Working Your First Winter Season at 40 – Week 8 – a bit bitty!

This week has been super ‘bitty’. The sort of week where lots is going on but you don’t feel like you have achieved all that much!

The biggest news of the week is that the snow is back! Bucket loads falling from the sky! Not too soon either as the slopes were looking quite patchy. Also very well timed for an off piste group joining us for a week of lessons in the fluffy powder!

This is also the week that the UK left the EU! Filled with apprehension and confusion about what impact it might have on Dan and I it ended up being really rather anti climatic. Just another day…

Time will tell as to how this will ultimately effect us but for now we have adopted a strategy to keep plugging on and strike a fine balance between ignoring the hysteria and keeping our ears open for ‘real’ news about what will happen next.

There were reports in the UK of people having leaving parties. I can’t think of anything more vulgar right now and feel a sense of loss about what could have been for my generation and the future generations.

Talk has also started about what will happen to the seasonaire life moving forwards. Effective December 2020 I don’t think it will be quite so straightforward for the hundreds of companies in the mountains that rely on a transient & international (UK heavily represented) work force each season. No doubt the added complexity will impact , at least short term, on costs. Perhaps ski holidays will become even more expensive?

I am sure its purely coincidental but there has also been rumblings within the French season workers and strikes are planned for the next few weeks. All French CGT unionised staff (which are a high proportion of the lift staff) are striking over unemployment changes which will apparently leave them short changed.

I didn’t realise until now but these workers are employed all year round and only work for 6 months of the year. For the remaining 6 months they are on a retainer which pays them a significant proportion of their contracted rate (much higher than the proposed unemployment benefit)

Consequence for us specifically is that the strikes are planned for the UK Half term and currently they include a blockade at the bottom of the mountain to stop people getting into the resorts.

The lift staff (‘lifties’) are a high percentage of the striking union workers. At least they have a sense of humor though – this fabulous creation is located at one of the major lift stations and its made entirely out of lost property!

On a totally unrelated note I realised something this week. There are no mosquito’s!! We spent the entire summer and autumn being plagued by the little swines and being munched on by at least one Tiger mosquito which (if you believe Google) means I am now going to get a hideous disease – Note to self:- don’t read Google for medical advice…

We are mosquito free! We are also mostly spider free incidentally so perhaps winter living all year round might have some upside!

I also realised that if this lifestyle continues to work for us e.g summer on the West coast and winter in the mountains I am unlikely to see spring or Autumn in all their glory again.

We left the Dordogne before Autumn fully arrived and came straight into winter in the Alps. Come spring we will likely not see the glorious abundance of colour as its delayed in the mountains due to the snow cover and once our contracts end we will head straight into the summer arms of the Lot & Garrone. Still processing this…not sure how I feel about it to be honest. I love the smell of spring and the magnificent flora & fauna it brings.

Back to our current reality…things break sometimes! Part of Dan’s job is to fix things when they do. On this occasion it was especially important as it’s a vital tool of our jobs. The washing machine!!! Normally only used for chef blacks and kitchen towels but most recently its been washing some of our chalet linens due to a laundry mix up leaving us short until replacements arrive.

We think Dan’s ability to fix pretty much anything with a motor will form part of our long term survival strategy over here and its part of the reason we are looking for property with land and a barn so he can have a workshop. A useful place to also store all of his tools!

Dan has always had a ‘can do’ attitude. There is nothing he wont try. He might not know the required information to fix something but he goes off and he finds it. Consequently he never ceases to amaze me with his knowledge and desire to keep growing intellectually. He also has a pretty amazing ability to teach people the most complex things in a super simple way. Its one of the things I love about him as he always takes me on his learning journey.

I have never once felt that I can’t do something.

Sure there are things in life that I seriously do not want to ever do. Holding a tarantula or sky diving are quite high up there! There are also things that I am limited in my ability to do e.g running a world record 100m sprint – physiologically I am not really built for running! Having said all that where there is a will there is a way. I was always taught to dream big! Go big or go home!

I think the above is why I struggled with a guest conversation recently. Some of you may have seen it on our Facebook group.

Guests are normally quite interested in what Dan and I are up to. So many conversations start with a little perplexity about why we have given up perfectly good careers and a nice house etc in favour of the unknown with significantly less financial security. The chats soon turn to legitimate interest about how/ why and the finer details. I can’t lie, it still gives me a little warm glow when I can share our journey with people. Its also strangely satisfying to challenge peoples preconceptions about seasonaires. We are not all ‘ski bums avoiding life’ (yes that’s an actual quote from a guest!).

A few weeks back I was sharing our journey and plans with some guests. For the most part I got the standard reactions ranging from brave to crazy! I did get one reaction that surprised me though.

‘Some people just can’t’ – The guest was utterly convinced that whilst our life plan was amazing and they would love to do something similar that they would never be able to so.

This was not about money, timing, commitments, family constraints, societal expectations etc… This belief was purely down to self confidence.

This person had limited their own potential before even starting. I don’t mean to sound self-righteous in anyway here – Each to their own! This conversation did however make me a little sad that this person really wanted to do something but felt that they couldn’t.

It also made me eternally grateful for my Husband, family and friends who have supported every (even dubious) decision I have ever made with little more than a guiding touch. I appreciate how fortunate that makes me.

Personal circumstances to one side for a moment. I want to introduce you to a guy called Robert Merton. Sadly he is no longer with us but his legacy as a highly influential American sociologist lives on.

He coined the term “self-fulfilling prophecy” (SFP) in 1948 to describe “a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true”

In short – if you believe you can’t you probably wont.

Mini rant over…I hope that if you get anything at all from reading about our experiences its that self believe is key. My mum also used to tell me when I was younger and competing (athletics and swimming) that I need a positive mental attitude. PMA can result in some truly exceptional results.

Sadly no amount of PMA or positive thinking could disperse the ridiculous crowds this week! Its not even half term yet and thanks to our continued snow fall and avalanche risk/ securing, lots of the resort was closed. It resulted in a heavy burden on just a few lifts. This was where our intimate resort knowledge came in handy to skirt around the queues and head for a quieter section of the resort. Winning!
In other news this week. I was demoted again!! A shoulder stripe removed and my apron pulled out of storage!

This time I got the chance to be a Chalet Host at our premium chalet working alongside an amazing chef. It was a baptism of fire as I had to jump in mid week and pick up service for a group of guests that were already in the chalet.

After a very busy 48 hours learning the ropes and getting everything sorted we, the chef and I, had a simply fantastic week culminating in a nice tip at the end which always goes down well!

Sadly the hosty that I replaced decided that seasonaire life was not for them and went home. I have given the rest of the team strict instructions that no one else can go now! I jest obviously! Joking-Not Joking!

On a serious note though our little team really pulled together this week and it was a pleasure to be a hosty! The job itself is bloody hard-work and my hair/ clothes stank of kitchen every-night while my feet throbbed in a way I last experienced when I was 16 working in a restaurant!

Recruitment has started in earnest to fill the gap but in all honesty I am in no major rush as I am really enjoying it!

Have I mentioned its snowing yet? SOOOO Happy for some fresh powder!

Strikes or not at least the snow is going to keep falling…upside is that the pistes might be unusually quiet if the blockades work!
She really is glorious when there is fresh snow fall and big blue skies!

A side effect of all the new snow this week. Other than countless hours spent by Dan clearing snow! Is an annual event at a local pub in Meribel.

I swear I am not making this up… ‘Rump & Pump’ hosted by Brewers Den (a bar) consists of them moulding the snow in their car park into a giant bowl and then people (frankly nutters!) do tricks in the snow bowl on their skis/ snowboards. Jumps, kickers, splats…the latter is not an actual trick…its just the sound they make when they get it wrong!

The ‘Rump’ refers to the steaks they serve and the ‘Pump’ is all about the tricks around the bowl!

Loads of people turned up and it was a really good afternoon. Super fun to watch but definitely not up my street for taking part! The bar puts on discount drinks and some great grub. Throw in a bit of music and the place was literally bouncing!

Top right of the photo you can just see a daring fella in brown trousers about to slide into the bowl off the roof of the garage. Bonkers!

To round off our week this week we had our first French hair cuts! Exciting right?!? In all honesty its something I have been dreading with the language barrier. I had a worry that my request would get lost in translation and I would end up looking like a scarecrow that’s been dragged through a hedge backwards!

Turns out that I need not have worried and we got a seasonaire discount! Comes in handy! 🙂

My worry was immediately suppressed when a lovely French lady rocked up at our door (home service) and announced that we should not fear as she is married to a welsh man! I worry that our little seasonaire bubble is perhaps not representative!

I plan to take this as a win however! Its not a fully immersed french haircut experience but its a half way house I am happy to embrace while I work up the courage to book into a salon!

Its these little things that you don’t think about when planning a move to a foreign country! Sadly the hair dying experience (by my own hand) did not work out so well but fortunately there is no photographic evidence of that!

Last but not least this week…France is expensive (unless it’s the sort of property we are looking for or wine you want to buy). Ski resorts are another level expensive. To prove the point – behold my lunch below!

This rather small portion of burger and chips cost me a grand total of €16 (£13.28)!
It tasted lovely mind but with those prices we can’t afford to eat out often!
This is where tip money comes into its own! The wages pay our bills but the tips feed us junk food! 🙂 #starvingseasonaire

After our very bitty week this week we are sincerely hoping that next week will bring with it some kind of routine with no hidden surprises and perhaps even an exchange on our UK property!

You can find out what happened last week here.

1 Comment

  1. Uncle

    February 16, 2020 at 10:07 pm

    As Eddie Kendricks once said
    “Keep On Truckin”…….
    (Ask yer mam)

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