Secret diary of a Chalet Host (Pooh Sticks)

Week 1- Pooh Sticks

Week one is finally over, and the good news is we are still alive. More importantly, so are the guests who are safely back in the UK in one piece (sans food poisoning). I hope all the doubters among you are duly chastened.

It was an interesting first week and a steep learning curve. The first 24 hours were incredibly stressful. Cooking our first three course meal for 14 strangers was pretty nerve-racking, and between the hours of 6pm and 9pm I’m not sure either of us had a clue what was going on. The heat, the multiple dishes and the general tininess of the kitchen did not help. It was like spending two hours in an Ashtanga acrobatics class.

Luckily, the adrenaline kicked in and all three courses made it to the table looking reasonable and tasting good (or so the guests said, but there is every chance they were just being polite). What also became apparent, after we had fallen (still shell-shocked) into the local bar for a post-dinner service drink, is that we were nowhere near the most traumatised of the chalet hosts. In every corner groups of twenty-something seasonaires huddled together, nursing pints with head in hands.

“That was really hard. I can’t believe how hard that was. Did you find that hard? I can’t believe we have to do that again tomorrow. That was so hard.”

So, all things considered, we rose on the first morning feeling like everything had gone pretty smoothly so far. We were keen to get breakfast served and the guests out onto the mountain. We had dinner prep to complete and rooms to clean. Maybe we’d even find time for a couple of hours skiing. Easy eh?

Well, everything ran pretty much according to plan – breakfast served, breakfast cleared, dishwasher loaded – until one of our guests popped his head round the kitchen door.

“Oh by way, my shower is taking ages to drain this morning”.

OK, not the end of the world. Should be fairly straightforward to sort.

“Thanks for letting us know” we reply, “we’ll have a look this morning when we service the rooms”.

“Actually” chimes in one of the guests still at the breakfast table, “ours is too and the drain bubbled a bit when we flushed the toilet this morning.”

Hmmmm. Not sounding overly positive, I grant you.

“Oh dear” say we, “that’s not supposed to happenWe’ll go and take a look now before it gets worse”.

“Too late I think”, pipes up an apologetic voice behind us “We’ve just flushed our toilet and now our shower tray is full of water that is clearly supposed to be in the toilet, if you know what I mean.”

My OH my.

It’s 8.30am on the first morning of our first season, the guests have been here less than 24 hours, and there is already something indescribable lurking in the shower trays on the ground floor. Not only is this a terrible start to our chalet hosting career, but my heart sinks as I realise who is going to have to clean the shower trays.

We ushered the effected guests out onto the mountain with completely unsubstantiated promises that the problem would be rectified by the time they returned that afternoon. As soon as we were clear of all guests we got straight onto the phone to one of the resort managers. His response, which I won’t repeat here, pretty much summed up the nature of the problem.

Less than an hour later, both resort managers turned up to assess the full scale of the problem. They stood at the manhole cover for the main drainage system at the back of the property, looking mildly sick and trying to get in touch with the ‘rod man from Moutiers’. Luck was not on our side and the rod man could not be located.

Queue lots of shrugging from the resort managers.

In the end, Andrew decided that we didn’t need the man from Moutiers at all. In fact, all we needed was a massive stick, a “can-do” attitude and the ability to hold your breath for long periods of time. As I watched from the safety of the balcony, Andrew proceeded to jump into the ditch and open the manhole cover. Then,  whilst both resort managers looked on in disbelief, he began to systematically poke a huge branch into the drain in an attempt to dislodge the blockage.

Five minutes later the voice from the ditch instructed me to run all the taps on the ground floor and flush as many toilets as possible. I can safely say it was the first time I’ve ever prayed as I flushed a toilet. Toilets flushing and taps running, I headed back out onto the balcony to be greeted by the sound of Andrew laughing (and both resort managers gagging). Hurrah! The blockage was cleared and things were flowing freely through the drainage system once more.

In a uncharacteristic display of generosity, Andrew offered to clean the shower trays for me and the all of the guests received champagne aperitifs as an apology. A good result all round. The guests were a superb bunch and were all very relaxed about the issue (I think the champagne helped) and the incident became the running joke of the week.  The resort managers were hugely grateful and I think we have bought ourselves a whole heap of goodwill that I’m sure we’ll need to dip into as the weeks roll by……

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