The trials of a ‘Champagne Socialist’

Allan Fotheringham January 15 1996

The trials of a ‘Champagne Socialist’

Allan Fotheringham January 15 1996

The trials of a ‘Champagne Socialist’



There is some standard, foolproof advice for anyone considering getting married. It is to first take your beloved on a two-week trip in a car containing another couple. You learn a lot that way.

There is, in a similar field, another form of education. It is to spend a week imprisoned in a Ski Cabin with Grown Children. You learn things you never knew before. For starters, all Grown Children regard all Fathers as helpless idiots. It’s a good beginning for a Holiday.

This would be at Whistler, 90 minutes north of Vancouver as the Hertzmobile flies. Where the deadly Snowboarders threaten to decapitate you. Where the mountains are full of speeding Japanese visitors whose psyche delic garb gives the impression the 1960s are here again—or have just arrived in Tokyo.

In the Ski Cabin, the Grown Children have the usual problem of who gets the best beds. In disgust, Father has announced he will have nothing to do with the warfare. In an agree ment apparently worked out at the Dayton airport, they will swap—three days on, three days off—the good bedroom for the demeaning foldout couch. Peace in our time.

Grown Children in a Ski Cabin, as Father should have guessed, go through towels like Sherman marching through Georgia. Also Fire Logs. There is the feeling, apparently, that unless the fireplace is ablaze at all hours, including close to dawn, the Holiday spirit will be ruined. Never mind the ruin of the Visa card. Fire Logs must never die.

There is the matter of the House Guest and the Gravlax. The House Guest promises the culinary treat of the season. Three large slabs of lush B.C. salmon are purchased, costing approximately half the sum needed to build the CPR route to the Pacific.

For three days—promises brimming—the salmon is soaked in brine, supposedly to emerge as the precious Gravlax. Three days go by. So does the anticipation for the feast.

Alas, on emerging from the briny deep, what we have instead is Salmon Jerky. It

could be shipped north to the Yukon gold miners as Pemmican. Or for resoling boots. The House Guest is mortified.

The Grown Children do not notice. They are into Hoovering. They do not eat. They Hoover. The prized Egg Nog that Father has been saving for his Rum is Hoovered, as if it were soda pop.

This presents the most athletic challenge of a Holiday in a Ski Cabin, at a place that all the ski magazines say has the best slopes in the world. Most of the activity is spent in emergency runs to the IGA supermarket.

At one end of the assembly line are endless aisles of food. At the other end is the Hoover brigade. A puzzled Father finds he is spending more time in the IGA than he is on the slopes.

There is the matter of all the shouted debates late at night in front of the Fire Logs. One of the Grown Children—tired of being described as a Gucci-Rolex offspring—has

discovered, to his great delight, a new name for Father, the one who supplies the Egg Nog that is being Hoovered.

It is Champagne Socialist and he thinks this the most hilarious moniker ever invented. It is not, of course. Father is accustomed to being called a Limousine Liberal and a Cadillac Communist and so just heads out to the IGA for more Egg Nog.

There is the matter, of great concern to Grown Children, of the fashion presence of Father on the slopes. Apparently his garb goes back to the days when the Norwegians started gliding down the hills on barrel staves. This embarrasses Grown Children, who do not want to be seen with such an anthropological apparition—unless it is in Christine’s atop Blackcomb Mountain where they serve Baked Brie with roasted Garlic.

The Expedition is mounted, therefore, to bring Father into the 1990s (out of the 1920s while skipping the war, they claim) in fashionable Ski Wear. What is found, for a price close to what it took to build the Avro Arrow, is a multicolored jacket that has so many pockets you could hide all the leftover Salmon Jerky and never find it until spring breakup.

Its major feature, sewn into the clothing, is a Recco Detector that sends out a radar signal when you are buried in an avalanche. Since the way Father skis, he would never get closer to an avalanche than he would to Kim Campbell, this is very useful but—the clerk explains—it would mean he would have a clean corpse and Grown Children could give him a decent burial. By now it is a moot point, which will lead to bankruptcy first—Grown Children Hoovering the Egg Nog or buying avalanche detectors that will locate the body. The only contender is trash magazines.

For some reason—the Fire Logs? the Egg Nog?—the claustrophobic confines of the Ski Cabin require large lashings of trash magazines. The Life & Times of Jean Chrétien lies mouldering on the rug and I now know more about the intimate details of Lady Di than I do about my own Ski Jacket.

Because it is such a sad, tear-stained subject, we have not yet brought up the question of the showers. The logistics of six bodies fighting for sufficient hot water would defy General Eisenhower. The solution, for some, is to rise ever earlier in the morning to sneak a jump on everyone else.

It leads, eventually, to some Grown Child rising at 3 a.m. for a shower just as the last Grown Child from the night before is stepping out of the bath.

If I were you, I’d try the two-week car trip.