Posted by: seasonaire | March 29, 2017

Long time no…

Well, it has been a while hasn’t it?

Many things have happened, a couple of winter seasons, even more summer seasons, and now, a proper grown-up job. Well, a proper grown-up year long contract anyway.

I now live in the thriving metropolis that is Bristol, constant winner of ‘great place to live’ awards and home of cool funky things of all descriptions, and a startlingly huge suburban sprawl of samey looking council estates. Though rather pleasant, and not unpleasing to the eye, these are the bits that nobody talks about, because very little of note seems to happen there. This is my Bristol, bland and rather far from the city centre, but I am OK with that, because these days, I can accept a bit of mediocrity in exchange for being relatively near my friends.

Now I need to take some time to catch up on the blog, write a few posts about the last couple of years, and decide whether it is worth continuing.


Posted by: seasonaire | July 1, 2014

Fun Patrol

Having taken yet another sideways career progression, I am now babysitting 100 kids, and not an insignificant number of adults, in a summer camp in the Alps.  Mostly this requires me to be a bitch for no discernible reason. “Stop that”, “eat nicely”, “tidy your room” and “OI come here NOW!”, have become a huge proportion of my vocabulary. This is accompanied by crossed arms and a stern look that Miss Trunchbull would envy. The main requirement of the job has thus far proven to be, pulling entertaining activities out of your arse, at a moments notice with no resources whatsoever. Another critical skill, is learning to hold your tongue when confronted with an impressive level of stupidity.

What are you supposed to say when a colleague tells you they have no shoes? She literally has none, having come to this country in, what appear to be slippers, knowing her job would involve, climbing, hiking and mountain biking.

In another episode of world beating self-reliance, last night I was required to tie the shoelaces of what I thought was a 16 year old, it turns out he was, in fact, 19 years old. At least this one was a camper rather than a member of staff. Little wonder then that most nights I am driven to winding down in the pub.

Yes, I admit that it is hardly a work of genius to sleep through my own alarm, show up an hour late with a stinking hangover, dishevelled and grovelling. However, in this state, I am still able to function as the Fun Police, in fact the hangover and lack of decent coffee, may actually mean I am more effective at this than usual.



Posted by: seasonaire | January 24, 2014

Doing it Right

This will be coming rather late for most of you in the Northern Hemisphere, but could be of some use to those in the South who have heard the call of the mountains, and for next season of course. 

What occurs to me when I look at the hoards of seasonaires in Verbier, is how many of them seem to have the balance a little off. So you hate your job, this is not the biggest deal in the world. Most season jobs are service orientated by nature, which means you are almost certainly somebody’s bitch. What you need to be able to do is a bit of cost-benefit analysis. 


If you are lazy, and incompetent…

Working for one to the big tour ops is for you. You will be shat on from a great height and paid a pittance, not even enough to finance your no-doubt raging alcoholism, but on the plus side, you you are handed everything on a plate as soon as you arrive in resort. Lift pass, transport, accommodation and ski hire are all yours without you having to lift a finger, and you may even be fed some sub par punter leftovers into the bargain. Another major plus is that a lot of the bigger tour operators hire absolute monkeys, many of whom can barely wipe their own arses after a couple of weeks of intensive instruction (this is known as ‘Training’ I am told, having never attended). This will probably be your first and only season, and by the end of it you will have developed a sizable beer gut, but will emerge with no more skills than you turned up with straight from your cushy (probably independent) high school. 


If your Daddy’s rich…

Ski instructor training is probably for you. My guess is that you already know how to ski and like it enough to want to spend the winter in the mountains, so why not persuade Mumsy and Pops that the best way to spend your Gap Yah, supposedly a period of great personal development, learning to be a ski or snowboard instructor and paying close to 10 grand for the privilege. Of course, if you take this option, you can afford to also be lazy and incompetent, because the Gap course providers will house and feed you and probably wipe your arse for you if you have not yet mastered this skill. At the end of this process you will hold a ski instructor qualification, that you can then use for future mountain based employment in the country of your choice as long as it is not France. 


If you are over 21 and have some desire to maintain a modicum of dignity…

Get a real job, one that pays a decent wage and forces you to be a grown up. You will be required to find your own accommodation, buy a ski pass and get yourself to and from resort. Sounds boring I know, but this is the only way you will maintain any perspective whatsoever for the 5 months you are living in Lala Land with no idea what is going on back home. Sorting out your own shit is tedious and often pitfall prone, however you will actually develop some life, and maybe even some language skills, into the bargain. You should also finish the season with at least some modest savings, but this may be ambitious given the wallet draining capabilities of the various resort bars, where you will inevitably spend much of your free time.  

Posted by: seasonaire | January 23, 2014

Season Report – what have I fucked up so far?

Once again I have been neglecting my writing duties. Hardly surprising given the approximately 5 minutes I have had off since November. Now, in the middle of January, life is ticking along nicely, we have plenty of snow and plenty of time off. 

So what is going down in Verbier this season? Same old same old really, lots of vastly rich punters dressing in overpriced ski wear, asking dumb questions – check; mollycoddled children being ditched with ski instructors at the first opportunity, and being picked up at the last possible moment after a few cheeky ones at apres – drunk parents check; 17 year-old gap yahs, with Daddy’s credit card moaning about their jobs that they mostly fail to turn up for – check; women in fur coats with ludicrously tiny dogs – yup that too. 

Business as usual, especially with the gradual creep of exclusivity that has taken over the place. The first time I rocked up here, 9 years ago to the week, this place was on the up, but there was still an eau de ski bum about the place, with bars catering to our meagre budgets, and scummy studio flats shared by multiple inhabitants with personal hygiene issues. All that has now ebbed away, the seasonaire flats have been knocked down or refurbished beyond recognition, and turned into 5 star hotels, for the rich and richer to inhabit while we get pushed further and further down the valley. Not that we mind, but it does make drinking logistics tricky, and the trip home rather more perilous. 

The season so far, now it is actually in full swing, has been another mixed bag. On the one hand, it turns out that I am a quite spectacularly slow learner when it comes to my job, not something I am accustomed to, and I do not take well to discipline; on the other hand I know about 12 times as many people as I met on either of my previous seasons. Hardly any of these new acquaintances are as depraved or as sociopathic as some of my previous season buddies, but that may just be because I don’t have to live in a cramped and stinking bunk room with them any more. 

On the other hand, I still wake up, in full ski kit, but also wearing flip flops, after a big night, much of which has vanished from memory. I still struggle to speak French, but it is definitely getting better, and so it bloody well should after two full seasons in French speaking Switzerland. The debauchery element never changes, it just hurts a bit more when you have a job where any degree of concentration or diligence is required. Oh, and I have to do sensible things like getting the last bus home now that I live down in the valley. Rocking up to work having slept in what you were wearing the night before is not a look that will keep me in gainful employment. 

Posted by: seasonaire | November 17, 2013

Summer Summary Part 1

Half way through November and I am only just getting around to writing something about last summer. Perhaps a sign of my talents as a procrastinator. It all seems rather remote now I am sat in a snowy Alpine village deciding whether to take the skis or snowboard for a spin. This past year, with several festivals under my belt, it looks like I have finally hit the jackpot in terms of summer to winter seasonal existence, long may it continue.

In the world of festivals, as in many other realms, what you know counts for far less than who you know. The skills come later. If you are happy to exist on the bottom rung as an unpaid or barely paid steward, taking your chances on shift patterns and subjecting yourself to potentially draconian rules, then be my guest. You will have little or no responsibility, and you may chance upon getting time off just when your favourite act is playing. For winter season reference, this is the festival equivalent of being on the bottom rung for a large tour op who crams you into a tiny bunk room and gives you 60 quid a week in return for 40 hours of work. Yes you get to have a good time, meet great people and enjoy your environment, but when you have a few years of real work under your belt, being treated like an idiot minion loses its shine. This year’s Glastonbury was a case in point. I was doing paid work, but it was so appalling that it deserves a whole other post just to describe the sheer horror of nine back-to-back 12 hour nightshifts in freezing temperatures. A post which, no doubt, I will write at some point, but don’t hold your breath.

Once bitten, twice shy, the terrible time I had at Glastonbury made me pull out of all the other work I had signed up for with this particular stewarding company, who shall remain nameless, but only because the UK has some of the harshest libel laws in the world.

Secret Garden Party was next on the list, and after a shaky start with jobs being changed, I was back in my old position as tabard-wearing chieftain. Everything the light touched was my kingdom, sort of, and I had my very own gate minions, who I provided with chairs and sometimes even coffee (I am nice like that, and understand the pain of being stuck on a boring gate for 8 hours). The best thing about SGP, or any festival for that matter, is the crew. We were all together, one huge happy family with a big camp fire, several luxury gazebos and power hook ups for all the vans (OK the material comforts helped too).

The perhaps surprising thing about festival crews is, that these people are really good at what they do. Most people outside of the fold seem to think we are all just a bunch of stoners in a field. I am not going to deny, that most people working in an industry specifically geared to showing their consumers a good time, get involved with the hedonism to a certain extent, but with the authorities on your back, looking for any excuse to shut your festival down, the crew have to run a pretty tight ship. This being my first proper year, I have been consistently impressed by the standard of field stoners I have come across, truly a  different breed compared to the self-important imbeciles who seem to get away with managing most conventional companies.

It was thanks to some serendipitous meetings, usually around the campfire, that I managed to secure my next jobs, but this post is getting a little long, and the mountain is calling, so I will leave that one for next time.

The Shambala Pirate Ship

The Shambala Pirate Ship


Posted by: seasonaire | November 9, 2013

Off Piste with an Ex-Olympian

The best way to make your own skiing look decidedly average.


Posted by: seasonaire | November 4, 2013

A Bit of Competence Wouldn’t Go Amiss

This is something I couldn’t publish at the time of writing in case I was busted by my employers. Once upon a time (well about three weeks ago)…

I was working as a chef (please don’t be angry, actual chefs, I know I am a charlatan) for a rather fancy food retailer, cooking in a godawful mall (then again, I think all shopping centres are horrendous) on the outskirts of London. Probably sounds a lot more glamorous than it actually is. In fact, cooking is not a huge part of the job, most of it seems to be running around the store awkwardly looking for ingredients, stealing price tags and talking to old ladies in a slightly patronising tone. When you are allowed to cook, the main requirement of the job is constant yabbering, like a decidedly mediocre QVC presenter. This sort of local celebrity (very local given that we never leave the shopping centre) creation is, I think, the whole point of the exercise. Some sort of entertainer aimed squarely at the now rapidly retiring middle-class baby-boomer with plenty of disposable income. The sort of person who actively enjoys The One Show.

To totally segue to the point; working in the promotions industry for a couple of years, the main thing I have noticed, is that the people who work in the back office roles (marketing, PR etc.) seem to have a lot of trouble dealing with the on-the-ground running of the activities they are attempting to organise. They have carefully imagined how things might pan out, but life seems to disagree, so invariably, they have failed to plan for all manner of crazy eventualities. The main result of this lack of imagination and therefore lack of preparedness, is the escalation of stress and indecisiveness, enveloping all who are unlucky enough to come into contact with said individual/s. This was no different, the powers that be spent a lot of time shrieking, changing their minds, and faffing spectacularly. All very entertaining except for the fact that the poor frontline staff are often the ones caught up in the middle.

I know marketing and PR people are just doing their jobs. I understand that marketing has changed from merely emphasising the merits of your product, to a cut-throat race to invent product attributes that are psychologically appealing, whilst still adhering to trading standards legislation. What gets me is the sheer number of people who fall for this shit, critical thinking skills are supposed to be instilled through the education system. Judging by what I witness on a regular basis, the majority of the population are impressively idiotic, and will buy any old bollocks if it is presented to them by someone off the telly.

In conclusion, I suppose it is a good job I no longer have to do this shit for a living, as I have run off up a mountain again. Somehow being bombarded by marketing bollocks in French and German is much less soul destroying. It almost makes me wish I was less literate in English.

Posted by: seasonaire | October 27, 2013

Verbier twinned with Fukushima, Japan

Verbier pit of despair

Verbier pit of despair

For me, the season has started already. More accurately, since there is absolutely no snow whatsoever, I am already out in resort. For the more experienced among you, I am sure you know what it is like to be in an eerily quiet, snow free village in BFN Alps, but for those of you who have only experienced the season in full swing, it is bizarre.

Here in Verbier (yes, I am in Verbier once again, less through choice, than through the good fortune of landing a ‘proper’ job) they have embarked so many construction projects, that it looks like the cleanup job in the aftermath of a natural disaster. With only 5 weeks to go until the town fills up with seasonnaires and maybe 7 until the punters start arriving in droves, the chances of the construction being finished on time looks rather remote. In a way, I am slightly hoping they do not manage to finish on time, as it will provide some great schadenfreude.

Obviously, for the sake of everyone coming here to work, not having additional logistics issues when the town already suffers from a horrific windy-narrow-streets-one-way disaster, all too common in these little mountain villages that have suddenly been landed with the mixed fortune of popularity among the rich and famous. Popularity leads to development, which is often not very practical in steep-sided mountain villages. Eventually, this results in a mess of chalets plonked all in a variety of unlikely places, often miles from anything as practical as a ski lift, bus stop or shop.

As it is currently still pre-season, this brings me to another thing that it is worth considering when embarking upon a ski season: where the hell are they planning on accommodating me, and where will I be working relative to this? I don’t think I really need to elaborate, but if your commute involves half and hour of schlepping up a near-vertical hill at 6am whilst nursing the inevitable hangover, you may want to consider how much you really want to be in that particular resort.

Posted by: seasonaire | September 19, 2013

How to Run a Race

Considering the clusterfuck I was facing when I walked into the office, the actual event did not turn out quite as horrendous as I originally expected. There is something rather prophetic about this particular event, a large scale bike race, as one had been the cause of my last disagreement resulting in unemployment – I would have been fired, had I not already been coming to the end of my probationary period.

As mentioned in the previous post (now in temporary limbo until I get paid), on this particular job, I somehow managed to get myself fired and reinstated several times on my first day. Hardly auspicious, but, for want of a less cheesy analogy, I possess a rather Marmite-like quality. I like to think it has something to do with my very-keen-but-often-quite-late bullshit radar (i.e. I am basically smarter than them), but more likely it is because I can be a sarky little bitch who does not suffer fools gladly. Believe me, many of the people I seem to come across in the promo and events industries are fools of the highest calibre.

In any case, the race in question needed to be staffed, staff needed to be distributed and then collected from the furthest reaches of Surrey, in London terms, Zones 1-46 were to be covered by a rag-tag bunch of about 120 unemployed Londoners in polyethene ponchos. Selection for this task was largely not my problem, but logistics was. The original idea, so laughably expensive it is worth mentioning, was to use taxis to drop aforementioned rag-tag bunch off and then to collect them at the end of the day. Effective – yes, cost effective -no. The nominal transport budget being about 300 quid, I calculated that approximately 12 stewards could be delivered using this method (but not retrieved), leaving maybe 110 still in the office in central London, and 12 soggy stewards stranded in the Surrey countryside.

For some reason it seemed difficult to get approval for method number two, rent a couple of minibuses for steward delivery and collection. I would have thought that the guy in charge of the event would have had some budgetary control, but micromanagement prevailed, with the owner of the company having to consider and approve every financial transaction personally, despite never being in the office. I would like to think that if I owned a company, I would have hired staff trustworthy and with-it enough that I felt comfortable to let them control their own budgets, but maybe fuckwits are cheaper, who knows?

Unbelievably, on the day of the event, somehow at least 100 stewards managed to turn up at our office before 7am on a Sunday – a miracle of near-Biblical proportions in my estimation. This meant I had plenty of people to deliver, and got to spend an hour or so on each delivery not being able to answer the endless questions on exactly how and when people would get paid, all the while lamenting that I was being paid not much more than the most dribbling of the idiots I was ditching in the countryside, and considerably less than the so-called Team Leaders. On the subject of which, during the recruitment process, we had somehow managed to confuse enthusiasm for competence, and had landed ourselves with some of the most spectacularly clueless Team Leaders the world has ever seen. I am deeply ashamed of this fact, but unfortunately, with the pressure on, and the original crew dropping like flies, we had to appoint someone, and appoint them fast. I never said my HR skills were impeccable.

So, we were off, the race against the bikes had begun. Getting this lot into position would be a doddle after the mission to get them to the office….


Posted by: seasonaire | September 12, 2013

Back in the Saddle

Apologies for my extended absence, it would seem that the urge to write has once again returned to these shores, just in time for the season warm up.

Todays subject, because it is a subject particularly close to my heart right now, is exploitation. Jolly, I know.

A few days ago, I went for an interview with an events company I found on Gumtree who were looking for a Project Manager to run some bar-based events. Essentially, the proverbial ‘piss up in a brewery’. Part of the way through my interview, which I seemed to be acing, someone stuck his head around the door and asked “How are we going to do toilet breaks?”, about a completely different event. This is how I ended up ensconced in my current clusterfuck of a job.

It turns out, the boss didn’t think that my season of festival work, and 10 years of events management experience amounted to enough nous to run aforementioned piss up. I would like to see him manage a couple of thousand drunken and munted punters attempting to throw themselves into an unsafe muddy pool because it is 35 degrees in the shade. So, they asked me to work on a bike race on Sunday instead. Offended though I was, I can’t afford to turn paid work down at the moment, so I agreed to help out, in return for, what I thought would be reasonable compensation for getting up at 4am.

Later that night, I receive an email instructing me to come to work the next day, and every other day until next Tuesday. Having agreed to one day, I was a little surprised to find that they actually meant six. So far, so professional.

Upon arrival, I informed them that I would be unable to work on Thursday, something I had mentioned on the phone. About 2 hours later, I was told that it was all or nothing, and that I had better just go home at the end of the day in that case. I did have to point out, that there was a lot to do and they were unlikely to find someone to take over from me on a few hours notice and church mouse wages. Watched penny drop.

I was then given a contract to sign that indicated that I would be paid the princely sum of £8.50 an hour for organising and idiot proofing the entire event in four days. Rather less than the 12 pounds an hour that the Steward Managers would be getting, and not much more than the Stewards themselves, who are paid to just stand around doing sweet FA. Once again, I felt like waltzing out loudly proclaiming this company to be a joke, and once again, I remembered my bank balance. So, I swallowed my pride and signed the contract – adding a few spelling and grammar corrections to make myself feel superior, ha.

It is now half past 2 in the morning and I can’t sleep. There is a horrible feeling at the pit of my stomach that keeps on churning round and round, telling me that I should have walked out as soon as they asked me to cancel the job I had booked in on Thursday. A word of advice to employers out there; making your staff feel like they are being exploited is potentially going to result in some fairly embarrassing sabotage situations. Just saying.

Still, it is only six (long) days of mental torture, then six weeks of unemployment and I am off to Verbier once again, to frolic shamelessly in the hills. Take that London

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