Against the mountain weather Jake is wearing a balaclava.
Braced, completely concentrated, Jake is inching down the piste,
he is eight and his thighs are wobbling with the effort,
so that sweat licks down his red hair
and his little skis rasp on the ice.
Keep going Snake! I shout. You’re a beauty.
Waiting for him I am mindful
of the lights down on the valley floor,
the masked skiers whooshing past
any one of whom could smash Jake.
Down hill of me Fred is going steady,
aged ten and in an unbreakable snowplough
he slides on alone into mist
and is lost to view.
I look back up the slope. Come on Snake! I shout.
Both boys know there is a dangerous schuss ahead but they keep coming on,
the light fading and the schuss getting closer and they just keep coming,
and marshalling them, cajoling, the old daylight blue on my face
I realise in a rush of praise, feeling such gratitude
that these two are going to be alright.
They’re showing character.
That’s the truth I discovered that afternoon up on the mountain:
courage and tenacity in my boys,
and if I could just get them safe to the bottom
then I knew everything would be OK, they should make it OK.