The holidays are over and the chalet is quiet once again. There were still several guests staying last week, but it is completely empty now after being filled to capacity for almost a month. Clare, the owner, Mark the chef and I are feeling a bit dazed from the experience and looking forward to a change of pace until the end of the season.
Unlike last year when the team remained the same throughout the season, people have come and gone sporadically this time, which has meant constantly training new arrivals to get them up to speed, checking that chalet standards are met, adapting to new characters and their requirements then saying good bye to folk every couple of weeks and carrying on as usual. Clare described her management style the other evening as “somewhat Basil Faulty” so there is never a dull moment.
Now that the season has quietened off a bit I have time to reflect and ponder some of the characters. Earlier ones that were here when I arrived went before I had really gotten to know them that well. Ildi, the Australian Hungarian girl had been here since December left a couple of weeks into my stay, she was great at chat, chat about anything and everything, even stuff that had nothing to do with you, within hours of my arrival she wanted to know what I thought about her relationship with James, someone who I had never and would probably never meet, having declined to comment I was then offered her mobile later in the evening to have a chat with said James and was momentarily put out when I said I didn’t want to. She bossed and organised everyone in a fun and jovial manner and was great to have around.
Graeme left about a week later, right at the start of the busy season, not entirely his fault, more an issue of visa expiration, another Australian, he had to leave Europe as his visiting time was up. He annoyed me immensely to start with, with his constant questions about random things, he would ask and ask the most trivial and detailed of questions during dinner service or when someone was in the middle of working. He had a great smile and was easily amused which made up for most of his annoyance. I put a stop to me being annoyed and started to enjoy the challenge, beating him at his own game from time to time and supplying him with inordinate amounts of trivial detail that he loved. As the best skier in the group Graeme and I had the best times on the slopes even though opportunities were limited and he was gone before I had really gotten to know him, after his departure I continued to learn snippets from Cameron and Clare and think that we would have had a great time.
Cameron stayed the longest and has only been gone just over a week. Another Aussie with dual nationality, Scottish this time, had come to experience the snow and mountain life at the end of an eight month trip round europe. We found common ground in obscure comedy shows from the past and had lengthy discussions about the state of the world and the influences that come to play. There is nothing like repeating a long lost line from some comedy scene or other to start the banter and laughter going. He was great company even though he was more than ready to return home and get on with life. Unfortunately tried skiing and had not found it the exhilarating sport that some (I) do and was bored with the lack of inspiration living high in the mountains. He should do well with stand up comedy when he gets back to Perth and I may surprise him one day by visiting and seeing him perform live.
Ian came and went in a fortnight. A trainee trainer for a financial institution in London, he came to learn to ski, improve his French and use two weeks of annual leave. He didn’t really fit in that well as he already had all the answers and knew how everything worked even as he walked through the door. (no experience necessary). He proudly announced that he was achieving all the targets that he had set himself for his time here without enquiring as to his efficiency or performance, talking over any comment or advice that anyone tried to give him. Chaos behind the bar and a pro at providing guests with random made up information He wanted me to help him learn to ski which I patiently did for half a day before dismissing myself as a hinderance as I clearly didn’t know what I was talking about. His crowning moment was when Clare returned from the town with loads of provisions including a large box of table place settings. He took one look, saw the 500 pieces written on the side of the carton and declared that he would do the jigsaw after lunch. The tension took several days to subside after his departure and I have severe concerns as to the safety of my money if the whole bank is trained by people like him. One piece of advice to you if you read this Ian, you cannot just know everything, often you have to learn it.
Ann was whirlwind of a completely different temperament, the very model of german efficiency, what is it they say on the Audi commercial? “vorsprung durch technic” and there you are, Ann. Before she had taken her coat off she was making notes of how everything worked, she was serving drinks and taking orders before lunch and had everything down to a tee before the end of the day. A day later she was up serving breakfasts and snowboarding like a professional on her first day on real snow. She did have prior service industry experience which gave her a head start in the chalet and a three hour snowboard lesson in a frozen shed somewhere in Holland that helped the boarding somewhat. We spent a couple of days on the slopes together and on the Saturday it was really quiet, there was no one waiting for the lifts yet Ann had to go right the way round the barriers on her snowboard instead of taking a short cut through the ski school entrance. The second time she did this I was just about to tell her to stop being quite so german when she did it herself. She laughed on the lift as we discussed countries traits and the fact that germans are hugely law abiding and find it so difficult even to bend small rules, hopefully she will learn during her time at university in france. She was great.
Most recently we have two young South African lads helping, well, I say helping, they are now that they have been taught how to do just about every task they have been asked to do. I guess their stay has been the biggest learning experience for me. Some people, through no fault of their own have no idea of how to do anything domestic. With a privileged upbringing in a country where domestic help is the norm, why should they know anything. Most helpers have some idea of how things happen and have done some chores about the home. No such luck here. It has been a challenging few weeks discovering how easy it is to assume without meaning to and teaching skills when I have had to think hard to break them down into individual parts. How to clean a bathroom suddenly becomes a minefield of unexplained tasks and washing up miraculously takes five or six times as long to complete. How do you sweep a floor? hold a brush or use a potato peeler? How do you get a duvet into a duvet cover, lay a fire or set a table the same way every time? Frustration has been overtaken by a great feeling of achievement now that these two guys are suggesting things that need doing like setting the table before meals, taking the rubbish out and ironing without being constantly prompted. Unfortunately there is little practice now that we only have guests at the weekends. We make up for it by skiing almost every day on empty pistes, having a great deal of fun and relaxing by the fire in the evenings. Hopefully they will remember their newly learned skills for the future and that we will have contributed to their lives. More satisfied customers and they don’t even realise it yet.