The following comes from Catlemaine-based artist Ben Laycock as part of his ‘welcome from …’ series.

It struck me one fine day that all my friends are hippies and dole bludgers or they aspired to that crucial role in today’s society. I came to this realisation when an acquaintance remarked, “all of your friends are hippies and dole bludgers.”

In an attempt to broaden my social horizons, I have endeavoured to seek out and befriend those less fortunate than myself. (This also fits snugly with my P.H.D.* in Social Engineering) My curiosity has opened doors into a way of life I had only read about in magazines.

After cultivating some Yuppies** that I met by chance at The Good Table I managed to engineer an invite for myself and my good wife to their exclusive chalet for the opening of the ski season. The first time in 10 years there was any snow included.

Dinner Plain, for all you poor folks that have never been there, is on the road from Mount Hotham to Omeo, just past Picnic Point and way before Breakfast Creek. Mythology has it that Dinner Plain was named after the  humble repast, (horse and damper) eaten there week in and week out by The Man from Snowy River, Clancy himself no less, during the long and fruitless search for The Wild Brumby.

Dinner Plains, or Din Dins as the locals so quaintly refer to it is unlike any other town outside Aspen Colorado. Every aspect of the town is micro managed down to the weeniest detail by the ever vigilant and omniscient Aesthetics Committee. The result is a lovely little town of ever so nice houses that blend in perfectly with the surrounding countryside, spoilt only by the very large shiny vehicles dotted about the place. It is the wealthiest postcode in all Victoria I will have you know, followed closely by Portsea. (That’s where the locals park their yachts) The inhabitants of this quaint little village are a wonderfully homogeneous lot that all seem to follow to the letter, an unspoken law that prohibits the displaying of last years fashions, appearing in public without a tan, allowing discussion to stray from the topic of real estate and being seen getting about in a two wheel drive vehicle. Jaz and I naturally felt most at home right from the word go. But don’t for one minute imagine we spent the entire time lolling about quaffing chardonnay and swapping house prices. We had come for the adventure of a lifetime, involving the extremely esoteric extreme sport of Telemarking. At dawn the helicopter drops us on the tippy top of the mountain and we hit the snow skiing, strait down the vertiginous incline at full pelt. Then the real fun begins; we inevitably set off a series of avalanches. The aim of the game is to out run them to the bottom of the hill. All very exciting and actually quite physically demanding as you may well imagine, especially for one such as myself that has not yet mastered the art of skiing. Jaz as usual takes to it like a duck to water and manages to stay on her feet the entire weekend. Show off! Though I got to do some showing off too with my snow graffiti.

Ben, enjoying a spot of telemark skiing …

After Telemarking*** all the way to our chalet we barely have time to chuck a few prawns down the gullet and replenish our energy with a smidgeon of the very best Peruvian Coke before we hit the disco. The joint is jumpin’ with snow bunnies full of youthful vigour. I pop a plum in my cheek and strike up a casual conversation with a particularly lithesome lass of a golden brown complexion that I am sure only true Puerto Ricans posses. I drop a few names I’d gleaned  from The Women’s Weekly; Bert Newton, Daryl Braithwaite and such and tell her I’m a nature lover, that usually goes down pretty well with city folks ‘cause they don’t really know what it means. Straight up she offers to show me The Tunnel of Love. “whoopee! I’m in like Flynn”.  I glance around surreptitiously and note Jaz thoroughly engrossed with an Austrian ski instructor. Huh, typical. I suggest to my nature loving Puerto Rican companion that we go some where quiet where we can  talk with our clothes off. We soon find ourselves in the sauna. It gets really steamy. She gives me one of those simpering looks as her robe drops to the floor. Shock! Horror! She is as white as the driven snow from neck to toe, having spent the entire winter in Aspen. I must escape this ungodly apparition. I run straight out into the snow in my birthday suit. She chases me hither and yon but all I can see is a disembodied head like out of some B grade scary movie. In my panic I run into a pile of rocks. My last thought before unconsciousness overtakes me; “what is a pile of rocks doing in the middle of a ski slope?”.

Naked skiing. Warning. Do not attempt this at home.

Upon regaining my senses I find myself all rugged up and my caring companion, thankfully restored to her Puerto Rican façade, explaining earnestly that this particular pile of rocks is in fact the entrance to The Tunnel of Love; an artificial habit for the critically endangered mountain pigmy possum, a wee little thing that fits snugly in the palm of your hand. “You see, they took all the natural rocks away long ago as they found that rocks and skiing are incompatible, unaware or unconcerned that they were consigning our little friends to the dustbin of evolution. The population of Mountain pygmy possums plummeted drastically to as few as 35 individuals, before the humans realised the error of their ways and began to painstakingly make amends, creating a cozy  habitat for the little fellas, so they feel at ease to do what possums do to keep extinction at bay, before having a little rest for the rest of the winter. (The only marsupials on earth that hibernate, apparently)

Ben Laycock  2011

*not a Post Hole Digger.
** Young Urban Professionals, unlike OCAs**** such as myself.
***Telemarking is just  a fancy way of turning on Langloff skis, for all you ignorant lunkheads.
****Old Country Amateurs.