Back home. Again.

City of Dundee Arms since 1996

Back in Dundee

The end of another working week in the Alps and I barely stopped. As it happened, things tailed off as I was tidying up on the Saturday so it looks like I timed things well.

Over the week, I spent a couple of nights based over at Belle Plagne in our “flagship” hotel. I have to say I was hugely impressed with the staff while I was there. Not just the way they treated me (great food!) but how they handled all the work and guests. From what I saw, I know I would be happy to holiday there. Well done, crew.

So in with delivering some supplies to a few resorts as I had to borrow one of the catering managers’ vans, what did I achieve? Off the top of my head:

Amongst a huge number of smaller jobs. The only outstanding thing when I left was Jo’s internet that was finally sorted a couple days later. I stepped through the set-up with her via Emilia on Skype acting as middleman.

I borrowed a seat on a coach taking guests back to Geneva and waited an age for my Edinburgh flight while trying to stay awake. Worst was the delay. Ten minutes when we boarded was no problem. But then we sat there for twenty. And were finally told that there would be a further 25 before we took off.

Why don’t they tell you things like this before you board so that you can call/SMS people at the other end to let them know? Once you’re on the plane, you’re not allowed to use your mobile!


Back in the UK and a ton of stuff to organise for the upcoming trip. It never stops!

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Look what I did!

Blooming tree

Blooming tree

Erm, yeah. It was worse than it looks. Or better. Depends on how you look at it.

Heading back from the resorts I’d been working at for a few days, I was maybe 15km away from Chamonix. There’s a short cut that can be taken down the side of one of the hills on the way to the motorway and viaduct that I always use. I was a hundred metres or so down it approaching a slight bend, doing – I’d guess – between 30 and 40 km/h. It’s a really narrow road and I don’t like going too fast as the edge is unprotected.

I tapped the brake. Nothing seemed to happen.

I pushed harder. The wheels locked. And the steering, as is the case in situations like this, stopped… steering me anywhere.

At this point, I was headed straight for the edge, nose on. Nothing but a few tangles branches and some very scared-looking shrubbery prepared to flap idly at me as I plumetted down the slope they were hiding.

All in all, not good.

As I approached the edge, the wheels found some grip and I started to swerve to my left. Directly at the tree you see taking a starring rôle in the photo above.

All in all, better but still very much “not good”.

At the last moment, the van swerved hard left. I assume as it his the snow and ice piled up on the side of the road. So instead of piling down the hill, or slamming radiator-and-engine first into the tree, I ended my downhill plunge abrubtly by blinding my car in its right “eye”.

However, I was at something approaching a 35 or 40-degree angle with my passenger side window giving me a very disturbing view down something of an incline.

At this point, the thought “Damn – I’ll be late for dinner” went through my head. Yes. Dinner. I really wasn’t concerned about anything else. I honestly couldn’t have been more detached from the situation.

I opened the door. Then opened it again when it slammed shut due to the angle. Clambered out and saw a car slowing down behind me with hazards on. The French chap inside hopped out and made sure I was OK before donning a yellow flak jacket (a legal requirement in all French vehicles – needless to say I didn’t have one) and directing traffic around our stationary vehicles.

I called Europcar who offered me a choice of three options – cars, trucks and bikes. I hit “1” as the Kangoo van is essentially the car with the seats and rear windows missing. The helpful young girl on the end stepped me through a lot of questions before telling me to ring up again and click 2 as I was wrong – it’s a truck.

Fine. I dialled again and pressed “2”. Unfortunately, this person was pretty much useless. He sounded like he’d just woken up from a coma and made no effort to help me. I passed him over to the nice self-appointed traffic guard who explained where we were. He handed my phone back with the message, “he says to ring the police”.


At this point, a 4×4 pulled up and the driver hopped out. “I live just around the corner. Do you want me to get ropes and see if I can pull you up?”

This I had to see. And it was quicker than waiting for the tow-truck driver that Pete in the office had tried to call. He was having his dinner and had asked us to call him later on. Great.

Off went the small truck back to his house and we (well, my new best friend) made sure the muppets approaching the bend didn’t just zip round the bend and head on into traffic coming down the hill.

Maybe 10 minutes later, the miniature Bigfoot reappeared and the driver climbed down. He opened the tailgate and started pulling out some obviously well-used tow-ropes, hooks, grapples and so on.

“You’ve done this before, haven’t you?” I asked.

“Many times!”

I suppose it’s common around here.

As we blocked the traffic and made some room, ropes were clamped onto vehicles and the engine of the 4×4 revved up. That was warning to step back.

With a roar, the gas-guzzler leapt forward. My van at first slid backwards in a straight line as if it was reversing. Although with no wheels touching the ground. Then it started to swing as the ground shifted beneath it so that it was pointed nose-downnthe hill. And still moving sideways. Towards another tree.

I braced myelf. I could just see the passenger side slamming into this and making quite a mess.

At what seemed the last moment, the rope pulled taught and my van leapt backwards, becoming airborne momentarily. It slammed to the ground and sat there, hazards blinking and looking somewhat dazed and confused.

Out came Rope-Man who disconnected the two vehicles. He said he’d follow me down the hill for a way while I checked the brakes and steering. Nothing appeared to be leaking or about to actually fall off so I tried it.

True to his word, he tailed me for about a kilometre as I made sure everything was fine. No problems. Even the headlight that slammed into the tree still worked! OK, so the plastic was somewhat knackered but the bulb was fine.

He waved me goodbye, as did the other chap, as I continued on my way home. Where I was indeed late for dinner. So I went out and bought a Midnight Express instead.

All very bizarre. Mainly how I just didn’t seem to care about anything. No panics, no shaking, no nerves, no sickness. I slept fine that night and had no repurcussions at all.

And yet I’d almost driven right down or rolled off a hill in a van.

Surely I should have been more shaken up than that?

Regardless, I huge, HUGE thanks to my two nameless rescuers. Neither asked for anything in return and were happy to spend their time helping out someone who needed it. All I can say is that there’s not a shadow of a doubt that I’d do the same in a similar situation. I know I would. I guess it’s karma.

I only wish I had a video of the van being recovered. It was a sight to behold.

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Back to France

Horace-Benedict de Saussure monument at Chamon...

Horace-Benedict de Saussure monument

Just for a change, I awoke having had virtually no sleep. I tidied my room as best I could and went to hand the key back to Andy. Very kindly, he offered me to help myself to the buffet breakfast so I nabbed a yoghurt and a drink before catching the next train up to the airport.

Nothing exciting about the journey, thankfully. I snoozed for the short flight and landed all fine and dandy in Geneva shortly afterwards. I could have done with a much longer flight to catch up on kip!

I walked round to the charter terminal where I met up with our staff guiding guests onto coaches. One was just about to leave for Chamonix so I hopped on board and – yup – slept until we pulled into the town.

This time I made the sensible decision of dumping my stuff in the flat before getting lunch and then going to the office. Where I remained till the early hours sorting out quite a few issues. As usual.

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Back in Blighty

Kicking off with a “thanks” to Janeice who spent a couple of hours of her day off driving me to Geneva Airport so that I didn’t have to get one of the transfer buses.

As ever the airport was heaving and expensive. I was starving, but after over 30 minutes in the queue at Burger King I had to give up and walk off otherwise I risked being late for my flight. I tried to pick up a drink from a shop, but the minimum spend was CHF5 and the bottle was only CHF2.80. No worries, I thought, I’ll get one on the other side of security.

I rattled through the long passport queue and breezed security and then shuddered to a halt at the convenience kiosk by gate 31. The self same bottle of juice was now CHF4.80. If anyone had any complaints before about the whole “no liquids through security” thing being an excuse to rip passengers off, I point the in the direction of Geneva Airport as proof of this. They should change the airport logo to a skull and crossbones.

Still, the flight was only 10 minutes late in departing and fairly smooth. I slept on and off until the high crosswinds at Edinburgh caused a few clenched butt-cheeks as we descended. Kudos to the pilot, though,who set the plan down as gently as I’ve ever had a landing despite the atmospheric conditions working against him.

My dad picked me up and we zoomed across the Forth Road Bridge as all the high-siders had been barred from crossing due to the winds. As a result we made it to Perth a lot sooner than we’d expected. Enough time to say “hello” to my mum, giggle at the two mad dogs, grab some stuff and head up to Leah’s in Dundee.

Now, I’ve spent the better part of 6 weeks in the French Alps. It’s been snowing, icy and generally sub-zero for most of it. I have not fallen once.

Within a dozen steps of the car as I walked out of the car park in Dundee, I was on my arse. Ouch. Somehow I also managed to pull a muscle in my shoulder when I went down. Don’t ask. As promised in another blog post elsewhere, Leah had hot juice and sympathy when I arrived loaded with slightly less cold than I had the day before. Still, I’m male – I can milk sympathy for all I’m worth.

Ah, back in Britain. High winds, lashing rain, and I’ve got a cold. Great stuff.

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One more from Chamonix

OK, I lied in the last one.

Two things I have to mention. The first is a huge “THANK YOU” to the staff at Bar’Dup – the finest bar in Chamonix – for spiking my tab until I get back in January. The phone line for their credit card machine has died and won’t be fixed until late tomorrow or maybe even Monday so I couldn’t pay it off.

Guys and calls – again, thank you. It’ll be paid in full as soon as I walk in next year.

Second thing is a little tip for you. Don’t shave your head when the temperature outside is floating between 10 and -13 Centigrade. And you have a cold.


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