This summer’s wonderful warm, hot sunny weather continued to well after Wimbledon and benefited many top sporting events including the British Grand Prix which annoyingly took place over the Wimbledon finals weekend. In the past I have slipped away from Saturday’s Ladies finals to follow Formula One practice at Silverstone inevitably ending up watching the finals from a TV in a friend’s luxury mobile home. This year both events were watched from the coolness of my own home. The next event, British Open was an exceptionally exciting match. Throughout the four days, a tightly fought battle saw top names constantly changing on the leaderboard but few anticipated Italy’s Francesco Mollinairi walking off with the winner’s trophy, with a mere one shot lead and his first major triumph, although last May saw him win the BMW Championships at Wentworth.

The hot weather also played havoc with my golf and tennis schedules. Golf courses were badly affected by the lack of rain although playing on hardened fairways has its advantages, balls run a lot further sometimes ricocheting in unpredictable directions. Likewise playing tennis in hot weather is not always everyone’s cup of tea but one pleasure I really enjoyed during the many long lingering summer evenings was eating al fresco. Luckily Queen’s Club has a large open terrace adjacent to the restaurant where outside dining is popular with members and guests.

Cowes Week Regatta in early August is an event I first wrote about in the early 80’s when sailing was largely an amateur sport. How things have changed although the regatta thankfully still retains its quintessential quaintness despite relying heavily on corporate sponsorship. Sadly the past uninterrupted sunny days all but disappeared and on Tuesday it actually poured with rain but luckily stopped in time for Lendy’s Ladies Day evening reception on the lawns of Northwood House where last year I met the delightful James Norton (McMafia fame) who confided his one worry sailing on Class one yacht the next day was seasickness! This year it was more about the many past and present famous female sailors but surprisingly the Award’s winner went to Tracy Edwards (of Maiden fame), who’s trophy was collected for her as she was unable to attend.

During the regatta I prefer to stay with friends in Sandbanks and even found time for a couple of early morning walks on nearby beaches with their dog Jake before disappearing to the Isle of Wight. By Wednesday, the windy, wet weather prompted me to stay in Sandbanks rather than go back to the Isle of Wight.Fanny, my hostess and I decided to take the chain ferry over to Monkey Island for lunch in a restaurant owned by Peter Farrer who ironically, is indirectly related to me through one of my mother’s marriages – far too complicated to explain. That evening we all disappeared off to a local cinema to watch the new entertaining Mammia film, not as good as its original.

From Sandbanks it was on to Bath where I stayed a few days with my sister and caught up with her three daughters and families. On our first evening dined in the Bathwick Boatman restaurant owned and run by my youngest niece, Rosy and where 18-year-old great-niece Millie often works when not studying to become a singer songwriter. The following day we watched Sophie, the youngest of the great nieces, perform in her end of term Summer Theatre group, an hour-long show full of impressive singing and dancing acts all performed by girls between the ages 5 to 11. Another evening was spent at Rosy and Ben flat in the centre of Bath having a very lively dinner, cooked by her chef husband Ben, with their two children Renzo and Pammie.

Finally it was time to return to London for a friend’ birthday lunch on Sunday at Ham Polo club, and another lovely hot summer’s day.

End

Each year I eagerly follow the French Open on ITV4 partly because of its presenter John Inverdale’s excellent ability to keep viewers updated and well-informed and partly because I feel it important to keep an eye on what’s going in the world of tennis before the start of the grass court season. Often first round casualties from the French Open end of playing in the mixed Surbiton tournament, the season’s first Grass Court event and which I always find interesting to follow as new, up and coming players often do well here only this year it was plagued by rain delays which meant I didn’t manage to watch as much this year.

Thankfully by the time Queen’s Club qualies started a week later, the weather seemingly changed for the better and throughout the Fever Tree Championships the weather was perfect. This year I invited the family of one of the children who regularly attends Tennis for Free Saturday mornings to come to Queen’s to watch qualies which their six yer old son Issa loved and was thrilled to see Djokovic practicing on one of the grass courts. I often help out with Tennis for Free teaching kids of between 4 and six the basics of tennis and Issa is a star pupil as well as a Federer fan, he and his Dad regularly turn up on Saturday mornings.

Several weeks before the start of the Fever Tree Championship we were sent emails boasting an amazing line up of top players taking part in the tournament only sadly a few days before the start several pulled out, first being my favourite player Juan Martin de Potro followed by the popular Jo-Wilfred Tsonga both injured, and then top seed Rafa Nadal decided after winning his 11th French Open title his tired body simply needed a rest. Needless to say, even with a depleted list of top players, the tournament coughed up some great matches. Last year’s runner-up, Marin Cilic was the top seed and Grigor Dimitrov the number two seed along with other top players, Wawrinka, Djokovic, Berdych and Kyrgios who beat our own Andy Murray in the first round and then went to do the same to Britain’s current number one Kyle Edmund in the second round. This time it was Cilic’s year, who went on to win the Fever-Tree Championships after an exciting three set 5-7, 7-6, 6-3 match against a revitalised Novak Djokovic who had come back from wrist surgery early this year, three weeks later he was holding the Wimbledon trophy aloft after winning his fourth Wimbledon title.

The tournament itself was a resounding success, capacity crowds, perfect weather and some very exciting matches. I spent much of the time watching matches between sitting in the press seats up in the gods or with friends, Gilly, Bev and Debs in the member’s unreserved courtside seats, a more fun and friendly place to be for obvious reasons. Each day I would arrange for personal guests to sit here and join with others watching matches in the unreserved seats. Early evening day we would all meet up in the Members’ Enclosure for a glass of champagne, a Pimms (not that I am a Pimms drinker) or a cooling glass of Rose, the coolest and best place to be after matches. Each evening the Bunga Bunga club’s dance music drifted across the huge enclosure which we were happy to listen to but not necessarily dance to – that was left up to the younger generation.

The new sponsor Fever-Tree is the perfect cross over product between tennis and Queen’s Club and have signed up for a three year contract. Can’t wait to see what happens next year!

End (forgive me finishing this so late but all due to a busy summer)!

Better late than never …..

Barcelona is one of my favourite European cities but unfortunately this particularly trip was short and sweet, and only allowed a glimpse of city as we flew in and out of the airport. This time Costa Brava was our destination and golf the motive. Indeed, the three-day itinerary was so tightly packed every spare moment taken up with some kind of activity. Not only did we manage to fit in three rounds of golf, a guided tour of Girona, (where we stayed the second night), a football match between Girona (in Spain’s top league) and Eibar but also several delicious lunches and dinners.

As soon as our early morning flight landed in Barcelona we were whisked off in a small bus for a two and half hour journey to Costa Brava’s La Costa golf and Beach resort where, after checking into the hotel, walked over to the nearby golf de Plas club for lunch before teeing off for our first round of golf around three in the afternoon. The par 73 course is one of Spain’s oldest and both a delight and a challenge to play but we didn’t finish until quite late which meant I had little time to shower, change or even unpack a few bits even though we were checking out early the next morning, before being summoned to join the rest of the group for dinner at 8.30 which was thankfully washed down with plenty of local plonk. Afterwards while most of the group stayed in bar to watch football on TV, I quietly disappeared to my room and spent a few contented minutes sitting on its spacious balcony listening to the calming if not mesmeric beat of waves coming from the Mediterranean below.

The next morning we set off early for the nearby Emporda Golf Resort, a twenty-minute drive from the hotel. This golf resorts boasts two great courses, a links style course surrounded by several lakes while the other meanders mostly through forests of pine trees. This time We played the interesting links style course which I enjoyed and understand comes highly recommend. A quick lunch followed in the clubhouse before leaving on the bus with luggage and golf bags for our next golf destination, the famous PGA Catalunya golf resort where a 4 pm tee time had been arranged at the famous Stadium course. Of all the courses we played on this trip this was undoubtedly the best and toughest, and regarded as Spain’s finest. A couple of years ago I ended taking a buggy to inspect a few holes in a buggy as it was pouring with rain and missed out playing. It was the year Catalunya had bid to host the 2020 Ryder Cup but sadly later narrowly missed out to Rome. This time it was a completely different story, the weather was fine and playing this course, a dream come true.

Our next destination was the city of Girona, arriving there around 7 in evening to check into the centrally located Hotel Charlemany with barely half an hour to change for dinner at 8. Dinner fortunately was a pleasant affair but by this time sleep beckoned and I wasn’t in the least surprised to find I had over slept the next morning and missed the guided tour of Girona. This gave me an unexpected couple of spare hours which were spent meandering around the town’s nearby churches and shops but sadly found nothing appealing to buy. At mid-day we were driven to the football match at Girona’s football stadium and thoughtfully given a packed lunch arriving there in plenty of time to watch the match between Girona and Eibar. Fortunately I sat next to Jose from the town’s tourist office who very helpfully explained aspects of the game I found confusing.

Back to Barcelona for our late evening flight to Gatwick, and home for a rest!

Few can claim to have won a ski holiday purely on a random selection of a business card that had been placed in a glass bowl along with several others.This is what happened to me at the launch of the ‘2018 Where to Ski Guide’ held annually in Westminster’s Liberal Club. As someone who rarely wins anything, hearing my name called out as the winner of a ski holiday to Alta Badia in Italy came as a complete surprise. The holiday was for four people and included everything bar flights, car and ski hire. After much deliberation, I finally emailed prize details to a few selected friends ‘who ski’, and the first to reply was Fanny, who I first met several years ago when we ran separate chalets in Zermatt, and that’s how the ball started rolling. As soon as mutually suitable dates were agreed with Alta Badia’s tourist office, Fanny’s husband, Robert researched into flights and car hire even though it was still only early November! Thus arrangements were finalised to fly to Innsbruck on 4th March which although initially sounded a long way off, in what seemed like no time we were soon flying to Innsbruck on an early morning (7.30 am – ugh!!) EasyJet flight from Gatwick. Usually I avoid early morning flights, I am not an early morning person and hate having to wake up half way through the night. In my case it was four in the morning although Fanny and Robert managed an extra hour as they spent the night in a nearby Gatwick hotel. Instead, Instead I arranged for Meet and Greet to valet my car outside North terminal which did make travelling early morning a little easier. At least our early flight meant we arrived in the La Villa (part of the Alta Badia resort) with plenty of time to check into the Hotel Antines and arrange suitable ski hire.

I first skied this area some three years ago when staying in Corvara and experienced some amazing skiing. Each day I was accompanied by Nicole or someone from the Alta Badia tourist office. This amazing ski area boasts over 130 kilometers of varied and interesting runs, 53 lifts with access to 12 valleys in the Dolomite ski region. We even skied the fabled Sella Ronda one day which included taking a 3 kilometre horse ride hanging on to one of the two ropes attached to a small cart pulled by two horses. This simple form of transport took us to the next connecting ski lift. If needs be there are 3 euro shared taxis rides but being dragged along on skies by horses was for more exciting experience.

On our first day’s skiing, we had been invited a gourmet lunch at the Bioch restaurant as part of the prize so Fanny and I (Robert had decided not to ski) decided to take the gondola up to Piz La Ila and connecting lifts to Briancia where after skiing several nearby runs we eventually ended up at the Bioch restaurant around 1 pm for a delicious gourmet lunch. By the time we left it was already nearly three in the afternoon which meant skiing a few more runs before off to La Villa, skiing all the way. Conditions were perfect although the sun was mostly hidden behind clouds.

Each afternoon light snacks were served gratis in our hotel and this is where we would end up for an hour or two after skiing before getting ready to meet at the bar for pre-dinner drinks. Each evening dinner was a delicious gourmet affair which would be washed down with a bottle or two of local wine.

For our last day’s skiing we decided to hire a guide. Angelica who is studying to be an interior designer, met us promptly at 9.30 in the hotel’s lobby and took us on a memorable selection of excellent uncrowded ski runs for a final perfect day’s skiing.  

All in all this was a short but incredibly enjoyable stay. . 

End

  

For the past year I have been seriously considering hanging up my skies partly because of the number of horrendous ski accidents I kept hearing about and partly because skiing is regarded as a young ‘persons’ sport. What changed my mind was an unexpected invitation to ski in Serre Cavelier in the Southern Alps, a place I had not previously skied and was interested to find out more. Admittedly many of my non-skiing friends thought I was quite mad to go especially as last year’s accident statistics had hit an all time high but looking back now I have absolutely no regrets. This trip presented me with the perfect opportunity to regain lost confidence and realise that skiing is still for all ages and there was no rhyme or reason to give up. Slopes are safer providing skiers ski within their limits, and remarkably ski conditions this time couldn’t have been better. 

Serre Cavalier is not a particularly fashionable resort but the skiing is good and suited my karma perfectly. This region consists of a string of small villages mostly with inter connecting north facing ski runs and a  2 euro bus service that connects to other villages. About twenty kilometres away is the ancient town of Briancon, a former fortress and some 1200 meters above sea level. We stayed in the village of La Salle-les-Alpes part of the Villeneuve commune,a charming, traditional village with narrow cobbled streets lined with small wooden fronted shops, cosy bars and traditional restaurants.

This time we flew British Airways from Gatwick to Grenoble and were met by Zenith ski holidays rep, James, who also drove us the two-hour journey and deposited us directly outside our chalet aptly called Le Lodge. Once inside Max, our excellent chalet ‘girl’ greeted us, showed us our rooms, all with en-suite bathrooms and offered us tea and a freshly baked Carrot cake. Grabbing ski socks we then dashed off to Brechu Sports shop to be kitted out with skis, boots and helmets – now compulsory these days. To my relief my hired boots turned out to be a perfect fit, badly fitting boots often ruin a ski holiday and why I am so carefully about choosing the right boots. That evening we walked on icy snow to the ‘Nordic Baths’, if anything an unforgettable experience. On arrival we were asked to changed into our swimming costumes we had been instructed to bring with us and given plastic shoes and a fluffy white towelling robe to wear before being taken along a snow-covered path for about fifty yards in minus 10 degrees to one of several large outdoor hot water tubs where we de-robed and gingerly stepped into to the hot bubbling water avoiding slipping on its iced sides. Five minutes later and we were casually sipping champagne and later ‘dinner’ which consisted of several varieties of hot kababs – a very novice way of dining out!. After about half an hour I decided it was time to go back inside although you can stay as long as you like, and changed back into my warm clothes still feeling ‘boiling hot’ and finished ‘dinner’ seated outside besides a large open fire later to be joined by the rest of the group. However, our evening antics continued, returning to our chalet around 11 and looking forward to my warm bed, to our dismay we found the chalet’s front door was locked and nobody had a key which left poor Katie, owner of Zenith holidays and our host desperately searching for a spare key, Rather than wait outside in the cold we all dived into a nearby cosy bar full of trendy skiers simply and joined in the fun over a couple of Cognacs – and that was just the first day!  

Katie also kindly acted as our ski guide and the next day took us up the Frejus gondola to Le Clot ski area where we spent the best part of three hours, almost non-stop skiing on the many well-groomed pistes, an incredible ski experience stopping. Here the views of the rest of Alps have to be seen to be believed. We stopped for a much-needed lunch break at the delightful Cafe du Soleil where besides our delicious lunch, we were treated to large woolly foot warmers during lunch while ski boots were placed on heated poles, a nice touch! 

There is a lot to be said about safety on slopes and if anything Serre Cavelier meets all requirements. Signage everywhere is excellent, runs clearly marked and there are plenty of warning signs when two runs merge. One thing I did notice is the respect faster skiers gave to slower skiers. Hopefully skiers, like car driver are becoming aware that taking unnecessary risks often ends in tears, and respecting other skiers on slopes is by far the best way to enjoy skiing. .

End

  

It’s difficult to imagine  we’re already into the second week of January and Christmas is all but forgotten.The days leading up the Christmas had me running ragged with so much to do and see there were parties to to and shopping to do but I do remember thinking how glad I’d be ‘when all was over’. Finding elusive gifts in packed over-heated shops and endless wrapping of present left me utterly exhausted. Then there were the invites to parties, lunches and charity carol concerts but I shouldn’t complain, Christmas only comes but once a year. 

This year’s celebrations kicked off with a couple of fun lunches at my golf club. The first was White Lodge’s Ladies Christmas lunch where most end up dressing up in colourful Christmas outfits. After playing 18 holes in almost sub-zero temperatures, we were greeted with hot bowls of soup on our return to the clubhouse helped defrost my near frozen fingers and toes. During lunch various awards were presented and to my amazement I was awarded  ‘the most improved player of 2017’  and presented with silver cup with my name already engraved on has a place of pride in my glass cabinet. I can’t remember the last time I won an award but this was quite special. 

The Turkey Trot was the second golf lunch but this time it was a mixed fours. This time I played with Elaine and a couple of guys I’d previously not met but who were great company. As our group was the second to last to tee off, we arrived late at the clubhouse when most were already hoeing into the their Roast Turkey lunch.  Playing a muddy course in cold weather is not a favourite pastime but I somehow survived so you can imagine my surprise when it was announced I had the highest Stapleford score for the ladies and was presented with a small beautifully wrapped Christmas present as my prize! . 

My favourite Christmas party of 2017 was without a doubt Erica’s, my golfing buddy! Arriving with Christmas present in one hand, I was greeted by Erica’s two delightful grand-daughters 6 and 8 (the youngest is the splitting image of Erica) and told me in no uncertain terms where to hang my coat and where to leave my present – so sweet!! This was a joint party with her two daughters Ariane and Henrietta, a much sought after DJ similar to Fatboy Slim, and a delightful mix of their’s and Erica friends. The champagne flowed all evening and there were plenty of familiar friends to chat to!

Finally down to Bath for Christmas and how nice it was to catch up with family and all the great nieces, it’s amazing how quickly they grow. Renzo the son of my youngest niece, Rosy’s is fifteen and nearly as tall as me, whereas Felicity or Flic as she is known who’lll be 21 in February and the eldest daughter of my niece.Penny, already towers over me This time I drove to Bath early Christmas morning when traffic was light and weather bright and sunny. I arrived in time for Rosy’s annual Christmas morning drinks party at her Bathwick Boatman restaurant and attended mostly by locals. Early afternoon we drove over to Penny’s house in Richmond Heights for Christmas lunch in time to watch the Queen’s speech.  Altogether 16 of us sat down for Christmas lunch, sadly a few missing faces who have parted ways – my sister’s husband Russel and our mother, and Penny’s father-law who sadly passed away just before Christmas.

Penny produced a delicious Christmas lunch and an enormous turkey with all the trimmings and afterwards we sat in the lounge while presents were distributed by the younger family members left under the Christmas tree. Often wrong presents ended up with the wrong person but done in fun. Following the distribution of presents, it was entertainment time with each child demonstrating their musical skills from playing La La Land on the piano to ten-year old Sophie, Lucy and David’s youngest daughter, who played several renditions on her clarinet. Four days later and I was off to Sandbanks catching up friends Fanny and Robert, a skiing chum Nellie for some more fun times!!

End

Once again as the social secretary of the Lawn Tennis Writers Awards lunch, it is up to to organise our annual  awards lunch which took place 28th November last year – apologies for the late blog but unfortunately the days leading up to Christmas were far more time consuming.than anticipated, and ended up dealing with various unexpected issuit es but more importantly I am delighted to report the lunch went off smoothly even though it was a bit of daunting experience as Roehampton Tennis Club were the lunch was held, was a new and untried venue.   

With no committee meetings leading up to the event bar one held during the 02 ATP World finals two weeks beforehand, it was left up to me to organise trophies, raffle and auction prizes, finalise menu and wine choices (thankfully Wimbledon Beer agreed to sponsor the beer (www.wimbledonbeer.com) and various other issues that arise when organising a lunch of 160 guests. For the first time in a decade the committee had decided to do away with programmes and replace them with laminated sheets with the menu printed on one side and raffle and auction prizes the other. Admittedly this year’s lunch was a different kettle of fish compared to holding it at the AELTC but thankfully all worked out on the day. Normally the day I spend a couple of hours in the dining room sorting out a table plan which is then typed out in readiness for the lunch the next day. Not so this year, Roehampton had other ideas and asked me to do this on-line from a drawing emailed to me which inevitably bore little resemblance to where the tables were placed but somehow it worked and only ended up changing a couple table number and why the table numbers weren’t in sequence  However, I was more than a little surprised to find everything in place when I arrived early at the club.  Fortunately it was a beautiful Autumn day and sun streamed through the large glass windows on one side of the oblong shaped dining room that over looked the clubs 9 hole golf course lighting up the entire room which contrasted nicely with the blue upholstered chairs and carpets. 

In all around 160 guests from the world of tennis turned up and tables representing the All England club, Wimbledon Foundation, LTA, ATP, WTA, ITF, Queen’s Club, Sky and BBC were full to capacity plus many from the media and others associated with the world of tennis. Clearly a good sign that we had reached maximum number of guest and seemingly reflects on the event’s popularity. By tradition LTWA’s former treasurer, Barry Newcombe chooses the menu and this time was another well-balanced choice enjoyed by all. The service was faultless and helped enormously by James who bent backwards to make sure everything ran smoothly throughout the afternoon,  a great relief for me.    

During the lunch chairman Barry Flatman delivered speeches and presented the LTWA award to Jo Konta who sat on the top with her manager, Vicki Brook who, ironically is the daughter of AELTC’s chairman Philip Brook also on the same table. Jo gave a short but sweet speech while Alan Jones, former coach of Jo Durie was our award winner for the Services To Tennis Award who delivered a longer but in parts amusing speech. 

Finally, it was up to Sky TV’s Marcus Buckland to conducts the Raffle and auction which he does with great aplomb each year, and has everyone in fits of laughter.  He is a dab hand at creating amusing quips at and raising bids for auction prizes with TV presenter Annabel Croft helping out. In all nearly £4,000 was raised for Give it Your Max charity, whose president is former top tennis player John Beddington.

By 5 pm the room had cleared,and I was finally able to relax with a few friend’s at the clubs bar – phew!

Gallery

End

A full hand of the world’s top eight tennis players is what was needed to cap a successful year-end for the ATP’s Tour Finals at the 02 last November. Had all top eight players competed it would have made a perfect end to the year. However, that was not to be with the withdrawal of several top players including Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka although this was compensated by a possible final between the world’s number one and two, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer who between them hold all four Grand Slams titles. Rafa was drawn to play in the Pete Slue Sampras group along with Grigor Dimitrov, David Goffin and DominicThiem, and Roger in Group Boris Becker alongside two young up and coming players, Jack Sock and Alexandra Zverev, with Marin Cilic making up the quartet. Exciting tennis was anticipated even though the tournament had been blighted by the withdrawal of several top ten players for a variety of reasons. Although this left the tournament bereft of several top names at least the prospect of a ‘dream’ final was something to look forward to. However, that was not to be. After playing his first round match against Belgium’s David Goffin on the Monday, which he lost in three tight sets Nadal was forced to withdraw from the tournament due to on going knee problems. His early withdrawal was definitely a blow to the tournament and new sponsors Nitto even though he was promptly replaced by another up and coming player, Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta. 

It was a big disappointment to see the possibility of a dream final disappear, but hopes rested on at least seeing Roger reach his 7th ATP tour finals. All went well for his first three matches. and Roger played sublime tennis winning all three round robin matches to reach the semi finals where he faced a revitalised David Goffin in a match most expected Roger to win. Sadly that was not to be and he lost in straight sets and his chance to win a 7th ATP tour final dashed. A distinctly upset Federer said after his match,  ‘it was an off day’. In the other final between Grigor Dimitrov and Jack Sock was a much more lively affair with Grigor winning in three sets to reach his first ATP tour finals. However the disappointment of not seeing Federer in the final was thankfully compensated by an exciting finals between Dimitrov and Sock with Dimitrov beating his younger opponent in three sets. I haven’t mentioned doubles although I watched several matches but once Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares lost in their semi finals, more attention was paid to the rest of the singles matches. 

The media centre was again in the boondocks but at least the facilities were good and included a Media restaurant which served different menus each day, and a much appreciated free bar albeit limited to mostly wine and beer. This is where we could disappear and catch up with friends from the world of tennis. My only complaint was the time it takes to travel from South West London to the 02 each day, usually around an hour and half each way. One particularly sunny day I took the Thames ferryboat from the Embankment to the 02 which although adds an extra 30 minutes to the trip but is worthwhile and quite fascinating to see how much this part of London has developed since the 2012 Olympic games.

Thursday is always the day when the Lawn Tennis Writers committee meets and that means getting to the 02  by 10.45, when finally plans for the LTWA Awards lunch were thrashed out – but more about that in my next blog………!  

For further information on the Nitto ATP Finals go to www.ATPworldtour.com

 

 

.

 

It’s this time of the year, the start of the pre-skiing season when resorts and travel agents launch new ideas and products and invite a bunch of ski journalists to a variety of jammy receptions in central London as a means of informing us of their latest innovations. Admittedly, it is that time of the year when most journalists are on the look out for new ideas to write about whether it’s anything remotely to do with newly opened or refurbished hotels, restaurants or new inter-connecting ski lifts and runs, but it is always a perfect sounding boards to arrange future press trips and catch up with other ski journalists who are rarely seen outside the ‘Silly Ski Season’ except perhaps on the odd ski trip.

The first up was Switzerland’s posh reception at the Lansborough Hotel near Hyde Park Corner, one of London’s most expensive and luxury hotels. On arrival we were all given small white cards with sayings on them, mine for example, simply read, ‘Swiss Air’, while others had more exotic statements! Nobody quite knew what this was all about but we were firmly instructed not to lose our cards. Once ushered into a long reception room, waiters greeted us with trays laden with large glasses of red and white Swiss wine and during the course of the next hour we were lavishly entertained with delicious tasting canapes while empty glasses constantly replenished. Half way through the evening a small video presentation was shown describing many of Switzerland’s famous resorts, mountains and destinations. This was followed by a fun but fitting travel game. If whatever was written on your white card fitted the missing words that came up on the screen relating to various advertisements and statements about Switzerland, you were rewarded with a small prize. Fortunately mine was the simplest; as soon as a large aeroplane appeared on the screen all I had to do was wave my card and yell. ‘Swiss Air’. My gift was a bright red cricket ball with the words Ice Cricket St Moritz emblazoned in silver on it  However, some bright spark with a sense of humour had us all in fits of laughter when she kept yelling, Theresa May’ to whatever question that came up, for example, when asked to name a famous Swiss mountain, up came the answer Teresa May!. 

The next reception was at the Goring Hotel where once the entire Middleton family were ensconced during their daughter’s Kate’s marriage to Prince William. Now I understand why! This is a delightfully run family hotel with a deep sense of tradition, staff are all extremely polite and helpful. This time it was St Moritz’s Klum hotel’s turn to launch new ideas and this reception turned out to be another delightful evening where champagne flowed and canepes were plentiful. This time we were given a fascinating presentation about St Moritz and neighbouring villages and once again available press ski trips were discussed. 

Following St Moritz the next week was the Daily Telegraph’s Ski Show in Battersea, which was as much fun for punters and it was for journalists. here was certainly plenty to see and do to keep everyone happy and fully occupied. Besides the slope style skiing demonstrations there were several receptions to go and the first one kicked off with the Powdair and Snow-Camp which aoffered delicious salamis, Palma hams and a selection of local cheeses plus unlimited red and white wine. Next port of call was France’s Morzine Avoriaz resorts, and this was followed by Utah’s Park city, which gave out a goodie bags full of useful ski items. By this time I needed a bit of rest and went off to watch Graham Bell conducting a Q and A with some of our Olympic skiers taking part in next year’s Olympics in PyeongChang who talked about their training, hard work and rewards. Finally, I ended up at the Austrian Tourist Board stand for a ‘glass or two of schnapps’ but as I don’t drink schnapps I ended with a glass of white wine instead. Somehow I managed to win a prize for guessing the right Schnapps flavours and won a towel – my third this year!

If all accounts this year’s Daily Telegraph Ski Show was one of the best, and very entertaining and good fun – can’t wait for next year’s!.

 

End

 

A chance email to PR John Collard Managing Director of Sports Impact regarding his client, Royal mid Surrey Golf Club (near Twickenham Rugby ground) as a possible venue for the Austrian Tourist Board who were looking for a suitable golf club to re-instate the renowned Franz Klammer Wooden Spoon golf tournament, an event that was last held in the UK four years ago. led to an unexpected invitation to take part in a special media golf day at the club. My instructions were to arrive by id-day and as luck would have it, the warm, sunny weather was perfect for a day of golf. Proceedings kicked off with a delicious lunch in the Clubhouse restaurant and hosted by Bernhard Gallacher, who is attached to Royal mid Surrey. It was good to see Bernard looking fir and well. Most remember when he suffered a near fatal heart attack which seemingly hasn’t diminished his interests in golf although he enjoys reminding you of the quick thinking people with him at the time who immediately administered CPR and called for an ambulance.The rest is now history, and in his element welcoming the media to Royal mid Surrey Golf Club. 

Following his welcome speech, we all sat down to a delicious lunch. I was seated between Tom, a golf journalist from Golf Digest and Luke Edgecum, the club’s secretary who during the course of our conversation, kindly offered me a Four Ball for the Lawn Tennis Writers’s Annual Awards lunch charity raffle which I organise each year –  I’m always on the prowl for raffle prizes. This year’s lunch is at Roehampton Tennis Club instead of the All England Club where it’s usually held but due to continuing construction work on Court One’s retractable roof and the refurbishment of Centre Court’s debenture lounge there’s literally no room at the inn this year.

After lunch we were asked to assemble at first hole of JH Taylor course in readiness for our tee times in groups of four, my group consisted of Tom who I sat next, another journalist from Golf News and the club’s Golf Manager, Paul Crowe.  Throughout Paul was very helpful in explaining the various hidden and tricky challenges on the course as well telling me all about the club’s club’s history. The course is mostly flat but interesting to play, although the constant noise of planes from nearby Heathrow airport can prove a bit distracting at times. Seemingly members are immune to the noise? Over the past few years several holes have been redesigned to make the course more challenging including a couple of long par 5’s. My claim to fame was a perfect pitch and putt on hole 11 in front of Bernard Gallagher who waiting to be interviewed by Sky TV. My 7 iron shot landed a couple of feet from the green, about ten feet from the flag. Somehow I managed a execute a perfect pitch shot and the ball obediently rolled to within in a foot of the hole, and from there was able to putt in one! What luck! Bernard even congratulated me on my perfect pitch and putt.

All in all it was a very entertaining and enjoyable day, even my golf didn’t let me down finishing a couple of shots below my handicap! 

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