MOTHER AWAY FROM MOTHER

Meet the second half of our employers, Eliza.

It isn’t easy to write about Eliza in the same way as it is her husband and illusive business partner Johnny. I shall start at the beginning.

After applying for this job we found on the website Gumtree, in early October last year, a phone interview was conducted with matter of fact details of the position and what we could expect to find here at Chalet Eterlou. We were offered the job the next day and made plans to arrive in Tignes les Brevieres late in November.

Upon arrival we met Johnny and oldest son Alex who quickly informed us that they were in ‘Party’ mode as ‘The Boss’ Eliza would not be in resort for another month. We had come early to the Chalet to do some minor repairs and after surveying we asked Johnny for a few extra supplies, three weeks later we had the required materials but not quiet the completed list.

In these three weeks, as we got acquainted with our new home, we were told stories from all perspectives about our new Boss. Some scary tales from people who had fallen on the wrong side, but most from people full of admiration, not only in running two businesses, but also for putting up with, and looking after husband Johnny. Somehow we had developed this fear and anxiety. Words had been branded around: scary, straight, not one to cross but also respectful, honest, even and fair.

Upon meeting ‘The Boss’ Eliza, all of our fear quickly disappeared. A smile on her face was warm, welcoming and approachable. We talked about a few things still needed to finish some repairs and an hour later we had the shopping list in full. We quickly learned not only who ran the business side of the business, but who ran the whole business.

That  evening I dropped a glass at the diner table and thought my time was over. Shaking in the kitchen after the meal Eliza approached us and thanked us for the meal and our efforts. Something we would hear time and time again as Eliza would often venture down to the chalet to see returning friends and regale tales as if they had seen each other yesterday. Such is the ease of her persona.

Upon entering the chalet ‘The Boss’ would venture straight to the kitchen, her first thought would be to make sure her staff were happy and needed for nothing. If everything was in order, a glass of Apremont would be required and only then would she focus on the paying guests.

Such was her commitment to the staff that Eliza was our tour guide around the area, not only on skis but away from the crowds on snow shoes. These snow shoeing trips were Eliza’s personal time away from everything, alone with Poppy and Bella, two black Labradors, her dogs that she cares for more than anything.

Knowing that Eliza, black labs and staff on their snow shoeing tripEliza would be leaving before the season ended, we all went out for a meal to celebrate surviving our time together. Upon leaving the restaurant Johnny walked towards the bar opposite with a smile on his face. Almost across the road his path was blocked by a car he knew well. The window opened and an instruction calmly spoken: “Get in the car, Johnny.” With this Johnny’s smile grew and he did what he was told. Something he won’t have to do once ‘The Boss’ leaves and ‘Party Time’ starts again.

We will be sad to see Poppy and Bella go, but even sadder when our stand in mother leaves us in Johnny’s care. Safe journey to Scotland Boss.

Advertisements

THE LESSER SPOTTED SKIER

Emerging tired and grumpy from his hibernating hire car the lesser spotted skier reaches for the sky with both hands, stretching and cracking his back he yawns and scratches his belly before turning to his uncontrollable screaming infants.

Carrying more luggage than he packed, loaded with ski gear and with an arm outstretched the lesser spotted skier has learnt not to argue after emerging from his den.

Greeted by those providing for his family for his annual expedition to the slopes leaves the lesser spotted skier exhausted but thankful.

On the first morning he rouses his family, gathering at the eating table at an early 8am. Keen to be out on the snow before the hordes he holds his tribe personally responsible if he isn’t on the first chairlift that morning. The scene makes for some eventful watching. Boots of all sizes are forced onto tiny feet and coats, hats and gloves, some too big, some too small are fitted onto their loose limbs and sent to the front of the queue, most of the time without a visit to their bathroom.

He then leads his pack down slopes and back up again in search of lost phones, cameras and ski poles. But the lesser spotted skier won’t be baffled and easily off loads this accusation of not closing his pockets by suggesting that perhaps it was undone because he was leading his family to get lift passes, was carrying 8 ski poles and four pairs of skis. The lesser spotted skier is quick to pass the blame to the youngest member who involuntarily bursts into tears and is treated with care by the mother.

The Lesser Spotted Skier evades the camera.

The Lesser Spotted Skier evades the camera.

On returning to their rental layer that night an argument is spared with the flow of free chalet wine. The lesser spotted skier is let off by the female of the group for slapping the ass of his host because the female is absorbed with her smart phone and complains loudly and continually that the internet doesn’t work. After several more bottles the adults of the group sluggishly retire to their room, fatigued and with a promise of being at breakfast at 8am, they bid a goodnight.

Day by day the group emerge later and later for their first meal of the day, finally arriving at 8:58, they apologetically request the house special whilst running around sorting clothes and skis. A tired and exhausted mother does the final dressing of the cubs as the lesser spotted skier shows no sign of helping.

Without ski school on the final day, the lesser spotted skier knows he will have to wait for his cubs to gingerly make their way down runs he insists upon choosing. A black run never looks so satisfying to the lesser spotted skier than when he is watching his cubs emerge in floods of tears at the foot of the mountain.

The last day of his annual migration towards the snow shows signs of cracks in an otherwise seem less relationship with his pack. Knowing his future hours will be packing, loading, repacking and reloading of his family’s bags, he sits restful with his well earned beverage.

Finally packed with clothes, skis and children the annual migration expires in silence as the lesser spotted skier reverses into a snow marker on his way to the mechanical bird. Ready for a conversation with lines like, let me drive, never again, your fault, soaked to the bone and I want a divorce the lesser spotted skier realises the potential of not being so lesser spotted.

WHAT DOGS DO YOU HAVE?

Meet Johnny. Half of our employers here in Tignes les Breveriers.

After a day of skiing, cooking for and entertaining the guests, our evenings end with a dog hunt.

Johnny leaves the Chalet for the walk home with two dogs on two leads. We sit by our open fire awaiting the phone call that will inform us of which dog has been lost.

‘Poppy’ the elder one will make her way either home, or back to the chalet, depending on what part of her short journey she was let free. Or ‘Bella’ the puppy black lab that goes straight for the sausage stall that is a permanent fixture at the base of the slopes.

Depending on the dog, depends on how many of us go in search. If it’s Poppy, there is less demand as she is more capable of getting herself home than her walker. If it’s Bella then we go out en mass to make sure she isn’t run over by the sliding British motorists who think, because a few flakes fell in the UK, they have experience of driving in snow.

Dogs

Johnny was entrusted to walk the dogs to the Chalet last week, and in doing so he lost Poppy en route. When instructed to go out and find her, he returned triumphant holding her lead up high, I’ve found her he beamed, and in the process he lost Bella.

When Johnny was talking fondly of his dogs to one guest recently, he was asked “What dogs do you have?”

“Black ones” he replied!

SUPERMARKET SKI

Two lives cross in a winter mountain car park.

You know you’ve made it when, as you approach your sparkling new family car in a supermarket car park, where every other car around you is covered in dirty snow, salt and grit from driving in two foot of snow for the past month, you press a button and your boot opens. With a trolley full of boxes of wine you load them into your car and as you walk away the boot closes automatically. This happened as two gentlemen in there late 40’s, probably volunteered to do the weekly shop.

Shortly afterwards another couple of gentlemen approach their car, one of the cars covered in dirty snow, salt and grit. They too are in their 40’s. The one guy searches for his keys and unlocks the boot manually, then lifts the door and reaches in for a wooden broom handle. Using this he props up the boot as they load their car with nappies, baby food and snacks. I had the feeling these two gentlemen were sent shopping by their wives. 

Not quiet there yet……

CHALET LIFE PART ONE

Guests.

Running Chalet Eterlou this winter has its perks. We get to ski everyday, our lift pass is paid for, our accommodation is three minutes from the slopes, and we get beer money at the end of each week.

We also get the chance to greet new fresh and excited guests every change over day. This guarantees to be fun if not unbearable, greeting  all kinds of personalities, sense of humour and charm.

So far, 90% of our guests in the first three weeks have become friends, people who are here to enjoy themselves and get the most out of their holiday as possible. These people have been hard to say goodbye to, but with today’s lifestyle and social media we can keep in touch and continue the fun that brought us together in the short time that our lives past.

But one family this week, that 10% of guests so far, I just can’t wait for change over day. It’s not that they are unpleasant, they are not rude, but some people really shouldn’t be allowed out of their homes. It’s hard to point out what is so irritating about this family but I’m not alone in volunteering to help pack their bags.

We won’t help dig out their snow covered car, we won’t be carrying their luggage for them and we wont walk along the drive and wave as they turn the corner. We will quietly close the door and breathe a sigh of relief.

Next week we have four guests, a calm hangover after the Christmas and New Year party.

DINNER TABLE TALKS

Home this winter is Chalet Eterlou in Tignes-les-Brevieres, with Jajina as Chalet Girl I am in the position of Handy man.

When applying for the jobs we received a pdf titled ‘job description-Chalet Girl’ Jajina’s made for some bed time reading, three A4 pages detailing her chores in great detail. After reading this together we opened the ‘handyman’ page.

My job was described in far less detail:

  • Clear the paths from snow
  • Fix things when they are broken
  • Sit with, eat with and chat up the guests in the evenings

This I have achieved with great success in the first two weeks, clearing almost three meters of snow from the garden, fixing countless leaks in this charming 80’s Chalet and selling two books in physical format and one as a download. Guests here have been reading the Chalet copy with a smile, as our first guest remarked “I can hear your voice Ricky as I read it”-this I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Sitting down with 16 new people for dinner every week allows for some interesting topics to be discussed and some funny tales to be aired. I shall be posting more stories as they unfold throughout the winter.

THE COMING OF AGE QUESTION

As I have returned to the UK for an extended period, I am spending some very belated time with my nephew and nieces, and am reminded of how the innocence of a child’s thought can provoke such wonder and amusement.

How will my brothers, like any new parent, answer the questions that unfold on a daily basis from the mouths of someone so young? And how, in those early years, do you answer questions of a sensitive nature?

Whilst I play with all three children and wait the arrival of my fourth nephew or niece, I am transported back in time to my own childhood.

How the confusion of words and the misspoken letter can have an effect that lasts well in to adult hood.

Living on the border with Wales, as a family we would holiday on the lengthy Pendine sands. The journey seemed to take an age as a child and following the map closely with our young eyes we noticed signs written in both Welsh and English. Hoping our car would get us to our destination where we could run for miles on the sandy beech. And praying more importantly, for sunshine.

But these summer holidays were not before taking in much of the local countryside in and around the Royal Forest of Dean. It was here that I learnt to identify trees, collect chestnuts and watch wildlife.

Indeed, this is where it all went wrong. Along the roads in rural forest country lay signs reading, ‘Slow Sheep.’ Sheep have the freedom of the land, the cause of countless accidents and wonderment as outsiders stare open mouthed at the sight of a flock of sheep walking towards them, on one of the many narrow roads.

Also on these roads are signs reading ‘Slow Deer’ and through September to November, it can be a dangerous period to drive after dark as the Stags stalk out their Doe. 

With this in mind, along with the aforementioned innocence allotted to young children, and looking closely at this next road sign, can I now be forgiven for entering Wales on one said holiday and asking: “Dad, what’s an ARAF?”