Vides grenier are a regular feature of the French summer, though it has to be said that round here at least they aren’t a patch on a good old British car boot sale. I used to be a regular at Southsea’s huge Sunday boot sale on the common, something to which half the contents of my house can attest. The field was usually rammed, though I suspect most of the stock was exactly the same from one week to the next as people got home, realised they had purchaed a pile of useless old tat and promptly sold it again the following Sunday.
The boot sale concept hasn’t really seized the French imagination in quite the same way, possibly because they don’t suffer the same level of consumer frenzy and consequently tend to keep things for as long as they prove useful rather than stampeding ovinely to the shops every five minutes to buy something new just because some spotty marketing graduate with his eye on the zeitgeist has told them it’s the latest ‘must have’.
This is all very laudable, but it does make for much less interesting jumble, since by the time the owner has decided to get rid of a thing it’s probably long past ready for landfill and not worth a tenth of the asking price.
But today’s vide grenier yielded the bargain of the century in the form of a fabulously retro monoski in practically pristine condition for a mere 10€. The base does look as if no-one has thought to wax it since it left the factory, but never mind.
Monoskiing was a big ’80s craze, along with one-piece fluo suits, big hair, rear entry boots and a style of skiing which involved mincing down the hill with your knees clamped together as if you were desperate to go to the toilet. And since toilets in mountain restaurants were mainly those hole-in-the-floor jobbies (a tad challenging when you’re wearing ski boots and an overgrown romper suit) possibly this was indeed the case, particularly after lunch.
I was skiing with school trips in the ’80s, wearing horrible cheapo C&A ski gear, rented boots which were about as much use as wellies and tour operator hire skis which should probably have gone in the bin several seasons previous. The C&A skiwear proved particularly chocolate teapot on weekend trips to Scotland, where skiing is more about horizontal sleet and macaroni pies than Alpine sunshine and vin chaud. There’s a good reason why hardened Scottish skiers eschew the trendy brands in favour of head to toe mountaineering gear. It’s because they like to stay warm and dry, and in Scottish conditions nothing else cuts it.
C&A, unfortunately, hadn’t considered Scotland’s unique winter conditions when designing my ski trousers. They had a line of decorative tape sewn on above and below each knee, which meant that when it rained (ie usually) cold water seeped through the stitching and I ended up with wet knees. The first half an hour was fine, but after that it was cold wet knees all the way. And nothing ever dried properly overnight, so the following morning involved getting into damp trousers and having cold wet knees all day and on the way home in the minibus as well. I’m surprised I don’t have rheumatism.
I first tried monoskiing on one of those early school trips, on an April afternoon, mainly because I was fed up with attempting to ski in knee-deep slush. And, while it was more fun in those conditions than the conventional two planks, I have to tell you that it was a thoroughly rubbish way of getting down a mountain. It wasn’t much use when it came to getting up again either, since the choice was to have both feet stuck firmly together or leave one foot without any kind of sliding device attached. Either one was just asking for trouble when trying to get on or off the lifts. This could be why later (and much more successful) forays into single-plank riding went for standing sideways and ditching the poles.
Despite these disadvantages, the mono has been making a comeback over the past few seasons, thanks to manufacturers like Duret and various loony enthusiasts. There were 27 mono entrants for the Derby de La Meije last season, one more than there were telemarkers.
I think we can skip the hideous multicoloured onesies and the stupid hats this time round though. Please?