Up an Alp and in the merde|
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Below are 17 journal entries, after skipping by the 80 most recent ones recorded in
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|Saturday, February 11th, 2006|
|Tuesday, February 7th, 2006|
|Wednesday, February 1st, 2006|
|Wednesday, January 25th, 2006|
|Thursday, January 19th, 2006|
|Sunday, January 15th, 2006|
|Lesson Ten - It's clear when you've been snowed on
We've been getting lots of mail here at Cowbell Towers, most of which is of the "Jonny, you're losing your mind" variety. But don't worry - the snails aren't really here, they're just a metaphor - for the speed at which more snow is arriving. In the words of Queen Victoria after a vegetarian banquet, we need a big dump.
We're not short of the stuff, it's just getting a bit icy again which makes falling over a bit painful. "Falling over?" I hear you cry, "Shurely shome mishtake, Jonny! You haven't fallen over since that embarrassing incident with a mountain goat back in Verbier!" Well, I've been back on the nursery slopes this week, trying to ski backwards. Duncan's advice of "just hang loose, carve and don't lean downhill whatever you do" isn't really doing it for me at the moment, whilst Mrs J's advice of "shouldn't you learn to ski forwards properly first" really wasn't the confidence boost I needed.
Fair enough though, so I'm actually booked in for lessons this week which I'll be sure to report on in full. It's not so much to improve my skiing, but to get me out of bed in the morning.
I did the homme d'internet cafe a dis-service last week. He wasn't out doing his McFlips, he was actually forced to shut so the building could host the final event of Tignes Airwaves - the motorvehicle jumping comp. It probably has a more catchy name in French, but it does what it says on the tin - lots of young people who's bones still heal quickly put themselves on motorcycles, ski-doos and quad bikes, then ride fast towards ramps, do some flips and handstands in mid-air, before landing on some ramps made out of snow. Got some big cheers from the crowd, but the problem with hosting finals after it gets dark, as was the case with the half-pipe, is that it's too b****y cold to stand there and watch for more than 5 minutes.
But the good news, as followers of the 'comments' section will be aware, is that I'll never be wandering around the centre of town after dark again - at least not in an internet related capacity. TC has finally got the better of France Telecom and Le Lavachet Free Internet service is up and running. That's 'Free' as in 'Buy A Demi Or A Hot Chocolate.' But thanks to a ground-breaking 'Brownies for Broadband' deal, the Cowbells are very much on-line pretty much all the waking hours. Just don't let the US Senate know or I'll be in Washington pretending to be a cat before I know it. Mia-ow.
Small point of administration before I sign off - I've started to use everyone's real names in posts as it was getting a bit complicated. If I use yours and you don't like it, let me know and I'll anonymise you again.
|Thursday, January 12th, 2006|
Trying to install software from a UK server via an encrypted VPN sure can take a while, so I'll amuse myself by posting a short, music-hall song inspired by an entree I had in a restaurant in La Plagne last March.
We're six snails from Bourgogne,
Just six snails from Bourgogne,
We think la vie est belle,
Coz we each have a shell,
We're six snails from Bourgogne.
|Wednesday, January 11th, 2006|
|Sunday, January 8th, 2006|
|Tuesday, January 3rd, 2006|
|Thursday, December 22nd, 2005|
|Monday, December 19th, 2005|
|Lesson Six - A trip to la cuisine
Mrs J has now taken to inspecting the kitchens in the local bars before ordering food. Most people find this pretty amusing. In fact I'd say everyone finds this pretty amusing except the chefs. In fact John who chefs here in Lavachet, enquired as to just how many industrial kitchens she'd been in prior to arriving in Tignes. Rather took the wind out of his sails when he found out that we first met in an industrial kitchen in St James'
But ne worry pas. The brownies have gone down a real storm - those in the know are generally in agreement that Mrs J is winning out over Tignes Cuisine, even only on the strength of the first batch. The second batch have recently come out of the oven, but I have to say I'm a little disappointed that this set have nuts in rather than chocolate chips. In my humble opinion as a chocolate fan and husband who always knows best, the additional solidified chocolate in the first batch provided an excellent contrast to the gooey fudginess still present in said brownies the following day. We haven't tested the second 'nuts' batch on the locals, so I might just eat them all and save my wife's reputation. Yes, I know, I'm really that selfless.
Who should turn up the other night but my best-man. We tried our best to prevent is arrival by organising a transfer that never existed, keeping him abreast of the terrible snow conditions, and not telling him where we lived because we don't really know ourselves. But sure enough, at 8.30 on Saturday night, Mrs J was wandering past TCs when she overheard somebody asking "Erm, does anybody here know where Jonny and Mrs Jonny live?" Okay, so he was actually using our real names which probably explained why everyone said "Yeah, opposite the laundrette. Can you ask them if they have any more brownies?" Remind me to put the word out if I'm ever expecting the bailifs or something. I'm feeling very exposed.
It's been quite hard work since Mr Hicks turned up - he actually wants to get up and go out boarding. I can only assume that this is because he's quite slow, so it'll take him all day to get down once he's actually made it to the top of a lift. We're happy to oblige, but two days of exercise and drinking is already taking its toll. We've already caved in on the Christmas lunch in favour of having someone else cook it since we don't think we'll have the strength. And this probably wont mean anything to anyone except ladyofleisure, but both days have been 'Trolles' days. Yes, exactly.
Thanks to all of those who have sent us physical christmas cards by poste de l'escargot. We probably haven't received it, but it's the thought that counts. Actually, we only know of one letter that got sent back by the concierge because she didn't know who we were, but most stuff seems to get to us now, even though we have to go out and hunt it down on the other side of the building. Drop me a private mail if you want the address.
|Thursday, December 15th, 2005|
|Lesson Five - a quick trip to the phone shop
An uncommonly brief update today (yay!) as I haven't done a lot this week except work, drink, overhang and make small talk with France Telecom.
My mobile was officially switched off yesterday - like a french carrot dangling on a snow-covered tree branch, it still beeps at me and claims to be connected to "Orange Fr" but if I try and phone anyone it tells me (in French) I should phone home and talk to my local operator about upgrading my service, loser.
We do however have a working french landline in our apartment (I know! Isn't it quaint!), but we don't have a working french phone to plug into it yet. Stay tuned to find out what the number is when we know it.
In other telecommunications news, Rachel has a french SIM card, but she too needs to phone home and talk to her local operator about getting her phone unlocked, big loser.
Alors, j'ai termine.
I've just discovered some photos, one of me and one of Mrs J, on a certain website of a certain bar in a certain French town. The first person to post links to both photos on this blog will win an as yet undisclosed prize (yay again!)
|Monday, December 12th, 2005|
|Lesson Four - A trip to the ski shop
After all that hard work (photographic evidence in previous update) we felt it was time to spend some more money, so we've been trawling around the various ski shops in Tignes. The age old rivalry (okay, 25 year old rivalry) between skiers and boarders has forced Mrs J and me to look in different places for different equipment. Not that this has really had an affect on our negotiating position - it doesn't matter how good your french is, how good your brownies are, or how many friends you promise to bring back to their shop throughout the season, you can only really get 10% knocked off. Still, when you add in the bindings, the poles, the helmet, the padlocks, the Oakley polarised goggles, oh, and those new trousers that just SO go with the new board, 10% can keep you in vin chaud until Christmas.
I ended up buying my stuff from the little shop around the corner, mainly on the strength of the sweet Madame who works there, doesn't speak english and giggles at my attempts at french negotiation ("Nous ne sommes pas tres riche. Nous pouvons avoir un bon prix parce que nous allons rester ici pour l'hiver?") It all falls down when they find out you're going to be here for five months but can't really tell them what work you'll be doing. In one shop, I had the owner laughing so hard and saying "Ah, bizniz in Londre must be very good, oui?" that I just had to get out of there before he could phone the other shops and warn them.
Mrs J ended up taking the advice of our landlord and heading up to BlackCats, which obviously has a tres super-cool name. They turned out to be very good, although they do stock some very dubious ski wear. All the hip young things seem to be decked out in a sort of faux-Burberry check matching jacket and pants. Still, you can see them carving down the piste from a fair distance, even if they do look like Katie Price.
Armed with new stuff, we spent an enjoyable lunch time over in Val d'Isere today. Mr Pinto back in London sent us a text message yesterday saying how nice the weather looked on Eurosport. It turned out they've been staging an early event of the FIS world cup on the 'OK' piste that leads down to La Daille (the piste is called 'OK' rather than it actually being 'OK' - there's still not enough snow on it, so it should probably be renamed 'Bloody Icy' for the time being), so we watched the downhill round of the men's combined on TV this morning, then nipped over the mountain to catch the slalom stage. There was a very good atmosphere over there, mainly provided by the Swiss fans, all of whom came equipped with cow bells and huge aerosol horns, the type you get on the pro-plus adverts. The Swiss won it in the end, but when their hero tanked about 5 seconds from the start, they shut up pretty quick.
Much discussion all round on the Hermanator and Bode Miller, the two skiers I'd actually heard of.
Most of the people there: "Blimey, can you believe Herman was 2 seconds off the pace? He needs to sort his bindings out."
Some other people there: "Yeah, but what about Miller? I can't believe he held it together on that last corner to clinch a top 5 place."
Mrs J: "Ooh - look it's the Milka cow. I wonder if they're giving out free chocolate?"
Turns out they weren't. Time for the brownie-off I think. Current Mood: busy
|Friday, December 9th, 2005|
|Lesson Three - A trip to the office
We've been getting lots of mail here at Cowbell Towers, most of which is of the "I'm so jealous - may you get seriously injured in a freak snow-related incident" variety. But it's not all play, play, play out here. Indeed, all play and no work makes Jack a dull boy, and next we know I'll have picked up my axe and be running amok in the snow shouting "Heeeeeeere's Cowbells."
So here's a picture of me actually doing some work.
Admitedly, I'm slightly distracted by the view from the window. Back in London village, I had a decent view of the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament from my office window. Now I have:
I'm not actually distracted by the fabulous mountains, or even the slightly dubious interior design decisions that have been made with our apartment. What's distracting me is the building site on the other side of the valley. It's about minus 10 outside, and they're still trying to build this big chalet. It might even be the one our friends are staying in come March. Don't worry guys, they say it's sure to be finished by this Sunday in time for the Christmas rush.
We were in TCs again last night. We were discussing the advantages of the excellent 'Tignes Cuisine' delivery service that's just gearing up for the season. Specifically, we were talking about the brownies they offer as one of their deserts. It's well known that Mrs J makes the best brownies this side of Cafe Nero, so before we knew where we were, TC had the Tignes Cuisine chef on the phone.
TC - "Yeah mate. We need to have a brownie-off. A brownie-off. Yeah. No, no I don't know. Hey...? Were you actually in the brownies?"
Mrs J - "Mother was brown owl."
TC - "Did you hear that? Yeah. Yeah, that's right. Yeah, I think so too - you're f***ed."
So, the great Tignes brownie-off of 2005 has been arranged for later in the week. Will Mrs J prevail? Will I ever get off the sofa if I eat all of them? Will the Moroccan ski team be partial to them? Find out next time on Le Surf, the soap you can believe in. Current Mood: working
|Tuesday, December 6th, 2005|
|Lesson Two - a trip to the job centre
I've come to the conclusion that the powers that be in the UK have sort of missed the point with 24 hour drinking. Sure, there'll be some people that abuse the situation, will drink to excess, don't have the common sense to reign themselves in and will end up addicted and living in the gutter. But let's face it, most of these people will be outside the M25, so it really won't affect me.
No, what establishments with extended drinking hours really give you is a place to do business, and a place to get a job. Take 'TCs' here in Lavachet. It's about 20 seconds walk from our apartment, and so was a good place to get a drink at 10pm on a Sunday. By 2am, Mrs Jonnycowbells had bagged two offers of work - one doing apartment turnarounds every Saturday, one fitting boots in a ski shop ('They're looking for someone who speaks French and has a cute ass.'. 'Un bon derriere? Oui, c'est moi.') - and I'd had to try my hardest to avoid work, especially when 'TC' himself pointed out he was trying to set up an internet lounge next door, with free wireless access for every vin chaud. ('Oh, cool - I can come and plug straight into your router', 'Straight into my what? Sorry, bit technical for me - you fancy helping out?')
Luckily, my natural laziness shone through, and by 3am they'd given up trying to get me to work, and just served me beer instead.
We got the car out again today (sans chains) in order to have a rendez-vous with Tina at the Salon de The in Val d'Isere. Again, Mrs J was talking business, and I was avoiding it. It was good - she got two weeks work, I said I might work out why Tina's smtp server wasn't connecting properly even though her pop was. Almost certainly a conflict between tesco and AOL. Isn't it always?
So now we're killing time watching Will and Grace until Graham and Poppy get back from Bourg and buy us a drink. We were going to meet them yesterday (friends of a friend of a friend in London) but Graham hit a cue ball with too much spin on it and it popped up and hit Poppy in the face. Seriously, things can change just like that on the mountain. It's a jungle out there. A very cold, snowy jungle. With no trees. Current Mood: complacent
|Sunday, December 4th, 2005|
|Lesson One - A trip to the Supermarche
The week in brief - Packed, tidied house, visited friends, gave keys to tenants, bought car stuff, put car on train, took car off train, drove, got lost in Reims, got lost in Reims again, drove some more, arrived on mountain, unpacked, got ski passes, watched X factor.
There was more to it than that, but it was all boring. We're sort of settled in now, but we still haven't bought our skis/snowboard yet. Lots of snow though - I guess we've had a foot of the stuff in the three days since we arrived. Quite a lot of the resort is still closed though and you get the feeling everyone is just starting to gear up. Val d'Isere, which is just around the corner/over the hill depending on which way you go, has still to open everything. They're posh, you see, so they're probably waiting for the right quality of snow before starting to run their lifts.
We drove down the mountain yesterday to do some shopping in le Super U. We learned how to find bags for French vacuum cleaners, how to push in front of the queue for petrol, how to converse with French hitchhikers ("Ou est-ce que vous allez? Aimez-vous Abba? Non, je n'ai pas Abba Or, n'ai que Abba Le Album. Desole...") and how to ask for a VAT receipt.
Okay - now this is important so pay attention. If you read anything about snow chains, they recommend that you try putting the chains on when it's dry and sunny, preferably in Balham or Guildford when you've got nowhere you have to be for a few hours and you can study the multi-lingual instructions for a while until they start to make sense. Now, like any normal 30 something bum, I took the view that is
"Yeah, like, whatever. I'm sure Mrs Jonnycowbells has put snow chains on before. How hard can it be? What is it with the snowchain company anyway, are they like my mum or something?"
Anyway, it was raining at the Super U at 6.30pm when we left in the dark.
1000 metres up and 45 minutes later, it was still dark, but it wasn't raining, it was snowing, and there was a big sign saying something like "Don't even think about trying to get to Tignes without snowchains, okay? And Gendarmes carry machine guns in France, so don't try it on either, roast-beef. No, I don't care if you have 4 wheel drive."
And we didn't have a torch, and not all snowchains are the same, and they were a bit tangled, and it was about minus ten, and my hands were a bit cold.
So yeah, if you ever buy snowchains, I know it's lame, but do yourself a favour and try 'em out at home.
Ecoutez et repetez, mes amis. Ne jamais encore. Current Mood: cold