It was super to walk into Underground bar on the evening of our first day and be greeted like old friends, veterans of the season. This place had been a refuge for us last year. The owners, Adam and Gareth were avid snowboarders (but we don’t hold that against them) and decided to stay in the mountain society opening the bar and hotel above many years previously. The combination of Adam’s business skills and Gareth’s musical ability coupled with a gentle bonne hommie manner was key to their success. His bass guitar and backing vocals, not to mention creativity with conventional lyrics, supported Dave’s amazingly talented lead guitar and vocals when they were able to extricate themselves from serving behind the bar. They were usually joined by various guys with their beat boxes providing the rhythm section but no-one consistently. Dave, one of the barmen, had been going to cycle round the coast of Britain busking last summer to raise money for charity but unfortunatly, as he explained to me shortly after we arrived, his pace on the bike with a trailer would have required several years to complete so he went to Portugal instead, still utilising his classically trained voice and music skills to entertain folks on the Algarve. He, with Gareth’s support although sometimes in the lead, could deliver almost any number in the style of the original artist with no more additional props than an occasional foot operated tambourine or harmonica. I suspect he could have done almost anything in this field but chose to be here, much to our appreciation and we had landed on a live music night, it took us back straight away, even the set hadn’t changed much, classics from the the 70s and 80s, a perfect end to our first full day.
Owen was first to come out from behind the bar and welcome us with a big hug. The cherubic face of a lad at least 10 years younger than his actual age reflected a lovely kind gentle character. He is in his 5th season so has become part of the winter resident population, getting to know all the other regulars and putting us in touch with Tim and Sara at the end of last year. I have told him that we hold him completely responsible, on that basis, for us being here again and hopefully we will still be as pleased with his match making in 4 months time. Mark’s absence was noted but after a nasty ankle fracture at the end of last season he has finally decided, in his late 40s, to settle down into a more conventional lifestyle. Owen had recruited one of his summer colleagues so Ben has joined the team.
Whilst we were there a quartet of young girls came in. Seasonaires are very distinctive currently as there are no guests yet (nor parties of 1500 students, though they start next week!) so we had a good idea what they were if not who. However one marched straight up stating that she recognised us. In all honesty we are quite distinctive as so unusual to be here doing this at our age, although we do not sport the only grey hair around. She did look familiar and we quickly clocked that it was Natasha, one of the childcare snowrangers who we had got to know towards the end of last season having managed to avoid requiring this service until Easter – result! Tash is an exuberant character (as most childcare staff seem to be) setting off for her third season but with some desire to move on but unsure where to. She introduced us to Amy, a lovely girl who we would probably recognise again quite easily as, like me, she is one of the very few women who doesn’t have long flowing locks. She has just completed a degree in childcare and is probably in for a bit of a shock! Rachel and Bryony were typical of the lovely girls of last year but they were on a crawl and had to set off up the hill to Sphere bar. No doubt we will we see them again soon but it was reassuring to meet some of the staff who will be looking after a very special litle girl in January and knowing that Tash will be there is a great comfort.
Sara took us out for a meal mid-week and we opted for O bar. This had been an occasional haunt for us last year but unfortunately took us further away from our accommodation. However, this year it will be one of the closest to both our flat and the chalet. Vicki took a few seconds to recognise us as we walked in after barely a 5 minute walk. She had no idea we were returning and after the wrecks she witnessed last year, must have been very surprised. We would collapse into the comfy chairs downstairs beside her wood burning stove most Sundays when we could steal a couple of hours break on change over day armed with hot chocolates to sustain us for the 15/16 hours they inevitably became. Our sole responsibility was to maintain the fire, something we failed to do on this our first return visit but I doubt this bright chirpy lady will hold it against us. We were even pleased to see that her book shelves had acquired some additional new occupants so we will be able to explore that further for a book exchange, not that we have even opened one since we arrived!