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Cham

by Jonathan Trigell

If you enjoyed The Beach, then this is one for you – but think snow instead of sand.

It was while he was at Sheffield University that Itchy had fallen in love with Tina ‘a bit of bright Beverly Hills heaven in the beige of Sheffield’. Tina was girl friend material, marriage material, and he was getting nowhere with her. Tina was reading English; she was his only reason for attending lectures on the Romantic period. Assiduously he studied Shelley and Byron and Keats and Tina. His tutor, Dr Ragworth, persuaded the department to fund a creative writing competition. The challenge: to reproduce one of the three lost Gothic ghost tales from the infamous summer at the Villa Diodati. Itchy wrote all three, each mentally dedicated to Tina. He won the first three prizes, which earned him a holiday in Chamonix. He did not win Tina.

It was partly to forget her that Itchy became head of the hedonists at Chamonix Mont Blanc, and also to numb the memory of a drunken, inexplicably stupid and shaming incident for which he feels he cannot atone.

Itchy loves women and Itchy loves ski-ing. Preparing for powder; strapping on his knee brace; wrapping the corset belt of his spine protector; buckling into place his avalanche transceiver; checking that his collapsible shovel and probe are in place in his pack; and throwing in three Mars Bars because there is no time to eat on a powder day.

Itchy and Aussie Mark, his flat mate, and Josey, his fall-back shag (a posh girl who did a season at Chamonix and stayed too long, she loves the life and plucks what she wants from the world), are ski-ing off-piste in the Grands Montets, the mountain’s mountain. Its untamed glaciers are what the aficionados and the addicts come to ride.

‘Yeah, bro’ Aussie Mark shouts, when they stop on the Rock Ridge, ‘powder is the stuff they make cocaine out of’. Itchy laughs, but wonders whether there isn’t an edge of truth in the comment. Only in powder or Class As can nearness to death be so blissful.

There are risks that the three of them celebrate: choice of line; steepness of slope; depth of snow; height of drop. Anticipation, exhilaration, danger, blue sunshine, and unbroken snow.

Itchy never goes back to Sheffield, and seldom thinks of his well-off, divorced parents in Hertfordshire. He works at night in a small but enjoyable bar in Chamonix. It is as good a place as any for a near-alcoholic to hide...

We are offering copies of Jonathan Trigell’s novel BOY A (winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, the Waverton Good Read Award and the World Book Day - Books To Talk About Prize and made into a powerful drama for Channel 4). See our offers page.

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