I’m back in the UK now, just going back over what I’d written before we left the Chalet, shame not to post it. Once here I went straight back over to the west coast, Irvine to be exact, I sat there shivering, the damp creeping back into my bones. Up in the mountains any sort of damp cold is crystalized before it gets to your bones, I like my cold like that, also with lashings of blue skies peppered regularly with dazzling sunny days.
Orsi was almost snatched away from me at Geneva airport she’s gone on to Barcelona and then to Hungary. My journey from there across France was easy and effortless on the Oiubus to Brive where my dear friends Ian & Francis picked me up. I stayed for a few days up on that beautiful hillside of theirs in the presbytery at Tulle. Birds sang outside my window each morning, crows and foxes visited, greens and blues glowed and I caught the sun. A few days later Glasgow then Irvine was the shock that I’d been bracing myself for, it was damp yeah but with many a warm heart I’ve heard many a warm Scott say
For instance my cousins in Glasgow Gail, Maree & husband Davey and their baby Sorren who I popped into visit were welcoming and warm, I was glad I went. Family is family and I wanted to rekindle those ties.
We travel to listen right, to learn, absorb and feel the locality; they are my extended family but still part of the journey. I’d heard on the family grapevine of their Scottish independence views, so I instigated the discussion, I was allowed, they were open warm, smart and well informed, made a lot of sense. They were generous with me, particularly Maree. It was a good call.
The suitcase wheels had collapsed, the day before, I’d had to drag it right across Glasgow to their home so next morning it was a cab to Glasgow central and then train to the North West coast. I was excited to see Pearl again and to see our friend Robert’s friendly face.
We’d very reluctantly left the chalet on the 25th April a Wednesday morning at 5.30am, it was saddening, Orsi and I planned to meet up somewhere in the next 4 – 6 weeks probably in Devon, it’s a penciled idea right now, let’s see what happens
Basically I’m not really sure where I’m heading what route or really what to do, freedom eh, what to do with it. There is of course so much. I have some ideas, perhaps too many, the main problem I think is how to relax without nose-diving into a darker place, sometimes an inclination of mine
The last month in Morzine had been amazing from the wonderful guests we’d had, the skiing and the spring arriving like a blanket being pulled back exposing and releasing the fresh green and a beautiful dawn chorus each day which I hadn’t realized I’d missed. The Chalet too with all its accumulated nick nacks, was beautiful in a ramshackle indigenous world folk art kind of way.
The last few parties of guests were such a pleasure from the “Engagement party” Brits school teachers from Dubai who we’d been happy to be involved with, with all their engagement surprises and their fun, we did their bedroom up and sprinkled rose petals in the hot tub for them it was a great week. Then there was “Christiane’s Group” charming British hipsters from all over the UK who played card game sat cross legged on the lounge floor each evening whilst we stepped over them to clear up, cozy easy and informal. “The Williams’s” too, the owners of Mountain Heaven who seemed to gravitate towards the Golden Goat and our relatively calm, warm peaceful oasis in what seemed to have been a very stressful season for them
Their presence indicated they’d been happy with the way things have been run, noticeably Nick left us to it this year, he was tough to like last year, some of his emails this season actually said ‘hello and thanks’ which we took as a milestone. So we warmed to him and with the various shocks to his nervous system we witnessed, car crashes, chalet fires, staff leaving a chalet without warning etc, the list went on and on it seemed, we found our hearts went out to him
There is an offer of coming back next season to run their new chalet they are building half a mile up the valley, Vicki is talking about a retreat type of thing, with yoga which of course we’d like to run and practice what we do too, though we still seems a bit of mystery to them,
We got great reviews all season, we did see it as a healing for anybody who came through that door but a strong factor in it all I’m sure is, we love Morzine, the surrounding valleys and the mountains, we are happy there, we’re known in the community down there now, perhaps one more season and we’ll be able to dive in fully and stay longer next time, that, right now, we wish for deeply. Lets see what is offered and what can be done, yeah we’re happy with how it all went this season.
Since that day I did those five Black runs I never looked back, I got better and better, practiced slight movements of my ankles and toes in my boots, worked on my stance, all so subtle but made such a difference. One afternoon I did all seven black runs in the Nyon, Les Gets side and over at Monte Cherry area, we loved the runs at Mont Cherry, wide open with hardly anybody out there even at the height of season. Some runs were closed but I went over anyway, which I have been verbally slapped and warned about since, the avalanche season was beginning with the onset of spring you see.One time I’d gone over onto the black at Chamossiere it was closed and cordoned off. I’d thought an avalanche would be on the sides of the slope, I thought I was fast enough, I’d be careful. But seconds after I was over the lip and too late to turn back, I realized that the whole piste itself was ready to slip away, Lets just say I instantly realized just how small I was, I was down it as fast as I could but very very carefully, I didn’t do that again.
I’d did all the blacks many times and those on the Avoriaz side too, all except the legendary “Swiss Wall” I’d gone to do it one day but it was a little too late in the season and so also closed. Normally it will say “Piste Ferme” so if you go over, as I said earlier, you take your chances, but at the Swiss wall at 90 degrees, a person thinks twice anyway, that day it was cordoned off with skull and cross bones tape and with various other warning signs, I took my skies off and peered over the sheer drop, I wasn’t taking any chances, I took the hint. Martin from Chalet St Marie told me later that the bottom half of it had avalanched, which you can’t see from above, next time round though.
From there on we just relaxed, just enjoyed the whole place, we were happy with what we’ve achieved particularly in those last four weeks, we tackled every slope we came across, effortless, calm and genuinely joyfully, pretty much just the two of us together, Orsi has got pretty good too.We’d been able to close the Chalet down gradually as that last couple of weeks unfolded. There was no endless draining last day deep clean. It was a gradual wind down. There were a couple of empty rooms in the 2nd to last week so we stripped them down and cleaned them, then that last week, Nick, Vicki and family left on the Monday so we polished off their two rooms too, then room 1 left on the Thursday so did that one the same morning which left us with a lovely family of 4 and only two rooms left. They left at 6am on the Saturday, we got straight into it, Orsi had done most of the kitchen, I did the wines, the hot tub was sorted and we both did the lounge and were done by 10.30am. We were genuinely surprised, wow, we had it down now and the fates it seemed had conspired with us
The weather that day was just beautiful blue skies glittering sunshine, and although we were fatigued we pulled up on our reserves and set off across to Avoriaz and the next day up to Nyon which turned out to be the very last day to ski the Les Gets area, we were so happy and did every red run in the area, I did the blacks, we skied the to four corners of the place and had a last beer in a beautiful ramshackle restaurant up there on the slopes at Nyon which we’d talked about and looked forward too for such a long time, we came down the red run tipsy giggling and high, happy in each others company. Good times.
By that time we reckoned anybody else we saw up there on the slopes were seasonairs. We skied slowly and openly, wide relaxed S’s, such peace. When we sat in the chair lifts neither of us said much, our feet just hanging there with our skies on, enjoying the silence of the mountains, virtually all the runs all to ourselves, remarkable.
“We’re so lucky” we both whispered.
The streams had begun running by then too, the Dranse that runs just below the chalet had become loud again, spring is loud isn’t it, there was bird life and bird chatter everywhere. All along the mountain slopes the earth emerged in brown stains where snow had finally and irrevocably given way to springs upward motion, great avalanches streaked every valley side we shot along or were lifted up into and through.
The Alps are definitely dissolving, it hadn’t registered how before, but we lent over the chair lifts safety bars peering down at the dirty rough snow piled up underneath us everywhere, another layer torn off the mountain sides, natural forces in action close up, it was remarkable to see a whole mountainside that had slipped, in one piece, then stopped, frozen, hanging above a precipice, the sheet edges curled back up, jutting out over ledges, if any living thing was in the way when it finally went, it was done for.We heard a tragic story, which demonstrates the dangers very well. A seasonaire had gone off on his own, snowboarding off piste, looking for fresh snow. Somehow he’d tripped gone head down into deep snow, the warmth of his body had set the snow instantly and locked him in, he’d not been able to move and suffocated, ‘a freak accident’ I’d said, Vicki and Nick shook their heads, said he’d taken un-necessary risks not considered the dangers, not told people where he was going, it brought it home, the danger everywhere out there, I took much more notice and heed of the signage
I’d also played for 10 weeks every Wednesday night at the Hideout, I’d really enjoyed it, it had given my confidence a boost. The songs are great and stood the test. I’d finished the week before but we’d gone back in on that last week just to say goodbye and have a last meal, Alix hadn’t charged us or for drinks, all on the house,
She said “Well you played for hours and hours here, you earned it”
We were touched.As the final weeks drew to a close we realized just how tired we were, being constantly on duty is wearing, not that we’d have had it any other way. I also felt I had done some really great work too. A lady had arrived at the chalet, I’d noticed she had a subtle limp. I’d inquired what was wrong as it was going affect her skiing for sure. It seemed she’d had an Achilles tendonitis, which had flared the week before she came out.
She was open and agreed to a session, we ended up doing two, the result was remarkable, she skied like a pro all that week with only tired legs at the end of it. We also noticed how she’d personally blossomed, her hair began to shine, she dressed up, put a bit of make up on, not for anybody else, just for herself, she’d come on her own it was just obvious she’d accepted the truth about herself, ‘that she was a great, a remarkable and a beautiful human being’ It was wonderful to see.She wrote a few weeks later to tell us she was still practicing and had virtually no pain. That one touched me. So simple if the persons mind is open and ready. It’s the ploughing of the field that is the task at hand, once done and the rocks removed, the seeds will grow beautifully.Some of course have more rocks and some perhaps bigger rocks than others, but we plough on or at least, we continue to offer too.
There were others who were to be left alone, healing wasn’t to be discussed, a few jabs of hostility, mainly from people with strongly held religious beliefs. It puzzled me and has at times stung, some refusals abrupt and fearful. There were a few who brushed it aside as trickery and nonsense. I have reasoned since that they were full of fear and superstition themselves, yet we ask for nothing, nor promote any religious ideology, it can be hard work though, the responsibility, and perhaps a pill is easier.
I have read, searched, observed and practiced sincerely for many years, I consider it a reality. I’ve often wondered what would happen if I ridiculed a teacher, an accountant, a fireman, or a bus driver in the same way. When all is said and done we have more power than we realize or perhaps like to admit a combination of the medical and the self, is the way forward I believe. Perhaps it’s a whole article in itself, and perhaps when I get out on the road I’ll write it.
We had Skye TV too but pretty poor, only 6 channels but we watched amazed at the snow blizzards that raged across the UK on there, for a while the UK was getting more snow than the alps. The UK is never prepared for it, we thought and felt for our friends ‘Tipi Jean’ living in a Yurt and “Yazz” up in the Welsh hills, really harsh. Snow in Morzine is prayed for and everything is geared up for it, we hoped they were warm and safe.
Some of the kit there they have is amazing. I think one of the best jobs ever would be the piste packer, those amazing bulldozer tractor snow mobile things with all those lamps and lights and caterpillar tracks up and down the slopes in the middle of the night, ploughing through the pitch black forests. I’ve watched enthralled many times from the chalet windows, as 3 or 4 of them meet at the bottom of the Nyon run just above the car park. All the guys get out of their cabs, congregate, discuss something, maybe sport, food, wine or maybe their wives, then off up the slopes dispersing into the mountain darkness and the rest of the resort slopes, in the morning when skiers awake and set out, all fresh snow is magically packed tightly down the slopes smooth and fresh, that job, that really would be something.
Impressions of France; though to be honest it didn’t really feel like France for a lot of the time, Morzine is or at least seemed 50/50 French-British, so never to many opportunities to practice the language and we never came across the snotty French we’d been warned about, but you have to admit it, the French can be a funny lot, even if you’re French, come on….
The cab situation for instance in Morzine is funny, or perhaps unusual; we reckoned if we really want to make a lot of money and could put up with a load of drunken Brits… hmm yeah, drunken Brits abroad, they can be a funny lot too can’t they… hmm, perhaps not really that funny. Anyhow we’d been given a long list of cab numbers, maybe 15 different companies with grand names like ‘Mountain Cabs’ ‘Alpine Cars’ or ‘Black Run Cabs’ but it’s nearly always just one guy in his car. For example, one evening I’d called a number on the list to book a cab ‘in advance’ for a group of 5 coming from back the Dixie bar in town up to Chamois D’Or
I’d explained the run, the voice on the other end of the line said quizzical
I said warmly “Well they’d just like a cab please”
The puzzled voice said “But it iz ownly au… 10 minute wolk.!!”
Another time I’d tried to book a cab for 10pm from town back to Chamois D’or. The voice puffed and exclaimed, outraged
Then a silence as if gauging my reaction, he then finished off sulkily
“I ave to be up Veree urlee tomorrow morneeng…!!”
And then another time another number. I’d politely confirmed the that they were the cab company advertised ‘Piste Cars’ or what ever
“Yez” said the voice
I’d then explained where I’d like a cab from and to where
He’d simply said “Impossible!!” and that was that.
You have to laugh.
Most of the time the guests walk the 20 minutes back up Route de la Manche to the Chalet, sometimes along the road and sometimes along the forest walk which personally I think is amazing in the dark, nobody seems to mind, your in the mountains and it can be quite sobering and which at times is just what is needed.
My Brother Peter had come out to visit us too. It was such a good time. You see when our younger brother Stephen died in May last year there had been a lot of shall we say mis-understandings and differences of opinion, I was livid at the time, lines had been drawn in the sand, but it had all gone well on the day, but I’d smarted about certain things and cooled to my siblings, which was in itself distressing. Then to my great surprise Peter had called and said
“I’d love to come and visit you there, would it be ok, when is good for you? ”
I’d been really touched, it had been difficult in the UK. But he came, and it was amazing and so good to see him, just 4 days but the three of us had such a good time, we worked then met him in the day times and in the evenings after dinner and also on our day off. I took him for a walk through the mountains to a ski restaurant, I thought it would be a good walk but unfortunately a snow blizzard didn’t help, and though rattled he trusted me. Orsi had skied across and met us there, just because she could, it was just so good that he was there.
I had worried at times out there in that blizzard but he did so well. We milled around Morzine later when we got down, laughing about it, chatted, caught up and healed something that had been very raw.
He and Orsi had always gotten on, so while I played at the Hideout they got tipsy. He got our full combined beam and I think went home happy with the bridge rebuilt. What can you say, big brother came to speak to me, flew across Europe, I was and am still touched.
Now in France, as far as I understand, everyone takes their own rubbish to the bins, or it seems so. People do their recycling themselves, which is interesting in itself as you notice all the useless packaging. I’d always been pretty good at it, but was now expert.
And timing is everything in France due to everything closing down for lunch which we never quite got used too. Once or twice we’d been so tired we’d loaded up the van with all the recycling then driven like zombies down the hill arriving at promocash to do the weekly shopping with a van load of glass, cardboard and food waste which was a stress as the store closed at 12.30 on the dot. I’ve raced back many times to the nearest recycling bins to empty the van then back to Promocash. If we didn’t get in in the morning there was no afternoon nap and no skiing. I’ve also raced back to the chalet even more times to get the credit card which we always seemed to forget, zombies.
Interestingly Boris the deep freeze guy there had continued with his weekly education to help us get on with the locals like with things like
“Ta Mere este un voleur” – Your mother is a thief
There were many more much and worse that i simply can’t repeat, it was always an experience shopping there, we never did manage to have a drink with him as he was up too early and we worked too late, perhaps really it was a blessing, I had a feeling Boris could have got me into a lot of trouble.
We’d been told our ski passes would have recorded how many kilometers we’d skied all season so we’d gone down on the last day but the lady in the kiosk at Avoriaz had been a little overwhelmed with the computer and all she could do was tell me how many days I’d skied. She sweetly and patiently counted them up on screen for me, then after a few minutes turned to our expectant faces pressed up against the window, gasped wide eyed and said
I think we gasped too, we rarely got out there before 12pm so they were mostly half days, but still, Orsi must have around the same, we were stunned, pretty damned good
But finally it really was hard to leave the Chalet, but we had no choice of course, we’d been there nearly 5 months and had become comfortable, we’d nested. But the owner had returned back early and took a little bit of the gloss of that last couple of days, it was time to go
So back in Irvine off the train from Glasgow, I walked into Roberts garage, it was good to see him, he’d blinked as I walked in, though he was expecting me. You know that old saying that “your friends reflect who you are” or the universe does, well right then, it was reflecting large.
We’d met Robert in the chalet last season, in that week you’ll get the size of a person, we’d liked him and he it seemed us. On the way up to Scotland last November I’d been drawn to detour and go see him, I’d puzzled and wondered why to be honest but was glad we did, after we left there a week later down the road I’d lost the keys to the van, a long story of stress and anxiety followed, which finally got sorted, but we were then running late for France with the real possibility of us missing the Chalet opening date. I’d called Robert, he’d said without a blink ‘bring her here’ which we gratefully did and then flew on, it seemed it was a trust thing with all of us, she’s sat there for 5 months, Robert has never blinked
Robert a VW specialist also worked on her whilst we’d been away, it was curious and amazing to see her, I slide the side door back, everything was just as we’d left it. I took her for a run around Irvine, she ran like a dream, he even under charged us for the labour, he was just remarkable, such a great guy, I took him and his partner Sylvia out for a meal that night, it just felt like old friends, as they talked openly about their lives and their past, I listened and honestly, I learned some things. I slept in Pearl on Irvine’s quayside that night very happy and content. Next morning I spent sorting the insurance out
Then round at the garages a little later to settle up. Robert said
“Oh we don’t take a card, I’ll send my details and you can pay me in a day or so”
As we rolled out of town that afternoon Pearl hummed like a champion. I got the insurance for £350 less than last year too.
We’ve rarely asked for anything for what we do, except I suppose when we have to pay a pitch fee, as I drove away from Irvine I felt that something really is listening, that somehow we are always looked after, what you give is it seemed what you get, it seemed very real
We’d been worried about finances but now had a little room to breath. I felt somehow there are good things coming for Robert too. He was a reflection and the effect perhaps of our efforts, if it doesn’t come from one source it will flow from another. It is how it is, if only we’d trust and accept, its one of the reasons I love to travel. The destination can be sometimes rather disappointing, but when I’m out here as I am now, luxuries peeled away I am constantly reminded, that basically, I’m alright.
So where to from here, not quite sure, I think further North up into the mists, and why not. England right now isn’t calling me.