Our day off started on Tuesday evening, just as a weekend starts on Friday night for most people. We decided to treat ourselves and go out for a meal. Our favourite local restaurant couldn’t fit us in until 9.30, way too late for us but quite normal for the French. We chose a new venue which had been recommended by guests with dubious taste but thought we’d give it a try so had booked for 8.30. At 8.29 we were still stood in the kitchen of the chalet as this week’s guests were intrigued by our recent history. Much as we would have liked to continue the chat, I closed the dishwasher and set it going before saying goodnight. Roger suggested we drive straight to the restaurant but as this was one of the few occasions to apply the slap I refused and insisted on changing out of my black polyester work trousers and black logoed polo shirt! We were only 10 minutes late for our table.
We had chosen this restaurant based on the reputation for their steaks; Roger fancied a cote de beouf and I wasn’t adverse to the idea. The specials were on a blackboard and we both ordered the cote de beau. Whilst waiting for our mains – no starter to spoil the appetite – a party of around 30 arrived, all French and all ages. We were relieved that we’d got our order in before them or could have ended up eating at 9.30 anyway. Our plates duly arrived and we enjoyed two delicious pork chops!
The plan had been to go to Undies afterwards as we rarely managed to drag ourselves back out of the flat once we have returned but as we were already out we could arrive in time to enjoy their 11pm music gig. However, latterly through the meal I could feel my eyelids drooping so suggested we just go straight home to bed, then checked myself. No, we only had one more week left after this and so could catch up with sleep then and not miss another night of Dave’s excellent musicianship and vocals.
I walked into a fairly quiet bar whilst Roger parked the van at the bottom of the hill and walked back up. I chatted to Mark, one of the bar staff we have come to know quite well. Roger arrived, Mark served us our drinks and I stood back to look around. A group of lads gathered a few feet along from us, one was sat on the stool facing the bar and leaning back against the post looking at me. There was something familiar about his face but then his mate moved in front of him so I couldn’t see through his back. He moved slightly to the side and I looked again, he was looking at me. Another of the group turned and shouted “Roger! Gill!” It was Ali and Tom from our first year. The rest of the evening was spent catching up with these two not-insignificant figures from 4 years ago.
Ali had been our saviour. He had tried to hint at how we needed to reduce our workload in order to survive the situation, eventually spelling it out at full volume to our seemingly deaf ears. We have always felt indebted to him for his help and guidance or we may not have completed that first season and our lives may have taken a very different course. Since then he has spent the winters teaching snowboarding in Japan and loves it and a certain Japanese lady.
Tom had been the handyman and a bit of a nightmare. The happy friendly healthy-looking guy stood with an arm around one or other of us, at times both, planting frequent kisses on my cheek, bore no resemblance to the unpredictable surly lad we had known. He had sorted himself out and was delightful.
Unfortunately two other guys from that season were to have been with them and we would have enjoyed catching up with them as well but there had been a bit of a fall out so they had gone to Meribel before we had the chance. We staggered home at 1.30 after being plied with slammers and jaegerbombs, having missed most of Dave’s set.
The forecast for Wednesday was poor so I was surprised to open the curtains to glorious sunshine. We would have to go out. We had few opportunities left to ski and hadn’t been out much this year as the weather and subsequent visibility has been so poor. Then I noticed the speed of the clouds careering across the blue sky and was aware of a group of skiers standing above the stationary lift outside our window. All the lifts were closed due to the 80km/hr winds. That was an indisputable excuse to stay in doors. I read the Saturday Telegraph from 24th March, only 11 days late.
We had arranged to meet a friend that afternoon who is manager in one of the hotels. We are exploring options for next year as the market is changing so rapidly and apparently we are a hot commodity. We learnt much from her about one of the other tour operators who, having been taken to court last year, are offering the best staff terms and conditions for next season. She told us about a super little 10 bed chalet in a nearby resort which will have 3 staff manning it, including a rep/host position. We are going to have a trip to have a look at it next Wednesday.
We ran across the road to Undies for après. Thunder, lightening and yet more snow cascaded down the hill. We arrived just as Gareth and Dave were about to start; Tom and Ali were in the same place at the bar already quite well oiled as there had been little else to do when the lifts hadn’t opened. A large group of predominantly women were sat at an extended table along one wall. As the opening riffs of Sweet Home Alabama sailed through the air they leapt up and flowed across the dance floor. They stayed there, belting out number after number as the boys maintained the tempo, stopping only to relinquish the acoustic guitar and microphone to one of the young women. This is not uncommon when would-be performers manage to persuade Gareth that they can entertain his clientele, however the ensuing standard can be variable but there was a very good ‘Jake Bugg’ last week. The females seem to not have the strength of voice to belt out enough sound over the general buzz of the bar but this girl was amazing. I wondered if she was a professional performer but transpired to be a maths teacher, as were five of the others. Another was called Doreen and it is surprisingly easy to slip that name in instead of ‘Jolene’ or ‘Eileen’ as in ‘Come on Eileen.’ I should have recognized their roots when they insisted on 500 miles by the Proclaimers and were undeterred by Gareth’s lack of lyrics. After the guys had finished an impromptu version of ‘Flower of Scotland’ gave away their origins.
We trekked back through the fresh snow at 8pm, enjoyed a chicken curry, put on a DVD and Roger fell asleep on the sofa. Another great day off.