches.”
I told my mother I was going skiing. “Do you need anything before I go?” I asked. “Yes,” she said. “Your solicitor’s number… you just never know when it might come in handy.”
My daughter Lily was more relaxed: “The last time you went, you fell over all the time. I don’t think this is a very good idea.”
If only our hospital wards were as clean and hygienic as the arrivals hall at Zurich airport. I’d happily have a heart transplant there… even if I didn’t need one. Just to let them practise. The chances of catching MRSA on a Swiss baggage carousel must be lower than there being Middle East peace in my lifetime.
I was just thinking about opening a sushi cafe on the conveyor belt when my bag arrived… all by itself and gleaming. I think they’d even given it a quick wipe down. Waiting for the bus to Lech, I had a coffee and pastry in the airport cafe. It cost as much as my flight. Clean and cleaned out: welcome to Zurich.
At dinner, I fell into conversation with a man at the next table. “I am Heinz, a cardiologist from Munich,” he said. After sharing a bottle of wine and a brandy or two, my new best friend insisted I came skiing with him in the morning. “It will be super!” he said.
“What could be better than to have a cardiologist for a ski instructor?” I asked myself as I got into bed.
“Don’t worry Peter… if you have an infarction on the mountain, I will save your life, I promise you,” he had said, downing another brandy in one gulp.
We had arranged to meet in the foyer at 9am. At 11am I was still waiting. Finally, I went over to reception. “Ya, Dr Heinz? He checked out at 8am.” That’s another blow to interfaith relations, I thought.
If my column’s here next month, it will mean I made it off the mountain.