Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Improving with age

Like good wine, I’m improving with age. For instance:

  • Mindfulness: Whenever I bend down or squat to retrieve something at or near ground level, I make a conscious sweep of the area to see what else I might be able to do while in that position.
  • Descending stairs: Once upon a time I used to descend stairs one step at a time. I’ve recently discovered bouncing down stairs one your behind is faster. I have to admit this skill is I don’t intentionally use due to the discomfort it causes, and I still start the descent with the intention of doing it one step at a time. But nevertheless, I often find I’m at the foot of the stairs earlier than expected.
  • Hearing: With my hearing aid turned on, I hear every sound. And I mean every sound, whether I want to or not. In particular the rustling of paper or plastic, and water from a tap or loo flushing sound like a jet airliner taking off.
  • Taste: I can now eat super spicy food that one I couldn’t tolerate. Now I can actually get to perspire profusely, turn bright read, and partially loose my voice and still enjoy a super hot Thai, Indonesian or Indian dish.
  • Forgetfulness: This is a skill that I have always been rather good at, especially with faces and names. But nowadays, I’m capable of forgetting almost anything.
  • Temperature sensitivity: when I was young, I was scarcely aware of changes in temperature. So much so that I more or less wore the same attire and footwear all year round. My improved sensitivity means that even a few degrees variance sees me looking to change my attire.
  • Awareness if pavement/footpath irregularity: Until I hit sixty, it was extremely unusual for me to notice uneven surfaces. I could even step over a curb and be almost unaware that I had. Now I notice almost every surface irregularity. The irregularity alarm (a sudden lurch forward to regain balance) is now triggered several time a day.
  • Understanding time: when I was young, I was under the mistaken impression that days were too short and years too long. Nowadays, I realise that days are much longer, and years are really very, very short.
  • Maturity: I used to associate growing up with growing old. Now I understand that they are unrelated. I wonder if I’ll ever truly grow up?
  • Wisdom: If only I had some of the wisdom I possess now when I was much younger…


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Is Aotearoa New Zealand really werewolf free?

According to data released under the Official Information Act, there has been no werewolf encounters reported to police over the past three years. Over that time police handled 316 complaints relating to supernatural or extraterrestrial events, but none regarding werewolves.

On the other hand, we seem to be facing a witch invasion or perhaps infestation. A total of 120 incidents involving witches were reported. Unfortunately the report is sketchy on the nature of the complaints or whether we should take special precautions to protect ourselves from possible witch-caused harm It doesn’t even provide information on how to identify the creatures. Surely the police are failing in their duty here.

At least we can be grateful the ghosts are less common, or at least have less reason to be reported to the police. Over the three year period, a total of seventy ghost related incidents were reported.

There were 67 reported extraterrestrial events – 37 reports of aliens and a further 30 UFO sightings. How many of the sightings turned out to witches flying on broomsticks isn’t reported, but due to the prevalence of witches, I have no doubt some of the sightings were misreported.

I have no time for zombie movies or TV series, but perhaps they have been created to help us accept a zombie presence in out midst. They seem to be more common than many of us think. In all, police recorded 59 zombie related incidents.

Given that most incidents are not reported to police, and apart from zombies, paranormal beings are intelligent enough to want to hide their presence from the authorities, I think what has been reported is only the tip of the iceberg. We all need to be vigilant and keep a watchful eye open to any possible paranormal activity.

Returning to the lack or werewolf reports, I suspect it’s also a case of misreporting. In human form werewolves are virtually indistinguishable from humans, especially if they remember to shave their hairy knuckles. When in wolf form, any activity has probably been recorded as dog related incidents. I’m also mindful that a bite from a werewolf turns the victim into one, so they are unlikely to want to report the incident. On that basis, I have serious doubts that this country really is werewolf free.


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Climate change education

I’m a firm believer that the purpose of schooling, particularly at primary and secondary school level is not to prepare the next generation for jobs but to prepare it for life. In this respect I believe the education system in Aotearoa New Zealand does particularly well, as we are encouraged to question and interpret for ourselves any and all information students receive.

So I’m somewhat disappointed by the stance taken by some members of the opposition National Party with regards to their criticism of the rolling out of climate change education resources for schools in 2020, which they are calling “indoctrination”. Is it because the Climate Change Minister happens to be the co-leader of the Green Party that makes it so unpalatable, or being (slightly) right of centre, do they see education only in terms of jobs and careers?

The simple fact is that there is no change in curriculum. The resources provide teachers with additional resource material. It also acknowledges that some of the information can cause stress or distress to some students, and provides guidelines to help teachers and parents address this when it occurs.

While I don’t believe any member of the National Party is a climate change denier, there are some who are yet to be convinced it’s a serious issue or that it is primarily caused by human activity. Take the comment of Judith Collins, a senior National Party MP (Member of Parliament) who has stated “The likely impacts of climate change are being hugely overstated by the media and political left”.

Many of her colleagues are also skeptical about the success of any attempt to reduce warming to less than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, as the big players, especially the US, China and India are doing so little. They point out that as this country contributes only 0.17% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, there was little point in the Zero Carbon Bill passed into law in November last year which includes a net-zero emissions target by 2050 and a 24 – 47 percent reduction in biogenic methane below 2017 levels by the same date.

But as Climate Change Minister James Shaw has observed, per capita, New Zealand is the 21st biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and that small countries don’t get off the hook because collectively we add up to a greater total of emissions than the larger countries do.

What both amuses me and alarms me in equal measure, is the call by some conservatives to have climate change education treated the same as religious education. In NZ, schools can only offer religious education outside school hours, students must opt in, and lessons can be for no more than 20 hours per year. They also want climate change education to be “less extreme”, and in their opinion, less indoctrinating.

So what does climate change education involve? It’s part of the wider environmental education in New Zealand schools, which has been part of the curriculum for many years, the aims of which are:

  • Aim 1: awareness and sensitivity to the environment and related issues
  • Aim 2: knowledge and understanding of the environment and the impact of people on it
  • Aim 3: attitudes and values that reflect feelings of concern for the environment
  • Aim 4: skills involved in identifying, investigating, and problem solving associated with environmental issues
  • Aim 5: a sense of responsibility through participation and action as individuals, or members of groups, whānau, or iwi, in addressing environmental issues.

The introduction to the curriculum guide states:

New Zealand’s natural and social environment is unique. A mild climate, cultural diversity, a small population with high levels of participation in outdoor activities, extensive marine resources, relatively clean air and water, a variety of national parks, and distinctive plants and animals all contribute to the special nature of the environment. As New Zealanders, we value our environment for recreational, aesthetic, economic, cultural, and spiritual reasons.

New Zealand’s future as a nation relies on our maintaining a quality environment. This environment includes its natural and built elements as well as its social and cultural aspects. It is air, water, and land. It is plants and animals. It is people, their communities, and their social and cultural values.

An understanding of the many factors that influence the environment, particularly the impact of people, is critical to maintaining and improving environmental quality. People have modified the land, introduced plants and animals, and utilised both renewable and finite resources. Understanding and responding to people’s impact on the environment therefore requires a multifaceted approach.

Now, if I believed in indoctrination theories then I’d start right here, particularly with aim 3 which aims to develop “attitudes and values that reflect feelings of concern for the environment”. Why pick on a teaching resource specifically on climate change, which involves no curriculum changes when one of the aims of the curriculum itself is to encourage specific attitudes and feelings. This runs counter to the ideology of some conservatives which is to teach the facts, and only the facts (but only the facts I agree with), and that values are a parental responsibility, not the state’s.

Given the nature of the topic, the Ministry of Education has released a wellbeing guide to accompany the teaching resources. It includes a reminder to parents which can be applied outside the climate issue, particularly the last sentence, which I have emphasised below:

REMINDER
It can be difficult to see your child struggling, unhappy and anxious. You might even feel guilty or responsible. Your child may be frustrated with you and other adults about the current climate change situation. With any unpleasant feeling your child has, it is tempting to want to “fix it”. However, the most important response is acceptance and acknowledgement of feelings, within a caring relationship. Being with your child, whilst they come up with their own solutions and ways of dealing with things, is harder – and more important – than it seems.

For anyone interested in what the fuss is about, here are the links to the teaching resource and the wellbeing guide:

Climate Change Learning Programme – Teacher Resource (.pdf, 7.09 MB)

Climate Change Learning Programme – Wellbeing Guide (.pdf, 0.75 MB)


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You share intimate and private details about your child…

Point 9 from Sometimes my Heart Hurts for your Child

Over on Speaking of Autism… Quincy has written a heartfelt piece aimed primarily at the autism community, but it is also relevant to the wider neurotypical (non-autistic) community.

The article is quite long (approximately 9 minutes reading time), and each of the points Quincy makes shows how much the autism community fails to understand the autistic community. For this reason, I’m re-posting each point as a separate article here, because each point is important.

Before I start, I feel I need to explain the difference between the “autism community” and the “autistic community” The autistic community consists of people who are autistic, whereas the autism community consists mainly people who are directly or indirectly involved with autistic people (typically family members and those involved in the “treatment” of autism), but are not typically autistic themselves.

Each of Quincy’s points illustrates just how far the autism community and the wider community has to go to meet the autistic community even part way.

You share intimate and private details about your child without obtaining their consent.

There has been a trend by which people detail very private and personal information about their autistic children publicly online. They film meltdowns and post the videos. They post their child’s toileting habits and potty charts. They share all of their diagnoses and medical histories. All without any semblance of an OK from their child. And it needs to stop.

Can’t we have some semblance of empathy? Would you want someone to post such details about you on the internet, open for everyone from friends to future dates to future employers to see? No? Then why are you posting this about your autistic kids? Some will defend this practice, saying it’s for “awareness,” and others unapologetically do it to try to gain sympathy for how “hard” it is to raise an autistic child. I don’t believe either of those are anywhere close to valid reasons to expose your child like that, but either way, intent does not erase harm.


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You describe your child as a mystery…

Point 8 from Sometimes my Heart Hurts for your Child

Over on Speaking of Autism… Quincy has written a heartfelt piece aimed primarily at the autism community, but it is also relevant to the wider neurotypical (non-autistic) community.

The article is quite long (approximately 9 minutes reading time), and each of the points Quincy makes shows how much the autism community fails to understand the autistic community. For this reason, I’m re-posting each point as a separate article here, because each point is important.

Before I start, I feel I need to explain the difference between the “autism community” and the “autistic community” The autistic community consists of people who are autistic, whereas the autism community consists mainly people who are directly or indirectly involved with autistic people (typically family members and those involved in the “treatment” of autism), but are not typically autistic themselves.

Each of Quincy’s points illustrates just how far the autism community and the wider community has to go to meet the autistic community even part way.

You describe your child as a mystery and long to know what their world is like, when I know exactly what their world is like.

So many describe autistic people as mysteries. Parents say they long to know what’s going on inside their autistic child’s head, that they could understand.

Well, I have good news: there is a way you can see your child’s perspective! You ask other autistic people! It seems so obvious, yet so many neglect this. Despite the fact that the autism spectrum is broad, I am convinced that there really isn’t a fundamental difference between different autistic people.

I can relate to every autistic person I have ever met on an autistic level, even the ones who superficially “aren’t like” me. I find my autistic experiences bring the same as their autistic experiences, and I can use the fact that I’m also autistic to help you understand your child. Now, many parents do listen to other autistics, and to all those that do a sincere thank you.

Yet so many parents don’t want to listen to autistic people. They may read something written by an autistic, momentarily think “wow, that was profound, I’m glad I read that,” and then move on prioritizing non-autistic voices on autism over those who literally live autism. Or, at worst, they get belligerent. “Not like my child” is the commonly repeated phrase. But the thing is, we are like your child.

That doesn’t mean everyone is a carbon copy clone of your kid, or that we have all the same struggles, or all the same co-occurring conditions, or are equally as disabled. But we are both autistic. And like I said, there’s not a fundamental difference between other people’s autism.

We do understand your child from firsthand experience. Plus, many of us literally were just like your child. The non-speaking kid who has a meltdown every time he hears a hairdryer and needs prompting and constant aid to do the basic things? For many of us autistic adults, we were exactly like that at that age. We lived exactly that. So give us the benefit of the doubt and let other autistic people help you understand your autistic child.


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You don’t recognise the sensory pain your child is in

Point 7 from Sometimes my Heart Hurts for your Child

Over on Speaking of Autism… Quincy has written a heartfelt piece aimed primarily at the autism community, but it is also relevant to the wider neurotypical (non-autistic) community.

The article is quite long (approximately 9 minutes reading time), and each of the points Quincy makes shows how much the autism community fails to understand the autistic community. For this reason, I’m re-posting each point as a separate article here, because each point is important.

Before I start, I feel I need to explain the difference between the “autism community” and the “autistic community” The autistic community consists of people who are autistic, whereas the autism community consists mainly people who are directly or indirectly involved with autistic people (typically family members and those involved in the “treatment” of autism), but are not typically autistic themselves.

Each of Quincy’s points illustrates just how far the autism community and the wider community has to go to meet the autistic community even part way.

I see the sensory pain your child is in, but you don’t recognize it

So often I see kids who are having a hard time making it day to day, and I can almost guarantee the issue is their sensory input is not regulated. Their schedules and environments are not suiting their neurologies. The problem is so obvious to me, and yet the parents are completely oblivious to it.

They say “little Johnny has a meltdown every morning while I put his clothes on him. It’s so haaaaaaaard being an autism parent,” completely neglecting the fact that maybe those clothes you’re making him wear feel like cactus spikes pressing against his skin? Or that you touching him is causing overload? Or that that fluorescent light in his room literally hurts to look at?


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You don’t know how to listen

Point 6 from Sometimes my Heart Hurts for your Child

Over on Speaking of Autism… Quincy has written a heartfelt piece aimed primarily at the autism community, but it is also relevant to the wider neurotypical (non-autistic) community.

The article is quite long (approximately 9 minutes reading time), and each of the points Quincy makes shows how much the autism community fails to understand the autistic community. For this reason, I’m re-posting each point as a separate article here, because each point is important.

Before I start, I feel I need to explain the difference between the “autism community” and the “autistic community” The autistic community consists of people who are autistic, whereas the autism community consists mainly people who are directly or indirectly involved with autistic people (typically family members and those involved in the “treatment” of autism), but are not typically autistic themselves.

Each of Quincy’s points illustrates just how far the autism community and the wider community has to go to meet the autistic community even part way.

I see your child working so desperately against their uncontrollable body to communicate with you but you don’t know how to listen.

This goes back to taking the autistic perspective. Not all communication comes in neurotypical form. Behavior is communication. Listen to what your child is saying beyond just words. Consult autistic adults and bloggers if you need help understanding your child. Because the chances are we can help you speak autistic.


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You make doomsday predictions about your child’s future

Point 5 from Sometimes my Heart Hurts for your Child

Over on Speaking of Autism… Quincy has written a heartfelt piece aimed primarily at the autism community, but it is also relevant to the wider neurotypical (non-autistic) community.

The article is quite long (approximately 9 minutes reading time), and each of the points Quincy makes shows how much the autism community fails to understand the autistic community. For this reason, I’m re-posting each point as a separate article here, because each point is important.

Before I start, I feel I need to explain the difference between the “autism community” and the “autistic community” The autistic community consists of people who are autistic, whereas the autism community consists mainly people who are directly or indirectly involved with autistic people (typically family members and those involved in the “treatment” of autism), but are not typically autistic themselves.

Each of Quincy’s points illustrates just how far the autism community and the wider community has to go to meet the autistic community even part way.

You make doomsday predictions about your child’s future

I already wrote a post about this. (Click Here) There’s also a great post from Luna Rose at the fantastic Autistic Dreams blog on this subject (Click Here)

But the gist is, parents often make grand doomsday predictions about their young autistic children. “My child will never drive a car. They will never speak. They will never get a job, or fall in love, or live independently.” And they say this about their three-year-old.

I’m sorry, who has the crystal ball? How can you possibly make this prediction about your child? Autistic children, like all children, grow and develop throughout their lives. There’s no telling what they will or will not do. My parents were told, by multiple school counselors, and therapists and social workers, that I would never graduate from high school. And yet here I am, an honors student in 12th grade currently applying to colleges. My heart hurts for your child when you limit the potential of your child.


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You parrot myths about autism

Point 4 from Sometimes my Heart Hurts for your Child

Over on Speaking of Autism… Quincy has written a heartfelt piece aimed primarily at the autism community, but it is also relevant to the wider neurotypical (non-autistic) community.

The article is quite long (approximately 9 minutes reading time), and each of the points Quincy makes shows how much the autism community fails to understand the autistic community. For this reason, I’m re-posting each point as a separate article here, because each point is important.

Before I start, I feel I need to explain the difference between the “autism community” and the “autistic community” The autistic community consists of people who are autistic, whereas the autism community consists mainly people who are directly or indirectly involved with autistic people (typically family members and those involved in the “treatment” of autism), but are not typically autistic themselves.

Each of Quincy’s points illustrates just how far the autism community and the wider community has to go to meet the autistic community even part way.

You parrot myths about autism

I have seen it written on these autism parenting blogs things like “autistic people lack empathy” or “autistic people have no imagination” or “autistic people have no theory of mind” and even “autistic people don’t feel emotions.”

And it’s frustrating to know they think this about their child and other autistics because they’re all totally wrong. Any autistic person knows this. Many autistic people could tell you this, and we’ve been saying that these myths are wrong for decades now, and yet nobody will listen. The ironic part is, though, that the opposite of these myths is actually true. Autistic people feel emotions and empathy as being more intense. Autistic people I’ve found to be typically more imaginative, and outside the box thinkers. And, no, autistic people do not lack theory of mind, I assure you we are aware that other people have minds that are distinct from our own.

The difference is in expression. We express emotions and empathy in different ways, but this doesn’t mean we don’t have them. Nor does different mean broken. Autistic kids may not have tea parties with their stuffed animals, but this doesn’t mean they have no imagination. Lining up toy cars may seem mindless to you, but it’s not a display of a lack of imagination. It’s different. But different does not mean wrong.


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A chilly escapade

During my life of some 7 decades, I’ve had one or two memorable experiences, some good, some bad, and some that were neither, but had the potential of being life threatening if circumstances had been less favourable. This is one of them.

After finishing high school, I was employed by a multinational I.T. company in a role that was then called a service technician. The company manufactured, sold and serviced a range of equipment from cash registers to accounting machines to mainframe computers. In the first few years of employment, most of the equipment I serviced was electro-mechanical – cash registers, bank terminals and accounting machines.

I had been working for the company for about a year, when I was assigned the task of travelling to Mt Ruapehu to service all the equipment at the Chateau Tongariro and further up the mountain at the Top Of The Bruce ski lodge. In total there were about thirty machines involved, mostly electric cash registers, but including some back office equipment and a few manually operated cash registers. In those days, this was three days work for one technician as the servicing of a single machine typically took up to one hour.

The first day was uneventful.  Driving from sea level to 2000m (6560 ft) in an under powered, unlined and unheated 1100cc Ford Anglia Panel Van in late winter over tortuously winding roads can never be described as exciting even though one was constantly shifting between 2nd, 3rd and 4th gears for most of the journey of nearly three hours. It was cold and unpleasant. There wasn’t even a radio for company.

The next day started out bright and sunny, and as the forecast was for snow the following day, I decided it would be wise to drive up to the Top Of The Bruce to service the equipment there that day. I didn’t fancy driving up the mountain in falling snow in that vehicle.

As it was a week day (Wednesday I think) the ski lodge was quiet, and there were only a few staff in attendance. The car park was almost empty. One of the cash registers I was supposed to service could not be found, but eventually the duty manager remembered that it had been taken to a cafeteria further up the mountain to cater for the weekend crowds.

The cafeteria was open only on the weekends when the slopes were crowded with skiers. However the duty manager offered to start up the chairlift so that I could go up to service the cash register. I had never been on a chairlift at that point in my life, so I readily agreed to the offer.

The arrangement was that he would start the chairlift for me to journey up. Once I arrived at he top I would use the phone at the top terminal to contact the duty manager at the bottom terminal. He would then stop the chairlift until I was ready to come down. At that time I would phone the office at the ski lodge, the duty manager would then go to the chairlift base terminal and start the chair lift so that I could return to the bottom.

He handed me the key to the cafeteria, and his business card that had the office phone number on it. The phones at the chair lift terminals were directly connected and a simple turn of a handle was all that was required to cause the other phone to ring. He also handed me a tourist brochure that included a stylised map of the area at the top terminal so that I could identify the cafeteria from the many other small buildings, mainly ski club chalets, clustered there.

In due course, I found myself on a chair lift with my tool kit balanced on my lap. The views were spectacular, especially as it passed over some deep valleys. In some cases, there must have been several hundred feet between myself and the ground below. It wasn’t until I had nearly reached the top that I realised how cold I was getting.

Perhaps now is an appropriate time to mention my attire. As I had not intended to be outside apart from traversing from car to building and back again, I was dressed in the approved company manner: Dress shirt and tie, dress trousers and dress shoes. Over this I wore the approved grey lab coat. Not exactly appropriate for winter mountain wear, but as I had intended to be indoors the whole time, it was adequate.

However, it most definitely was not adequate, when seated on a chairlift in winter half way up the highest mountain in the North Island. By the time I got off the chair lift and phoned the duty manager, my teeth were chattering. It was cold, and I was struggling to keep a grip of my toolkit, which weighed around 12 Kg (26 lbs). The cafeteria was about 200 m (220 yds) from the chair lift, and although it was relatively flat, the snow had been packed hard by several thousand pairs of boots the previous weekend and was extremely slippery. Remember I was wearing smooth soled dress shoes.

For those who aren’t aware, Mt Ruapehu is an active volcano. There had been an eruption the previous week. What the duty manager overlooked to tell me, or was unaware of, was that a lahar had swept down the mountain, and the mud flow had come to a stop against the cafeteria. The door to the building was blocked by a chest high wall of frozen mud. There was no way of entering the building that way.

I was considering going straight back to the chair lift, but it had stopped shortly after I had phoned the base, and it was very unlikely that the duty manager was still there. My only option was to use the phone inside the cafeteria to call the office. It turned out that access to the building was rather simple. The wall on the uphill side of the building had been pushed in by the mud flow, and all I had to do was scramble over the frozen mud to get inside. I would then be able to phone the office for the chairlift to be started again.

It wasn’t until I was inside, that it dawned on me that I might be in some danger. The telephone had been mounted on the displaced wall but was now lying on the floor. There was no dial tone. A quick glance outside confirmed that at least one, possibly two, telephone poles has been toppled. There was no way that the phone could be made serviceable any time soon.

I considered my options. It was now mid afternoon. Could I rely on the duty manager realising that I hadn’t requested that the chairlift be started? Was anyone else aware of where I was? I couldn’t be sure of either. The possibility that I might be stranded for some time was becoming a reality. The cafeteria was well stocked with snack food, but as the electric power was also off, there was no way of heating the place, and there were no articles I could use to keep me warm. Staying there was not an option.

A quick examination of the other huts and chalets nearby revealed that they were designed to keep heat in and the cold and uninvited visitors out. The stylised map indicated that there was a walking track that zigzagged down the mountain. The map indicated that walking time to the Top of the Bruce was a little over an hour.

I decided my best option was not to rely on someone noticing I was missing, but to walk down. After all there was a walking track, so what could go wrong? My mind made up, I headed off with my toolkit in hand, which felt like it was getting heavier by the minute. As I passed the chairlift terminal I decided to try ringing the base on the off chance that a passerby might hear it. I gave up after ten minutes and headed to the start of the track.

As I have previously mentioned, the snow around the chairlift terminal was packed hard and was extremely slippery. I’d only walked a short distance when I slipped and landed heavily on my tailbone, my toolkit flying gracefully through the air to land some distance away before starting to slide down the slope. I then realised that I too was sliding at an ever increasing speed, and I could find no way to slow down or stop.

Ahead of me was a wire mesh fence that from my vantage point while making lazy circles as I sped downhill on my back, appeared to run along the edge of a precipice. My first thought was “Well that’ll stop me if nothing else does”, but then it occurred to me that perhaps hitting the fence at the speed I was doing might not be good for my health.

I could find no way to stop my slow spins, and every now and again I would catch sight of my toolkit, also doing slow spins as it speed down the mountain on a slightly different trajectory but towards the same precipice and fence.

The distance from where I fell to the fence was perhaps a hundred metres – about the distance between goalposts on a rugby field. I was well past the halfway line and approaching the 22 metre line when I finally managed to gain control over the spinning. Now that I was better able to observe where I was heading, two things became very apparent: my toolkit would reach the fence well before I did and that there was a gap of between twenty and thirty centimetres (8 – 12 inches) between the snow and the bottom of the mesh – enough room for the toolkit (and possibly me) to pass under.

Just as I was about to wave the toolkit goodbye, it disappeared into a spray of flying snow. It seems that people kept clear of the fence and and there was a band of soft(ish) snow in front of it. Moments later I too felt a rapid deceleration as snow flew all around. I didn’t so much slam into the fence as to gently kiss it. Somehow in the last moments I had got into a sitting position, although I don’t remember consciously doing it, and I came to a very gentle stop with my chest and cheek against the mesh, my arms extended above my head and my legs extending under the fence. I’m sure it must have been a comical sight, although fortunately there was no one around to witness the spectacle.

After taking a moment to compose myself, I gingerly made my way along the fence line to where I last saw the toolkit. It was totally buried, but the disturbed snow made its location obvious. By a stroke of good fortune it had finally come to a stop against one of the widely spaced fence posts. I retrieved the toolkit and, not trusting my shoes on the hardened snow skirted around its perimeter until I reached the start of the walking track. Taking a last look at the scene behind, I headed on down the track.

I had only walked a short distance, certainly less than a hundred metres when I began to question whether walking down was a wise choice. Unlike the packed snow around the buildings, this was very soft and about knee deep and sometimes came up to mid thigh. Walking through it was very hard going. The path itself wasn’t steep, but the terrain it was carved into was, and the snow drifts meant that the path was virtually invisible. It was clear that no one had been on this path since the last snowfall. To guide trampers (hikers), there were red marker posts at infrequent intervals, some barely protruding above the snow, some I suspect were buried completely.

For the first ten or fifteen minutes, the track zigged and zagged beneath the chairlift but after passing under it several times, the markers showed that the path headed well away from the route of the chairlift above. Unperturbed, I set out using the markers as a guide. I made two disturbing discoveries. The first was that less and less of each marker post was visible above the snow and that the path between posts was not a straight line. I frequently found myself tripping over hidden boulders or finding only more loose snow where I expected solid ground.

Before long I found myself out of sight of the chairlift and with no visible markers to guide my way. While snow might be good for softening my frequent falls, I discovered that it is extremely exhausting when tying to push through it, not to mention how slow progress is. If it wasn’t for the trail that had formed behind me, I would have been totally lost.

Perhaps if you were more familiar with snow, you’d know what to do in such circumstances, but my previous experience with the stuff was nonexistent, apart from viewing it on mountains from a distance. This was my first experience of being in it, literally. Clearly it would be foolish to try to attempt to follow a path that wasn’t visible, and wandering away from known paths would make it very difficult for anyone to find me if a search was mounted. Its a very large inhospitable mountain.

I decided my best option was to return to the collection of ski chalets and with the aid of tools I had to break into one of them. I had just passed under the chairlift when a thought struck me. The chairlift makes an almost straight beeline down the mountain to the Top Of The Bruce, so why not follow it? The clouds had closed in so an aerial search wouldn’t be possible, and if if the chairlift was put in use to transport searchers, I could yell to them as they passed overhead.

The decision to leave the track and follow the chairlift seemed a rational choice at the time, given my lack of experience of the conditions and the fact that that I was probably suffering from mild hypothermia by then. so with toolkit still in hand I set off.

The snow felt less deep the steeper the slope became, although sometimes a large boulder or rocky outcrop would cause a buildup of snow or hide a snow drift until I stumbled into it or tumbled off a hidden ledge into deep snow. Never the less, I felt I was making good progress as I passed the third or fourth chairlift pylon.

The pylons were were not particularly high, but they were placed on ridges, and sometimes the ground between them dropped away markedly. I had reached one of those places. The ground before me dropped away at nearly sixty degrees, before rising on a similar incline to the next pylon almost at the same altitude as the one I was standing beside.

The snow didn’t look particularly deep here, as boulders and rocky outcrops were clearly visible everywhere on both sides of the valley. I could plan my route between pylons to make best use of those features. What I didn’t count on was that on such rough terrain, hollows are filled in with snow, and remain hidden until you tumble (literally) into one.

I’ve never been able to tie shoelaces that remain done up, so my preference these days is for shoes with zip or velcro fasteners. On the day in question the dress shoes were of a slip on type with elasticised panels to keep them in place. Their inappropriateness for the conditions quickly became apparent as I any time a foot became partly wedged between rocks, I would loose a shoe as I took the next step. Sometimes it required a face plant in the snow to be able to reach down and retrieve it.

By the time I reached the bottom of the valley, mist obscured the chairs and cable and only the pylons were visible. I also discovered, that while the destination pylon was always visible on the way down, it frequently disappeared from view beyond the horizon in front of me on the way up. The exact opposite occurred with the pylon behind me, frequently disappearing on the way down and remaining in view on the way up enabling me to set a course using the alignment of the four feet at the base of the pylon as a guide.

The next few pylons were over moderately sloping ground so the target pylon was visible, more or less. The clouds had reached ground level and at times the pylons would disappear in the swirls of mist. I also discovered how saturated you can become if you’re not adequately protected from the mist. I was not. By now my clothes were decidedly damp. And cold. Very cold.

There were a further two deep valleys I had to cross and although by now visibility was down to around twenty metres, by good luck or good fortune, I was able to find each pylon. I noticed that the snow was getting less deep as I continued downhill.

It was starting to get dark and I had no idea how far I had come or how far I had yet to go. I’d been walking, stumbling and falling for around two hours. Then miraculously, a path appeared. I had no idea if it was the same one I started out on, or a different one, but I thought there was nothing to loose by following its downhill course. It kept remarkably close to the route of the chairlift as occasionally I’d pass by a pylon.

It was almost dark when I reached the Top Of The Bruce. There was no light on and the place was locked. The mist hadn’t eased, and it took me a while to locate my vehicle in the car park. There didn’t appear to be any other vehicle there. In those days, our company vehicles were easily identifiable with the company name and logo emblazoned on the sides and rear. Surely the duty manager would have noticed the vehicle as he left? Perhaps visibility didn’t allow it.

The drive from the Top Of The Bruce to the Chateau typically takes ten to fifteen minutes if I recall correctly, but on that night it took an hour in the darkness and fog. I doubt I went any faster than walking pace. I think I made the whole journey in first gear! I remember stopping at least twice because the winding unsealed road ahead would disappear completely in the swirling fog.

I also discovered that sitting in an unheated vehicle in damp clothing is more chilling than the strenuous exercise in the open I had undertaken over the previous two hours. It was a very bedraggled and cold nineteen year old that made his way to his room at the Chateau, who then spent the next hour under the shower trying to warm up.

That was my first and worst experience with snow. Not something I ever wish to repeat.