News from the Mountain (Winter 2017-18)

It has been a remarkable few months, over half way through the season already, the chalet has been almost constantly full once the season started we haven’t really stopped.20180117_143848.jpgThe first week back in the Chalet was surreal, like stepping back in time, had a year just passed? The Chalet almost exactly as we’d left it. We’d painted it I’d re-tiled and re-grouted the bathrooms before we’d left. We’d left everything neat and tidy, it was a little lived in of course but everything was in order. We’d been meticulous when we’d left, not wanting the next people to have to pick up the mess and chaos we’d had too the year before

Mountain Heaven, Nick & Vicki, had offered us the Golden Goat the following year up on ‘Route de la Manche ‘the old smugglers route from Switzerland right under the shadow of the dramatic Monte de Nyon . We’d cautiously accepted, but we had to admit once back that although we’d been drop down tired at times, more so than I can ever remember anywhere, we’d missed it, the breathtaking beautiful forested mountains and slopes, the Chalet. We were now seasoned seasonaires and sometimes perhaps you have to go back to a place to realize how far you’ve come. It was the right thing to do

After Scotland and the journey here I was shattered, a rash appeared on my face, I’d kept so much inside. It receded as we relaxed over those first few weeks. The heating wasn’t working when we got in, we didn’t mind too much we were just happy to be in our own space, though it was very cold, you know how an old house feels when there has been no human presence for a long time, cold to the core but we slept so very deeply that first few days.

I knew where a stash of wood was under the chalet. I’d climbed underneath and thrown logs up and over onto the veranda, then broke them down, that sure warmed me up. It was minus 4 and 5 outside, the main bedroom off the lounge was at zero in the evenings, it took over a week to finally get the heating going. We wrapped ourselves in quilts and huddled up by the fire sipping wine, unwinding gazing dreamily out the lounge windows across to the dark snow covered mountain forests20171216_151318.jpg

In the evenings illuminated up above it all, the Pleny ski lift clothed in swirling mists or lashed and blown with heavy driven snow, at other times, it’s just an orb of light that appears to hover in the darkness, emerging and fading out of view, I watched mesmerized as fierce snow blizzards blew in horizontally across that surreal glowing light up there, the sight has never failed to stop me in my tracks in all the time we’ve been here.20171217_164359 copy

We didn’t get our ski boots fitted immediately; we’d arrived unexpectedly a few days early so we just left it. Instead we hiked up the pistes it was so remarkably beautiful, deep fluffy powder snow covering everything in a thick undisturbed blanket, such a difference to the same time the last year. I remembered us arriving and looking at the grey slate mountains the brown grass and mud slopes, we’d wondered what the big deal was. This year the slopes were already 3 feet of packed snow with 3 feet of powder on top, the trees were bowed with the weight, it was a wonderland.20171217_154915(0) copy.jpg

Orsi kicked against my desire to get out there. I wanted to wade through the thy deep snow, but once across and on the packed pressed slopes it was easier going and she gave in to the beauty and tranquility of the silent forests surrounding us. The only ski lift that was open at that point was Plenny and so it was remarkable to see the first skiers come flashing out of nowhere right past us and down to Nyon where we’d walked from, good skiers are such a beautiful thing to see, we watch from the windows too, as they glide in silently and gracefully, like angels descending into the car park at the end of the run.20171217_201824_148 .jpg

We walked all the way up to the plateau that day just to see it, our lungs bursting with exertion. Looking back down that valley from up there above the clouds, we deeply appreciate it and where we find ourselves here in these mountains, we appreciate also our health and our strength.

We’ve been to promocash again we saw Madam Coco and Boris again and realized we have our French lessons practice again. Boris has a lot of energy, is the son of a Russian father, flame haired a thick goatee and mischievous quick moving eyes, he has the look of a naughty aristocrat, we love Boris, he is such fun, he is teaching me terrible French, all about my genitalia and the various uses for it. His colleagues chuckling quietly as he conspiratorially passes on another gem. He always insists, straight-faced I try it on a girl in a bar

“She will love you” he assures m

One week an older store man came up to me chuckling and said

“You remember what Boris told you last week?”

“Yes” I said

Then in concerned tones he said “Please, don’t use it in a bar the police may get involved”

It was hilarious20180208_114620.jpg

We’ve been down to Carrefour too of course we recognize the mostly unhappy girls and big the lovely lady who seems to be in charge who has begun to crumble under our beam of happiness. We also bumped into Paul the plumber, Sarah and Tom at New Generation ski school and Kate and Martin from Chalet St Marie over at Montriond, we are definitely feeling like locals

The Nyon ski lift is just below the Chalet, literally right outside the back door, so close in fact we throw snowballs onto the roof and laughingly say remarkable things like

“Shall we go for a ski? Naaah!!” or “Yeah come on lets go up for a few hours”

We potter down the two levels of spiraling stairs in the Chalet to “our” boot room pull on padded bulky ski trousers over thermals, clip on boots, zip up jackets strap on helmets and goggles, pick up our skies and sticks from the boiler room and clump, a little more gracefully these days, down the zigzagging garden path.20171227_155954 copy.jpg

Within 5 minutes we’re at the ski lift. Within ten we’re lifted up onto the Nyon Plateau, then a second ski lift higher to where we jump off, then a quick left foot Strawberry and were picking up speed, S ing down that red and heading out across the mountains to la Rosta.

It took a few runs to get our legs back, I’d skied the black run 6 times round at Chamossiere on our very last day last year, it was a highlight in my life, but it took a few days, quite a few tumbles and hard falls to get the ski legs back, but honestly, I’ve enjoyed every tumble.

As the weeks have gone on we’ve really come on. We can say we’re skiers now, enjoying the burning in our thighs, the exertion, the sweat, the freezing fingers, our numb faces and our drenched soaked clothes. I recall last year looking down on the slopes, wobbling, stomach full of butterflies, how we’d been terrorized by the final icy descent into Nyon on the Lievre blue. I’ve noticed us now coasting around people who seem very tentative, faltering, nervous, cautious and downright dangerous. I remembered what a lady had told us the year before, strawberries under the big toe, to squash them down and you’ll turn, counter intuitive, it all began to come back quickly after that first few days and we were off.20180206_114351 copy.jpg

We’ve also had really wonderful guests the first half of this season, the Christmas and new years families and groups were so warm and open. We love children in the Chalet mostly because I get to crack all my kids jokes and they get to roll their eyes, it never fails to delight me and is always a bridge to the adults, when they hear the kids laughing everyone relaxes. It would be nice to mention a few groups by name, but I’ve learnt over the years not too

I have written and spoken many times of our plans open a healing center or run retreats, it was one of our stipulations when we went for that first interview that we’d be able to offer healing and hypnotherapy. Our certificates are out on display in the Chalet, we offer what we do freely and its always interesting how it is taken, some people with wariness and suspicion, some with a blank stone change the subject wall but many with warmth and curiosity, I have done quite a lot of work this season. It really is a learning for me to be able to switch from Chalet host to healing/hypnotherapist and then back to chalet host as I climb the stairs back to the lounge and kitchen, switch on, switch over, change gear.20171230_215308 copy.jpg

People have their own projections about what we offer and what we do. But what is not initially apparent is the subtle warmth people walk into when they come to the Golden Goat, it is a conscious decision of ours, we want those who come here to have a wonderful time. Its not anything we plan or even really talk about, it’s just something we agree upon, without it having to be said. It is a healing space to us, we are conscious about it and that intention in atmosphere slowly creeps up on people whilst they are here. Some are not used to it.

We’ve had architects landscape gardeners, GP’s, Surgeons, Airline pilots, pharmaceutical reps, policemen, paramedics, restaurant owners, builders, chip shop owners, housing developers, computer programmers, physiotherapists travel agents, magazine editors, welsh farmers, accountants, PA’s, Ships Crew, Engineers, web designers to name but a few. It’s fascinating. There are no airs and graces, well not many, a few perhaps. Everyone is thrown together mostly in happy accidents. There have been at times an upstairs and downstairs feeling with one or two groups, those that do give off those feelings usually have somebody very insecure with them, the warmest seem to be the people with the most confidence, not loud, life and soul of a party type of confidence, just quiet respectful, manners and consideration.20180217_110944 copy.jpg

We have been given fantastic tools by Mountain heaven and we’ve feathered a nest with them and though we are on show for most of the day, ‘we’ have the birds eye view seeing and feeling all the different energies that come through the door on the Saturday, the difference in one group to the next, it’s fascinating

We both love to hear the laughter from a warm healthy group or a loving family pouring down from the balcony dinning room above. You can tell where the love is, some people warm up with a bottle of red wine as I suppose we all do to some extent I suppose but some people need it to thaw the chill that is within them.

I think I may have said it last year but I still can’t believe that a boy from Blackpool is out here in these mountains with unlimited access, we work damned hard for it, but still I don’t think ever once have we come out off the lift at Nyon looking back along the valley without pinching ourselves20171223_131622.jpg

We always look at one another and say “We are so lucky aren’t we”

The snow came down in blizzards those first few weeks, last year we learnt to ski on ice virtually so it was a whole new thing skiing in powder snow. The winds blew, visibility was a down to few feet and we froze, but loved that too. I did the Yeti Black run over at La Rosta a little too early in the season with all its moghuls (mounds of piled frozen snow) I slipped and fell virtually the whole way down, I was absolutely battered, my legs jelly when I finally made it to the bottom, I was shaken but I’d done it. I would never have dared last year20180117_144245 copy


You have to be ‘on it’ whilst your out there, you cannot take your emotions out with you, the mountains don’t care, if I’ve ever been upset whilst I’ve been out there I’ve always fallen, it is all about focus and being in the split second moment, making those decisions and every slope is different every day, I did the Chamossiere black Les Creux again but it had a while different feel. It was tough.20171225_123515 copy.jpg

The transfer driver on the way up here had told us of a place called “Roc D’enfer” in the mountains above St John D’aulps a short drive down the valley and is usually a little quieter than Avoriaz Les Gets and Plenny. so we thought we’d go and explore. It was amazing, miles of slopes in a remarkable circuit high up in the mountains, it was there we seemed to get it. We flew down into the pine forests cutting back into the powder and then onto ice, and so on. We got our legs back.20180102_154548 copy.jpg

A week or so later after a bit of tension between the two of us I’d had a dream, in fact it was a ‘visit’ I hadn’t realized until we were up on the slopes next day. I’d been at our friend Tipi Jean sat in her Yurt, I’d been watching black and white horses running up into the mountains along a slope, then the picture broadened and I’d seen/noticed we’d been watching in on TV. As I looked two women came into view one a blonde and one black haired, both older women they had cowboy hats on and had been looking out at me from the TV screen, when they saw they had my attention they turned to one another and smiled silhouetted against the beautiful back drop with the running horses behind them. It had felt so healing the feeling stayed with me all the next morningRoc d'enfer.jpg

We’d finished our chores fairly early that day, we were in the groove now, we’d gone back to Roc D’enfer. The churning feeling from the dream was still in my stomach something pulling and lifting, hard to describe, I’d noted it was in my solar plexus, I’d thought perhaps I was hungry but it didn’t leave me, then as we rose up in the breath taking chair lift both of us peaceful and quiet as we rose up through the forest, my attention focused on the feeling again, I suddenly realized, and remembered what it felt like to have Spirit near by. It’s hard to explain that feeling, but with time and experience you just know it.20180114_134110

I flashed back to Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, I had the same feeling I’d had whilst I was there, a deep sense of gratitude, joy and freedom, it was a physical feeling and all I can tell you is that these things are real, I have worked hard with and for them. That day I skied like I was on air, easy and effortless, joy, taking on slopes we’d never have dared the week before never mind the year before, just because we could. We took it easy, there was no caution but we took no chances, no rush, we virtually had the whole mountain to ourselves, amazing, enjoying the pace the peace, enjoying the pine forests flickering by, the sound of the snow, crumping at times, at others like clammy fingers plucking at rubber balloons, in shaded spots the cold deep jarring scrape of hard sheet ice, in others the woosh of the powder, I’ll say again, I get it, we are so lucky.20180107_125630

I have missed the time to visit with Spirit; it is a reality. It takes effort and a person has to make the time but is always rewarding usually when you least expect it, when your not trying, but you’ll know. It was a wonderful day.

The French revere Mary Magdalene throughout this area, which is something else I love about the place. There are churches dotted throughout the region in villages and mountains, painted in dreamy pastel colours, beautiful gentle peaceful places, like the lovely church or Saint Marie du Madeleine in Morzine town centre, the day we arrived back it looked like a magical grotto. The mountains paths too are dotted with beautiful shrines dedicated to Magdalene and to me always feel like you have stumbled upon themMary Mountain shrine.jpg

Right across the road from the Morzine church is the old First World War soldier “Roger” on the plinth marching enthusiastically onwards to oblivion? It always makes me smile to see him, he looks so optimistic. The day we arrived he had an extra load on his back, I heard the statue is known locally as ‘Le Poilu’ the direct translation means “the Hairy” which made me laugh, I think, I presume, it refers to his great bushy moustache?

Last year Orsi discovered a bar on ‘Route des Udrezants’ around the corner from Roger. She’d been excited as it had a patio right above a tributary that flowed noisily down into the river Dranse that flows through Morzine a few hundred feet away, it was a ‘suntrap’ she’d said. So we’d been round once or twice, Spanish tapas, pleasant, but not much else going on

On our first Wednesday off this year we’d wanted to somewhere to sit quietly and ended up back at the bar we now realised was called the “Hideout Hostel” the name itself doesn’t sell the place, but perhaps that’s the point, you have to discover a gem.

We stepped in to find a whole different vibe. Fireplace glowing behind glass panels, rustic retro decor, great music from 70’s soul to Pearl Jam to cool jazz and decent pop. The menu had changed too, they had a new chef, it was now Japanese based. We ordered two veggie Miso soups, and what an amazing meal it was, I couldn’t believe just how good, it was, half the price of anything out on the slopes and twice as big, no potatoes no cheese, fresh vegetables, absolutely delicious, a taste and texture fest.

You know how sometimes you walk into somewhere that feels like its just begun, is fresh, the staff happy and energetic, pretty tattooed girls in slim fit jeans, beanies and bobbles, getting it, liking where they were, it was infectious. We sat back with full bellies sipping Ibex IPA, taking in the place. The lighting glowed off the copper topped bar and the polished chunky wooden tables, the fire underneath the great stone fireplace flickered and glowed pushing out into the small intimate room, people sinking into the leather couches. Subtle pieces of art here and there, nothing featured, just things you noticed when you relaxed, Stags, Ravens, pictures of the mountains, broken snowboards, Japanese waves, and above the fire place “let it snow” & “ride or die”

Virtually everyone was in a beanie, or hoodies up, young men with beards, sloppy clothes, check shirts and sweat jackets, layers. Baggy woollen jumpers baggy jeans and or dungarees, nobody too bothered about the hair or at least nobody I’m sure would admit it, effortless and relaxed, straight off the slopes., nobody is too bothered about who you are either, so you can be who you are, its great a place to be.

After we’d skied around the amazing circuit of Roc D’Enfer up in the mountains above St John D’aulps that day we’d gone back to Morzine to the Hideout for a meal. I’d looked forward to it all week. Whilst out there in the snow with the spirits I’d remembered the psychic lady on the Isle of Skye talking to me about my musicality she’d said amongst other things “take small steps” all that day the inner voice had been so loud,

“Ask for a gig at The Hideout”

So that night after a deep breath, I’d approached the bar and asked if they’d like to have somebody playing acoustic guitar in there. The barmaid on duty the very lovely Rose who we’d known from the year before asked me to come back in next day at 4pm to talk with Charlotte the manageress.20180124_192842 copy.jpg

The very beautiful Charlotte, put me right at ease she’d just said “Hm Wednesday?” flicked through her diary then said “Yes ok, but how much do you charge”

I told her why I wanted to play and a few pints would be great, acoustic, casual, no fuss, just blending in, playing only my own stuff. They liked the idea. Deal done

Next day I got an email asking me to come back to play a song for them. They’d forgotten to ask me, I think it had been a surprise that I’d asked and turned up on time. So back with my guitar I sat up at the bar as Rose set up the beers behind and played them “Cover Me” I sensed surprise and relief. (Click on the link to listen)

The following Wednesday I walked in with my guitar on my back. Rose was wonderful with me, its quite a tough thing to follow Marvin Gaye or Pearl Jam with an acoustic guitar and a bunch of unknown songs but I set up a stool quietly next to the ‘daily special’ board with a view down the room in front of the door to the patio and started playing at 7pm. Nice an easy, every time somebody went out for a fag, I got a blast of cool fresh air, the perfect spot.

I played for two hours without repeating myself, all my own songs, a quick break then another two hours. I played well, the girls all seemed to enjoy it, I’ve always said if you ‘ve got the bar staff your side you’re winning, they’ve seen it all. Orsi was there of course looking up from texting every few minutes, thumbs up while the place ebbed and flowed, I even had a few drinks bought. It was a good start  (Click on the link to listen)

ClIts not a featured gig with a stage so to speak, and as the weeks have gone on people have said I need to be mic’d up, but its not really that sort of thing, its more about the vibe of the place, I like it for now that I just blend in, relax and play what ever I want when ever I want, if people want to dip in they will come and have listen, its perfect for me right now and its perfect for the place.  (Click on the Link to listen)

After that first night I got an email the next day from Charlotte ‘asking’ me to come back every Wednesday. She’d heard it had been a great night. That was a first, in writing, asking me to come play every week, small steps and vindication

In between Chalet hosting I have managed to work on more of my songs, some I hadn’t played for years. I’ve been at the Hideout now for the last 7 weeks extending the set and seem to be doing well, its what I’d wished for, I’d picked it up and I’m running with it. The place has been getting busier and busier. Last Wednesday night was absolutely rammed. Rose, Dem, Sacha and Leeanne the staff are always so good to me, I never pay for a drink, Rose just shakes her head, it’s on us. People seem to be loving my songs and my sound, It’s a blessing, I’ve been happy playing and singing again

Afterwards, gone 11pm guitar on my shoulder, fingers numb, I step out of that cozy warmth into the darkened exotic street, always with a sense of adventure as this is not my country, its streets silent and pretty, my senses know the blackness that crowd and push in on this old French town is not the universe or the stars they are further out, its rocks and forest and snow that are close up. The old road leads gently back down into the deserted square, roof tops of beautiful wooden chalets and old hotels cluster and crowd and peep in the openings between one another, the rushing energetic presence of that stream to my left hurrying down to the River Dranse, startling and wonderful.

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It was minus 18 degrees last night when I stepped out. The place had been packed my fingers were raw after 4 hours straight through, the cold bit them as I descend down to the square taking care with my footsteps on the icy road, the beautiful church of Saint Mary Magdalene came into view, the trees along the river side lit up with fairy lights,

Above all of this is the Pleny Ski lift lit up, still floating there with its strange perspective in the blackness above the town sometimes as i’ve said with a snow blizzard blowing across it, sometimes just glowing shrouded in the descended mists, sometimes like last night clear and sharp like a mother ship hovering above town, Morzine? Yeah we are happy to be back here

As I entered the square I as always saluted Roger, who was as ever marching energetically and as cheerfully onwards up on the plinth,

I smiled up at him “Small steps eh Roger? Small steps, onwards and upwards”