Tales of catastophe, sex and squalor from the Alpine Underbelly...

Belle de Neige

Monday, 22 October 2012

How to get a job as a chalet bitch. Dear Katie...

Dear Belle:

Love reading your blog, you remind me of a female Ricky Gervais. (I love him, I mean it as a compliment!) I'm currently sending out c.v's to tour operators to be a chalet host but have not had any luck so far. Is there anything in a c.v that makes a TO immediately want to hire someone? And things that make them immediately throw a c.v in the trash?

I'm 21, have worked as a waitress and I speak Spanish pretty well… but of course I have never worked a season... would they consider that as being not good enough or am I just applying too late in the game?

Any tips for what they look for would be really appreciated!


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Dear Katie

A female Ricky Gervais, eh? 

As you may or may not know I am exceedingly vain, and therefore anyone who showers me with compliments goes straight to the top of my VIP list. Give yourself a pat on the back. You are clearly awesome and flattery will get you everywhere, darling. I can tell you are a woman of sound judgement, impeccable taste and cultural sophistication. You’re a little older than the average Irksome Blonde 19 Year Old and you’ve had a bit of relevant experience with the waitress thing, so it shouldn’t be hard for you to land yourself a perfunctory season job, don’t you worry. That said it’s a little late in the game at this point so you might want to consider getting yourself on a reserve list with as many TOs as you can find so you’re ready to come to the rescue when (that’s WHEN not IF) the first spate of limp-wristed public school gappies drop out during Christmas week.

Sorry to say darling, but speaking Spanish will be about as useful as a cock flavoured lollipop unless you are applying to work in the Spanish Pyrenees, so I’d start there. That said, even thought they put it all over the job descriptions, 90% of Brit seasonal workers fail to make even a cursory attempt at speaking the local language (much to the chagrin of the natives) so I wouldn’t worry too much about that. The key thing for you, I think, is not to be picky. You can either be choosy about where you work, or what you do at this late stage in the game, not both.

On the subject of Tour Operators, I do have one or two pearls of wisdom to cast before you.

As the man himself once said, in the guise of David Brent:

“Trust, encouragement, reward, loyalty… satisfaction. Trust people and they’ll be true to you. Treat them greatly, and they will show themselves to be great.”

As a member of staff at one of the many great Alpine Tour Operators of the day, you can expect to experience absolutely diddly squat in the way of encouragement, reward, loyalty or satisfaction, let alone greatness. They will not trust you either. They will be suspicious of you, patronise you, suck you dry and discard you like an old, mouldy, bleach-damaged marigold at the end of the season (or half way through if you break your leg) without as much as a thank you. That said, you are not looking for congratulations, long-term job satisfaction or a career in toilet cleaning (and if you are, then I recommend you ditch the season idea entirely). Hopefully you are looking to ski? So as long as you remember at all times that this is a marriage of convenience you will be fine.

Is there anything in a c.v that makes a TO immediately want to hire someone? And things that make them immediately throw a c.v in the trash?

When I delve back into the foggy memories of the last few seasons I’m somewhat at a loss to answer this question. You would think that most TO’s would be on the look out for confident, capable, well-groomed, energetic, youthful individuals who have more than 72 hours’ cooking experience, and some vague competency in social situations. However going by the array of dribbling cretins I’ve worked among I cannot in all honesty say that these qualities are endemic among alp-workers. Not the majority of them, anyway. Which leads me to think that Tour Operators are pretty much open to anything as long as it’s able-bodied and can operate a hoover. Previous experience is certainly not an essential. Considering in general TO’s in search of reliable employees are choosing from a riff raff of drop outs, gap year coasters and mid-life crisis sufferers in general I don’t think there is anything specific that would immediately make then throw a CV in the bin. Whether you’re fat, thin, ugly, deformed, lame, gape-mouthed, fusty or just plain ignorant, only one thing is certain; they don’t want quitters. Ideally they want people who will quietly get on with it, handle their own shit, not get themselves paralytic every night and miss work / call in sick. In return they will (hopefully) give you a ski pass and leave you the fuck alone to get on with your job without breaking your balls (but don’t expect any praise.)

Therefore, if you do get an interview do not (as one of the people I spoke to over the phone last week did) spend the entire time moaning about your previous employer, whining dramatically that you never had enough free time and then round it off by admitting proudly that you quit your last job when the going got too tough for you. I couldn’t believe my ears!

What I recommend you exhibit:

1. The ability to boil an egg.
2. An anecdote about a situation in which you’ve successfully had to defuse a disgruntled customer of some sort.
3. A bit of backbone, flexibility and willingness to co-operate / help out in a crisis.
4. Cheerfulness / a rosy disposition

Katie, my advice to you at this stage in the year is that it’s a game of numbers. Scrape the barrel of your limited lifetime’s experience for anything that could be remotely relevant to the roles you’re applying for, write a (coherent, spelling mistake-free, non-vile and gushing) personal profile and cover letter, explaining what a practical, capable, energetic, friendly and enthusiastic person you are, willing to muck in, learn fast and get on with it. Crucially, explain why you want to do a season. Something along the lines of wanting to expand your horizons, challenge yourself and improve your winter-sports skills in the process should do the trick. Don’t forget to mention that you like skiing or have always wanted to learn and then apply for every job you can find. 

Of course you don’t have to work for a Tour Operator. You don’t have to be a chalet bitch or a ski rep. Failing all of the above, if you haven’t found any useful employ by mid-November get yourself out to Sierra Nevada and find yourself a nice gig in a restaurant somewhere. They pay better anyway.

…Something will come up. And when it does, grab it with both hands. It’ll be the best fun you’ve ever had.

Good luck m’dear.


Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Interview Fail

 In the last two weeks I have been sent CVs of every colour and creed for the delightful privilege of potentially being my chalet co-bitch. Most of these, I have to say, have been a parade of ineptitude and twattery.

My core criteria for finding a decent partner in crime are not that complicated, you know…

-         Must not be a total retard (ideally should have more than 3/4s of an inch of brain)
-         Must be vaguely clean, presentable and professional – no acne, eyeball piercings or facial tattoos.
-         Must be able to cook. And by that I mean cook. Not boil stuff in a bag and then mix with baked beans.
-         Must not be a faffer /wet blanket / confrontational / defensive / arse clown / lazy bones / irksome blonde 19 year old/ need fag break every six seconds.
-         Must love mountains / skiing / snowboarding.

It’s a pretty simple formula. So it fascinates me the kind of shit expectant people put on their CVs. I mean, seriously, how can you get it that wrong? The internet is literally lousy with articles on ‘CV Tips’ and examples of how to do it correctly. Your CV is a 2D projection of your living, breathing self. It’s your personal emissary. The very first most basic, fundamental thing that you need to get right so that your potential employer doesn’t immediately brand you a dick and shout ‘Next!’. So surely, surely the very first thing you’d do is make sure the opening ‘personal profile’ gambit makes solid sense?

But no…

Take these two snippets, for instance:

“I am hope to more seasons, to enabled me to enjoy my love of mountain.”

Ah, I thought. Fair enough. She must be Spanish or something. Fair play for having a crack at the language. But no. There emblazoned proudly beneath the title ‘Curriculum Vitae’ was the proclamation that this person is in fact ‘British’.

Then there was this one:

“I thrive in making good to exceptional and have good communications skill.”

Oh. You do, do you?

The best one was the bloke who sent me a CV that was totally acceptable in every other way, fairly coherently written, no spelling mistakes, logically structured…but at the top of it he had pasted in a picture of himself. Not a nice, professional head and shoulders shot projecting a debonair, capable and impressive future employee, but an off-centre, grainy snap of what I can only describe as a portly chav with moobs, standing in a pub wearing a wife-beater t-shirt, looking not a little bit shifty and with…I shit you not…one hand on his crotch. It was as if someone had crept up on him with the camera and caught him having a wank.  

Oh yes, and also, if the job description stipulates ‘must be an excellent cook’ don’t admit to me straight off that your skills “aren’t too good in that area” and then go on the defensive with the words, “But I think it’d be fine as long as the other person’s an experienced chef.”

Right. Ok. So you’ll be fine as long as the other person does all the work. I see. Stop wasting my fucking time.

By the sounds of it Skater Boy hasn’t been having too much luck either.

“This came in today,” he told me on Skype last week. “18yr old. Under interests: ‘Analysing music to fully understand what the metaphors in the lyrics mean’…”
“You should hire him just for the comedy value, but then torture him by banning any music except Scouting for Girls.”
“I’m going to tell him I like One Direction.”
“Or N. Dubbs.”
“Can I call you?” he said. “I’m doing a Skype interview in a few minutes and I want to see what my background looks like on camera.”
This should be funny, I thought. “Ring away.”

He rang.

“Hmm. Background looks fine,” I said, looking at the vaulted oak ceiling of his parental home behind him. “It’s your barnet I’d be more worried about.”
“Funny,” he said shifting around and fiddling with something out of shot. “Oh the joys of Skype interviews,” he stood up to show me what he had on. “Top half smart, bottom half pyjamas.”
“I wouldn’t go quite so far as to call the top half smart, love” I said, noting the loose-knit sweater with holes in it and the freshly rolled cigarette he’d just shelved behind his ear with grubby-nailed fingers.
“Right, must go…” he said in business like fashion. “Interview to do.”

Working from home can be a lonely and isolating, if peaceful experience. Personally I don’t relish being around people 24/7, particularly office bods, who you invariably can’t stand and resent having to spend the best hours of your life with anyway, so it suits me fine. Still, I enjoy the odd interruption from the world outside. Luckily for me also I have a very sweet tooth, which starts to kick in around three o’clock in the afternoon giving me an excellent excuse to leave the house and go for a walk in search of something chocolate covered and satisfying. On this day at precisely that time the sun accommodatingly peeked its head out from behind an ominous grey smudge so I upped and went to the newsagents. There were a couple of preened, primped girls having a very loud argument about an overdraft or something financial or other on the corner of the street. It must be exhausting to be one of these women. Everything about them from their shouty voices to their coiffed piled-high hair, clown-pink cheeks, heavy handbags and agonisingly high heels is shrill and thunderous and pissed off. They seem to be in a constant state of high dudgeon about something or some boy or some injustice foisted on them by the world. Sometimes I think the best therapy for such people would be to rip their faux Gucci shades from their bonce, plonk them on top of a mountain and point out how big the rest of the world/galaxy/universe is compared to them. 

When I got back to the house Skater Boy rang again.

 “Got a sec?”
“Yep. How was it?”
“Nice girl. Fit.”
“Irrelevant. Won’t be taking the job.”
“Ah. No experience?”
“Non-skier. Don’t want to be stuck giving her free lessons all season.”
“Perish the thought.”
“Then there was the other thing,” he looked crestfallen.
“I don’t think she’d take the job even if I offered it.”
“Why on earth not?”
He reached out of shot and brandished the mug he’d been merrily slurping tea from throughout the interview…

It was several minutes before I managed to regain my composure.

“Oh darling. That’s absolute pure, solid, comedy gold,”
 “I wondered why she had such an odd expression on her face.” He set the offending piece of crockery down on the table with a thunk.
“Oh well. At least it detracted attention away from your barnet.”

Monday, 1 October 2012

Your greatest fear: There is no PMT. This is just your personality

Rather forlorn today. I’m fighting a monthly urge to clean and tidy everything within three hundred feet of myself, coupled with a deep seated impulse to growl at innocent passers by like an angry mongrel bitch while trying to gnaw my own foot off because it’s annoying me. I knew immediately when I woke it was going to be one of those Mondays. I could hear the water spinning off the tyres outside, dripping off the window frame and bubbling in the drain. I turned over and put my forehead against the warm, soft skin on the back of SbH’s neck, enjoying the sub-duvet denial of daylight. He murmured something sleepy and reached for my hand. “Ah,” I thought, “How sweet,” ...until I realised he was just trying to manoeuvre my digits into position around his customary early-morning erection.

              So this afternoon, I ventured outdoors to collect a parcel for SbH from the post office (because fucking Royal Mail, of course, had to pick the one hour in the entire week that I was out last Friday to try to deliver the bloody thing). Even though the parcel allegedly contained a ‘surprise’ for me, a fifteen minute walk through the rain to the post office did nothing to improve my mood. Having spent most of the morning festering indoors at my desk I decided to treat myself to what turned out to only loosely resemble a coffee. Must remember never to do this again. The nearest street with shops and cafes on it is a loathsome pedestrian alleyway of Robert Dyas and W H Smiths outlets where every freak and mutant in the city seems to swarm like flies to an ugly festering turd. It’s actually quite fascinating; I mean, there are people who are at least four times larger than a human being ought to be or look as if they’ve had their features drawn on with a blunt mathematical compass by a one-eyed, three-fingered learning-impaired toddler in a darkened room.

Today I saw:

-         A 90 year-old lady with stud heels, a pink Chinese umbrella allowing her haughty Chihuahua to piss on someone’s bicycle.
-         A bald-headed man with a ‘coil’ comb-over like a cinnamon swirl
-         A woman who I am 98% convinced had three buttocks

Having forced down the tepid, bitter washing-up-bowl brown excuse for a coffee I decided to have a peek inside SbH’s package. Peeling off the sticky tape and rummaging within I withdrew the first object and surveyed it disbelievingly. How thoughtful of him. And now, here I am in the middle of a busy freak-infested coffee shop proudly, if inadvertently, brandishing a purple double-ended dildo for all to see. Fantastic.

Three buttocks gave me a sideways glance so I hurriedly returned it to the box.

Think how disappointed he’ll be when I tell him what time of the month it is.

Alarming Ski Fashion

You know when they shave poodles' arses but not the rest of them?

 Ever wondered what they do with the fur afterwards?

Well now you know.

But seriously. What the fuck is this? A new look for Santa Clause?

Personally I like it. No doubt many of my Russian clientele will be sporting something similar this winter...