Well, it’ll be white here…

Well, here I sit at my desk on Christmas Eve. With a huge burger from Midnight Express to one side, a large glass of Glenfiddich in front of me and Judas Priest streaming down the interwebnet from Planet Rock. Very seasonal.

It’s been a hectic… however long since I last updated. I’ve been round umpteen sites, fixed umpteen things, met umpteen-and-a-bit people and realised beyond all doubt that France Telecom are British Telecom with funny accents. That is, they’re bloody useless. We still have two offices with no working telephones, though FT say the lines are live because if you call them there is a ringing tone down the line. The fact that the phones in the office don’t ring (or have a dial tone) is seemingly irrelevant. File under “ongoing”.

Printers have been distributed to most of our sites by a third party supplier. A shame they should all have been distributed by now. And those that are out of ink should have had replenishments by now, but no sign of the packages. This resulted in one trip for me out to Les Arcs to take out a backup printer and ink the day before transfer day so the resort could get all their welcome packs done.

Thing is, it meant I spent a couple of hours with a great bunch of stressed-out Resort Managers, reps and chalet managers. All of them were snowed under … but laughing. I got back at silly o’clock (again) that night, but was singing along with the car stereo the whole way.

Transfer day this week was the first full-scale one of the season with scenes of (mostly) organised chaos everywhere. One bus was late due to a flat tyre and bust axle, and a few decided to park up at the international terminal instead of the charter one which caused us a few problems. Aside from that it went mostly smoothly. There were a lot of children (I’m forbidden to call them “kids” by company policy) around with it being Christmas week, which made it particularly special.

It was a fairly long day and as always one of the tensest of the week. I actually ended up having a rather frank discussion with my boss regarding my role and her use of it, which could have gone very sour indeed. I had my issues and I have my duties and I felt these weren’t being taken into account so I took a pretty firm stance – adapt or I walk.

Thing is, we got it all sorted. And very amicably. In a typically English way – over a cup of tea. We even got to batting a few more ideas around which should make life easier for both of us (and everyone else) over the course of the season. Result.

On Thursday I’d been taken to Ski Set in Cham Sud (south Chamonix) to get my board and boots. I’d like to make a recommendation regarding this shop – avoid. The staff are less knowledgeable than I am, their equipment’s crap and the guy who runs the shop is a miserable arse. Part of me can see the sense in giving all the seasonaires third-rate equipment – it’s cheap and they’re probably on a really tight deal through their employer. Plus it makes sense to keep your best stuff for the more profitable punter (sorry, “guest”), especially at this time of year when it’s busy.

However, it doesn’t excuse being a miserable sod. Neither does it excuse being shirty and refusing to give staff snowboards, instead palming off crap skis on people who’ve never ski’d before. I was lucky as I went down in the morning. I got the only board out of all the local staff. The rest were told to come back in on a day-to-day basis if they wanted a board. Having said that, all the boards looked rubbish anyway. Mine was.

Up on the slope on Friday with a bunch of people from the Sapiniere, Pieter (the hotel manager) noticed something about the bindings on my board. They were the ones he’d discarded last year. The exact same ones. That would explain why they were so worn. They also fit badly and one of the plastic straps broke. This was when I discovered that I couldn’t get Flo bindings fixed anywhere in Argentiere. OK, not quite true. I did find one shop but they usually charge for the work whereas the Ski Set would do it for free – if they had the parts.

I lost two hours of slope time locating a shop and getting back to the piste. Not good. At least the company was good, with the bunch from Chamonix being of varying ability there was always someone I could catch up with. Good snow and a variety of slopes, plus Pieter available to give me some tips – thanks, fella.

Apres-board, we headed for FuBar. This is a sister bar to Bar d’Up on Chamonix and has a rather natty spinny-rotaty bull-ride. I did pretty well, managing 25 seconds on level two as my first attempt. I only did it for the free shot. A couple of beers later, Simon picked us up in the minibus and we headed into Chamonix for more socialising (i.e. beer) during which time I developed a stomach ache and a marginal case of the squits. Not a good way to spend a night out till 3am…

Back to the board – I did get it swapped out and I think I now have one of their “silver” class boards. Which means it’s slightly less crap then the one I had before, but does have better bindings. The owner’s “what is he doing complaining – he’s not allowed to do that” expression was priceless. I think he’s the first stereotypical “rude Frenchman” I’ve met. And hopefully the last.

The town looks fantastic right now, especially after dark. Lights everywhere, crowds walking around, shops selling mulled wine and hot waffles. Horse-drawn carriages clip-clopping along the streets. And best of all, wide-eyed kids absolutely sure they’ll see Santa this year because there’s actually snow everywhere. I can honestly say I don’t recall being anywhere so Christmassy in my entire life and it beggars belief but I really like it.

So, back to the now. This time last year I was in Agra. Temperature-wise it couldn’t be more different. Then I had one great mate with me. Now I have a bunch of good friends. Then I was being ferried round in a little white car playing dodgem with huge trucks. Now I’m on a snowboard playing dodgem with bloody skiers.

Variety. It truly is the spice of life.

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