7. What can I do? One possible option to change my life after 50.

We want to work, to do something to fill the time, despite the current prospect of having nothing to do being so attractive but for how long? We would want to feel of value and gain some personal satisfaction but also will need to work to sustain this lifestyle for as long as possible. It will end when we have used up the allocation, if not before for other reasons. We have 30 years’ experience each and hopefully many transferable skills from work but also hobbies and life as spouses, parents and housekeepers but are only qualified in our respective professions. Employers in the Western world want certificates, they daren’t employ anyone without, not just as an indicator of competence which those without the qualification do not necessarily lack but due to the increasingly litigious society in which we seem to exist. Thanks America.

So we may need to spend some time in the near future acquiring these pieces of paper but what to do? We don’t want to waste time and money on training which will turn out to be of no use but is anything ever actually pointless? We can learn many lessons from aspects of life which are not always apparent at the time or what we learn is not necessarily what is detailed at the top of the page. Nothing need be wasted unless we let it be.

We have been considering starting our adventure fairly timidly, working the ski season in Europe as Chap7.3general dogs bodies as we have no direct experience working in hospitality, just being on the receiving end. However, despite chatting with chalet staff on successive holidays and finding that many are fresh out of school, we do not seem to be able to fit the criteria for many of the jobs. I have been cooking, serving, clearing, food shopping, cleaning, washing and organising a household for 25 years whilst holding down a job, does that not count as experience? I do respect the more senior positions within this industry and acknowledge their skills and also appreciate that perhaps cooking is one area where one can’t take risks. Food poisoning due to poor storage or cooking techniques is totally unacceptable but our mothers would have been able to tell us all about that. I’m not sure that I can remember all her lessons but am not aware that anyone has felt any the worse for eating chez moi.

I would have been very disappointed if the food we had been served on holiday had been substandard although fellow diners seemed to consider it so at times. We seem to live in a culture of eating out quite regularly so expect to be served fresh tasty produce, nicely presented in adequate portions. As a child I remember my mother cooking almost every meal, I would have been a young teenager when we became so adventurous as to eat out at a nearby pub for chicken in a basket on a Saturday lunchtime. How things have changed. Having been a recipient of many meals, some in pretty exclusive establishments, I think I know how to serve and clear away a meal in a manner which would be acceptable, preferably unnoticed, by most guests, but I’m not Silver Service trained.

Chap7.1I can clean bathrooms, tidy bedrooms, make and change beds better than any youngster who never had to tidy up after themselves, I have years of experience in that. I can be helpful and polite to people on a reception. I have worked in a frontline public service for 30 years so know how to put on the face and demeanour no matter what I’m feeling inside. I have also found that being pleasant to someone tends to make you forget that you feel lousy anyway. I can clear snow and polish windows. I can pour a drink, I even worked behind a bar many moons ago when beer was 75p a pint! I can read a map, whether street, piste or Ordnance Survey. We are actually map anoraks and have amassed a considerable collection between us. I have a need to orientate myself wherever I am going hence my lack of a Satnav. I understand that cars are being broken into even if the unit is stowed away in the glove compartment as there is an assumption that every car has one. I’ll be most annoyed to find a broken window in my car for no gain whatsoever to anyone and just cost and inconvenience for me, so anyway I can direct people to where they may want to go.

I do not consider myself a confident enough skier to guide although he is. I would not want my group to be having to look after me on the trickier runs although this may improve with the potentially regular practice. Not that it is called ‘guiding’ anymore, at least not in France as I understand that the French Ski Instructors are somewhat upset about possible infringement onto their territory.

Skiing can be hard work!

Skiing can be hard work!

As more mature staff we would perhaps be more reliable. We couldn’t take the pace or even have the need to party late into the night on a regular basis, perhaps just occasionally, but that novelty wore off a long time ago. The exception were new year’s eve and a late night with my son, nieces and nephews at my parents diamond wedding party, both in the same week, but at least I know I can do it. I don’t think our problem would be waking up in time in the mornings but actually heaving our achy joints and muscles out of the bed.

Chap7.2There are jobs in the bigger chalet hotels for assistants to just do the basics, cleaning, serving and helping out here and there but to do anything slightly more demanding or rewarding we would need to hold a cookery qualification. Fortunately some of the larger ski companies do run these courses over a week so we are seriously considering doing that. If it gives us a foot in the door for this type of work we may be able to transfer it to other resorts, seasons and continents. Catered chalets or villas do seem to be a popular market and with increasing direct experience we may be able to hold better paid jobs but will that bring us back to the problem from which we are trying to escape but just be in a better climate?

We are getting disgruntled in our current but very separate roles by the restrictions which prevent us from doing our jobs properly. A high level of performance is expected but this can be tricky with at least one hand tied behind our backs. Our practised opinions are disregarded but we are expected to sort out the problem when others err. The mismatch between responsibility and authority seems to increase with experience, we have ever increasing responsibility because we can, but less authority unless we relocate to the dark side! So a cookery course looks quite likely.

Apl 2013

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