‘The leafy browns of autumn infused with the retreating grassy greens of a summer gone by. The vast and panoramic background filled with huge mountains which continue to prevail through centuries, perhaps even millenials, of long and drawn out battles with the elements of nature. They tower over the scores of communities which now occupy the deep valleys between. Weathered roads and forests of trees abundant with generations of multiple species who just like their colossal neighbours have fought the good fight in standing their ground and keeping their homes. We as humans fight between ourselves, but it is those which seem forever still who truly know what it means to be alive.’
An excerpt from some notes I wrote back in November when I arrived in France.
After the tumultuous episode I experienced in Megève (discussed in Part 1) I found myself at a crossroads. I had no job. I had lost the confidence I previously shared in being able to find work as a result of my poor French language skills. And I had received some unfortunate news from home that suddenly asked of me which place was more important.
I returned to Scotland for a few days in January. It had probably come at the right time even if for the wrong reasons as the stress was beginning to break me. I’m a bit of a perfectionist which causes me great suffering at times. My romantic notions can be
overpowering which can then progress into some sort of psychological barrier once I take a step back and realize the unrealistic expectations I set for myself. It’s a dangerous trait to acquire and one which I have accumulated over the years, resulting in never feeling quite so content with the achievements I’ve made. And it would be fair to say that before I left home for the first time I put a lot of pressure on myself to settle in my new surroundings almost as quickly as I arrived.
By the beginning of the new year I was tired and empty of hope again. I was ready for giving up completely.
It was a chance encounter however with a funny gentleman which allowed me a renewed energy and willingness to continue. This man is still my boss today and will be for another week when the winter seasons draws to its long-awaited conclusion. I had not long discovered the activity of hitch-hiking and had begun to feel a real buzz for it. The great thing about hitch-hiking is that you’ll never end up with someone who doesn’t want your company (unless their psychos). This naturally means you can get a decent conversation from folk. My partner was working in the resort where I am now while I stayed in the family home at the bottom of the mountain. Thanks to my naivety and excitement of being able to drive the stunning routes that weaved flawlessly through the mountains I managed to damage the car I was using. She is now back in full working order and I have learned my lesson.
My partner asked me to meet her at her work for an afternoon so we could hang around the resort for a few hours. So I managed to make my way by throwing out the thumb and looking nice enough to offer a lift to. The first driver to stop was Jean-Marie, a young farmer from just outside Geneva. He was a physical contrast of the Swiss city. Billionaire yachts line the docks while the nearby buildings display signs of famous brands such as the supremely expensive Rolex. Switzerland is of course famous for watch-making and the stereotype is utilized thoroughly. Whether that be in the airport or in the area’s of commerce. Jean-Marie was not a typical Genevois.
The Rolex Building, Geneva city centre.
He was a pleasant man. He spoke lovingly of his flock of sheep, the journey from his Swiss farm to the depths of the French Alps to buy more sheep and he even questioned me on whether there was many sheep in Scotland. I’m not in the business of counting sheep unfortunately but I told him there was (correct me if i’m wrong).
He took me to the next town, Villard-sur-Doron, and sent me on my way. I stood at the side of the road again in search of another generous car sharer. That’s when along came ‘Le Patron’. I didn’t expect him to offer me a job but after speaking together for the rest of the route (with my very poor French) he proposed to me a position in his ski rental shop. We stopped at his store and he took me inside for a tour, showing me the room dedicated to ski equipment. Shoes upon shoes. Rails filled to the rafters with hundreds of skis of different disciplines.
Ski Alpin, Ski Nordique, Randonnée, Telemark..
If I didn’t know anything about this sport I was soon about to.
‘I wish I could Ski as half as good as I tell people.’
I’m not totally decided on my thoughts around destiny and the concept of events taking place for a reason. The word ‘coincidence’ almost gives me the fear. But for the owner of a business to drive by me at that exact time while I was looking for a job in this area whilst he was in dire need of staff.. well it is funny. And I should add that previous to this I had been looking for work in this area since before my first job without success. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough. He offered me everything I needed. Work, location, and an apartment of my own which I now occupy. It’s small but cosy. Packed but practical. And it means I can wake up 10 minutes before my shift starts.
Piles of snow averaging 2 metres high directly outside the apartment. Claustrophobia.
And since this chance encounter I have been working with some great people, with a beautiful surrounding landscape and an opportunity to experience life as a Ski Man in the French Alps. I never once thought I would be able to say that. But now, it’s another small tale written into my history.
In Part 3 I’ll discuss my own perspective on different aspects of the French culture and what it’s like to be the token Scottish guy in a French Ski resort. For now here’s an example of some of the music shaping my journey so far. Music has always been important in my life and it’s no different now. It took me a while to change my mind but French music has finally started to grow on me.
Enjoy and see you all next week X