Sunday suburban skiing celebrates Surbiton's silliness

I love Ski Sunday. What a marvelous way to celebrate the art of being incredibly silly.

Who wants to spend their Sunday morning frying eggs, toasting muffins, reading papers and watching Something for the Weekend when you can go and watch a load of silly Surbitonians ski down some soapy plastic on blocks of ice?

It seemed that on this beautiful, crisp October morning, many people wanted to do just that, as the event drew quite a crowd round the ‘ski slope’ at the bottom of St Mark’s Hill. There were families, students, children, elderly, sensible-looking people who should know better, and, rather wonderfully, a group of men whom I recognised as normally to be found in Surbiton’s pubs being boorish and mildly aggressive, but here they were, hanging over the barriers, cheering and clapping with expressions of such good-natured enthusiasm that my heart’s cockles weren’t just warmed, but practically microwaved.

A couple of cool dudes, who looked like they should’ve been picking up girls in bars, stopped and gaped in alarm at the assembled crowd of apparent mentalists cheering a lady in a fairy costume ski down a slight decline in the middle of the road, but after a few minutes, smiles grew on their baffled faces, they went and got a coffee, and stood watching the festivities, relaxed in the reassurance that this was not a day out for the local insane asylum, but just a load of otherwise respectable Surbitonians being a bit silly. Another group of men, who looked like they’d just stumbled out of a pub after an all-nighter, were sleepily slurping coffee and sucking on cigarettes and watching the skiing with dazed amusement (although one did look a little concerned, as though wondering whether this was a bizarre and slightly creepy-in-a-Magic-Roundabout-sort-of-way alcohol-induced dream).

What made it all the more wonderful were the lengths people had gone to to give it the appearance of an authentic major skiing event. There were people hurrying around with name tags round their necks, there were high-visibility jackets, a sound system, a St John’s Ambulance crew clustered round the finish line, plasters and morphine at the ready, the Seething Talcum Colliery Band adeptly played rousing ditties (and mournful laments whenever anyone fell over), all bustling under a string of fluttering bunting, and everyone knows that bunting means ‘Something jolly is occurring here’. There were even representatives from the world’s media, namely the Kingston Informer, Surrey Comet and Radio Jackie (the BBC and CNN couldn’t afford the petrol money). There was a variety of sprightly woollen headgear, some very fetching Norwegian-style knitted jumpers, and even a husky to patrol the ‘slope’ before the skiing began.

And people responded to this air of authenticity; indeed some were taking it very seriously indeed. As one skier edged gingerly off the start line, the gentleman next to me sucked air through his teeth and said to his wife ‘Oooo, it’s a gentle start, but she may pick up’, as though he was actually watching a genuine skier ski down a genuine snowy ski slope, and not a young girl sliding down some wet plastic and trying not to crash into the tactlessly parked BMW.

Two elderly ladies opposite me were viewing the skiing with dignified interest, gloved hands clasped over the barriers, clapping lightly as though they were watching the tennis at Wimbledon. There was no hint of irony on their faces, no suspicion that this may all be a little bit silly, just genuine sporting interest. Some of the skiers themselves also got a little wrapped up in the competition: I overheard two skiers heatedly discussing their times, how they compared to last year, what they would’ve done differently, how they could’ve improved. Their conversation finished with one saying ‘Still, I suppose it’s only a bit of fun, isn’t it?’ with no conviction whatsoever, and the other nodding and saying ‘Yeah, definitely’ with no conviction whatsoever.

The day was a glorious way to raise money for the Shooting Star Children’s Hospice, and to indulge in some faintly ridiculous behaviour. As far as I know, there were no serious injuries caused by perilous off-piste (or off-plastic, rather) crashes, or falling over the microphone cord; in fact, the biggest injury of the day was probably sustained by the small child I managed to elbow in the head as I was getting my phone out of my pocket. If the parent of the child who suddenly appeared with a bruised temple on Sunday morning is reading this, I apologise.

As I walked back down Victoria Road, the cheers and laughter gradually fading, everyone else strolling genially and sensibly up the high street doing their shopping seemed to take on an air of almost unbearable monotony; after all, it’s just more fun to be a bit silly on a Sunday.


Nowt wrong with a bit of silliness,does no one any harm.

I'm really enjoying these little stories. Keep up the good work!!

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