Things have settled down into a routine, that being, we are routinely tired. Though the high tide of anxiety and flood of stress has definitely receded
On our Tuesday ‘day off’ one week Orsi had spotted an exhibition about the Japanese influence on Vincent Van Gogh, happening down in town in the sports center on the valley floor below the balconies and terraces of Morzine
“Why not” we’d said
It took a little while to locate the entrance, but once detected we found inside the facilitator, a very sweet chap called Francesco who lit up as we entered, ever so slightly camp and a great enthusiast of the hidden themes in many of Van Gogh’s works.
Francesco seemed delighted to have us, welcomed us warmly, took our coats and scarves, offered us tea and coffee, I think he was just glad ‘somebody’ had arrived. There were so many wonderful originals of the Japanese masters Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, Toyokuni III, Kunisada, kunichika, Hokusai, Kuniyoshi who had themselves inserted characters and faces into their paintings, I was distracted away from Van Gogh
Francesco assured us there was an English translation to the exhibition but it was quite vague, and really there wasn’t, but we didn’t mind as the translation by Francesco was far more entertaining. He shoo’d us in with a flourish. There was only us there and he caught up with us a little way around, sat us down and began animatedly to show us the hidden faces of in Van Gogh’s pencil drawings with a long stick
The master had left notes in his diaries, so Francesco wasn’t making all this up, many of the hidden faces were of other great artists of that time, a homage it seems. There were also elephants and dogs, I think a few birds and even a horse or two, but it all looked rather too obscure for me right then.
Francesco would reach down to a chair and pick up a picture of a great artist and hold it at an angle against the picture of say “Le Pont De Gleize” or “Jard n D’un poete” and he’d look at us with a smoldering look then maybe turn the pictures on its side
“Voila” he’d say
“Orsi, se bon? Mick sava?” We’d both go “Yes, yes, wee wee, yeah”
In all honesty, there and then I just thought of clouds on a windy day or a Rorschach inkblot test, who ever looked at them would perhaps see something different. At the time I preferred the Japanese artists mainly because all the Van Gogh’s were pencil and reproduction but as I’ve looked for pictures for this article the window into Van Gogh’s colourful mind opened and I could see that that is what he saw in everything he looked at, movement and an ever changing kaleidoscopic life force, there are times for sure when I see that too, I’ve tried to point it out now and again, it’s so obvious and yet laughed at
“Oh Mick” he’s off again type of thing.
I was so glad to see those paintings, its right there, he saw it too. I’d never realized before
But right there and then we were really just enjoying Francesco, making a fuss of us with his charming broken English.
That week we had a riotous Irish group from Belfast and London all mid to late 20’s incredible skiers by all accounts one of the girls, a Lawyer working in chancery lane had filmed herself on her phone skiing down a red route at, must have been 40mph, I couldn’t believe it and boy could they drink.
Guests are allowed as much wine as they like during the three course evening meal but once the meal was served and clearing up began, no more wine, so of course, they hammered it. After most evening meals they were stood on the chairs up in the dinning rooms singing their heads off, “The fields of Athenry” and the like, full volume.
We didn’t mind at all, they weren’t trashing the place, just themselves, and they’d come to have a good time, though I did get a little annoyed one morning when I found an open can of kronnenberg and a load of cigarette butts floating in the hot tub.
We’d been advised to impose a 7.30pm curfew on the hot tub, but we’d thought of ourselves, on a long anticipated holiday, wanting to sit out under the stars whilst the snow floated down, sipping a glass of wine, it would’ve be a drag. So we just left them too it and did the same with all future guests. But even in their worst staggering blathered moments they cleared up each night left all glasses and bottles in the kitchen and were very respectful with the place.
In the afternoons and early evenings most of them would sit around like cats all cozied up together, chatting easily, peaceful and mellow. We enjoyed them
The clean up on that Saturday change over though was tough, scrubbing spattered walls and floors, lots of rose coloured sheets and pillow cases. Afterwards we said if we can survive that we can handle anything. They left behind a full bottle of Jaegermeister and two liters of Gin, a nice perk, we toasted them each night for the next few weeks.
In the following weeks under the influence of those perks down in our dim hidden bare little room, we watched you tube every night, How the alps were formed, Jesus in Tibet, The history of the Greek empire, Niccolo Machiaveli to name a few very educational enforced evenings.
Next were a group of from Leeds, and a lovely couple from Cornwall very restrained and quiet, they drank in one week what the Irish drank during one meal time. They had tea and hot chocolate in the evenings played pub quiz with the log fire on and 80’s absolute radio channel playing discreetly in the background, to be honest it was a relief, we were grateful for the peace and quiet after that riotous week. But that said they may have been quiet but they were probably the fittest of all the skiers we’ve have had in all the time we were there, they clocked up an amazing 200Klm in the 6 days over the mountains.
A last minute booking arrived too, he was very scattered hadn’t booked any skies/board boots or lessons, had expected to arrive and just pop up there onto the slopes and all would be great. So after a lot of care and attention, I got him a board delivered by Doorstep skies and lessons booked next day in Avoriaz, he’d not admitted he was a novice and so within half an hour of his first lesson he’d fallen badly and given himself a very nasty cracked elbow and had to come straight back down.
He arrived back that first evening with a balloon of an elbow, I immediately offered to go get him some ibuprofen
“And could you get me some fags while your there” He pinned
I wasn’t a happy, though I did soften to him, he seemed like a lost soul, so I later took him to one side and gave him some healing, he took to it easily and I introduced the Hypnosis gently and casually. Result was by the following evening he was virtually pain free and that next day he’d been back out on the slope. He said it had been remarkable, once he’d got back up there he just became very clear and focused
“Very weird” he said. “It was like the feeling I have when I’m in the Gym”
Which of course was exactly the suggestion I had given him.
“Very weird” He said
The implication is of course that he knew what the suggestion was and had accepted it. He had a much better time and had slept deeply and peacefully and when all said and done it doesn’t get better than that, it worked out well.
A lot of people have trouble with the ski boots initially; I had and still do from time to time, numbness creeping across the bowl of the foot. But one of the Leeds party was particularly fussy and had been into town 4 times by mid week to change, I felt sorry for Doorstep skies who are endlessly patient good humoured brits.
A girl of their party too had lost control and sailed into a tree, she was shaken up for a few days afterwards. I’d had a fall myself and broken a bone in my thumb, ooh it hurt, it has taken over a week for me to be able to move it, quite teeth clenching problem as a waiter, but hey; skiing right, you take the knocks, everybody knows the risks and if you crack a bone in your finger your lucky, it’s part of the price, sympathy is a shrug of the shoulders from anybody looking on. But oh it hurt…
“Oh dear never mind”
Each day we see the ambulance arriving at Point du Nyon from up on our balcony, its not funny and you wonder what people are doing up there, what are they are expecting? It’s a hair-raising thing if you haven’t got the legs for it. We’ve also seen so many people down in Morzine with arms in slings, on crutches, bruised faces, flattened purple bloody noses. And they’re the ones who walked away.
We watch the red cross helicopters fly in over the Chalet every other day and whilst we have been up there, we’ve noted with interest the big bright red reclining ski stretchers/chairs. They have handles on that resemble bicycle handlebars with one great big ski underneath. The medics who handled the wrapped and strapped bodies are just amazing, nonchalantly, unflappably gliding down the mountains red routes, pushing the stretcher ahead of them like a country bicycle ride, winged and effortless on snow and ice all the way down to the chair lifts, where they push whole thing with the person in it, in front of the bench as it swings round and in one move the stretcher is lifted airbourne and clipped into the seat…. bing…!! So slick and amazing to see.
I have been wondering why and what people are putting themselves through, what are they expecting and what are they doing this for? We are here because we are working, but we are watching closely and are definitely taking it easy
In fact, it’s a lot of hassle, getting all the gear and layers on, getting wrapped up, driving to Pleny in Morzine, finding a parking space and meter close to the lift. Then boots on followed by that lurching clumping jarring walk, up the road to the ski lift, ducking out the way of unconscious skiers whose personal space has been extended by 3 or 4 feet all around them due to the skies on their shoulders. Then a slight breather in the gondolier lift up into the mountain, watching as if in a dream the slick and apparently winged beings wiz and glide past below. Then reality again, as you stumble out of the lift and clump out onto the slopes, drop your skies onto the snow and ice place your feet into the brackets press down till the mechanism clicks, and then maneuver with the planks on your feet past the fearless and strangely unaware 4 and 5 year old kids who come out of nowhere and disappear in the blink of an eye, to the edge of a terrifying slope, then exhausted and sweating and against all instinct push yourself off and over the edge, I’m telling you, you better know what your doing up there. We still have to master jelly legs, but we are plucky and we keep going back
There have been times when we just couldn’t be bothered and just walked out into the mountains instead, along the trails feeling closer to the nature and away from it all. I’d bought an ordinance survey map and we found some wonderful trails. I am loving the mountain shrines, it’s very definitely Mother Mary & Mary Magdalaine country, beauty and pastels, flowers and birth, not those bloody drenched crucifixes up here.
We walked out to Mount Evian, so far out there that the only other foot prints in the snow apart from ours were deer and foxes, the last snow had been over two weeks ago, evidence for sure of trails less travelled, it felt so good to be up there and out there. We are pretty fit now and though it was bitter dry cold we were soon red faced and sweating, hearts racing, lungs bursting, away from the crowded playground and out with the wild things, tracking, listening, observing feeling and noticing, we slowed down and listened and that was wonderful. I miss these things, they are important to me.
Back in Morzine at Beanies bar they sell a good IPA have internet access and there is always a TV channel on playing the most amazing Skiing stunts, guys climbing up sheer mountain faces, skis in ruck sacks, sleeping out in the snow, two day hikes so they can get really high, ice picking their way up vertical cliffs, amazing in itself, then skis on and back over the edge, it is astonishing, once you realize what it takes to get yourself up and skiing in the first place, I’ve loved sitting there mouth open watching them in between writing this. The snowboarders too, flipping off roof tops, along fences, somersaulting, doing the most amazing stunts, the level of fitness and skill is remarkable.
We’ve also been trying to learn some French having a laugh in the supermarket. We now take a dictionary along. We had no idea what beef or pork was in French, ridiculous in retrospect, but we were just going on sight, an egg is an egg right, but what does lamb look like in a sealed plastic bag, it looks like pork, to my eyes anyway. So, this week we had pork tagine instead of lamb, but it turned out to be a wonderful accident, the English loved it. As I’m learning I am also becoming a little bit more sophisticated, I’ve started calling Orsi “Mon Petit Agneau” and told her its ok to call me “Moi Gros Beouf” and with an accent, let me tell you, it’s apparently pretty impressive.
Orsi too has calmed down, thank goodness and is allowing herself to breath, which of course is also really beneficial for my own deep breathing, her cooking is excellent and is getting 5 star reviews from all parties so far, she is focused. I just found her terrifying those first few weeks in the supermarket and in the in the kitchen, but thankfully the Orsi I knew seems to have returned or is returning.
My respect ratings have gone up a little too as she has realized that English breakfast, I cook all the breakfasts, is a frenzied 5 pan and grill crazy juggling act. 12-14 people sat along the communal table all waiting for their eggs, bacon, sausage tomato and beans it’s quite a pressure in itself. Anyone can fry an egg right? Wrong!! Sunnyside up is easy but 14 nice runny eggs with no burn all at once, nah, it’ all about the heat, it’s a learned thing to get an egg just right.
And we’ve learned so much, from eggs to beds, from mountain highs to personal lows and nobody has been eaten by the thing from the deep, grown in the covered hot tub overnight, It’s all good, lets just say my unnoticed talents those first few weeks, have become visible, I’m becoming “Mr Boeuf” again
The seed from the bird feeders around the Chalet garden had been frozen too, I’d noticed the blue tits and the blackbrds. So we saved the fat from the Wednesday goose legs, took the seeds and mixed them together, made molds from plastic bottles, poured it in and let them freeze outside over night. Then next day cracked them open and strung them up in the trees around the chalet. The black birds just don’t seem to be able to believe it and have taken over charge of the trees.
We are also feeding some wild thing with the duck bones, sausages and left over meats and salmon now and again, I hate to waste anything, food in particular. We suspect it’s a local ginger cat, but yesterday all the bones had disappeared so we think, hope, it may be something a little bigger and wilder. The snow is frozen so there are no tracks that we can follow so can’t tell. I’ve been wishing we had one of those wildlife trigger cams David Attenborough and his mates have, I’ll let you know if it’s a bobcat or a fat ginger.
Things are better here.