Friday, 24 August 2012

Hitchventure 2012: Day 5...

I woke up and couldn't breath!

I was gasping, squinting in the dark. I seriously couldn't breath! I could slightly breath out but not in! Oh My God! Asthma attack!

I was so confused and scared. I was also boiling hot. Pepe's apartment was darn hot, nice but pretty hot. I think this coupled with the amount I've had to smoke recently made me freak out. I started breathing long but volumeless breaths. Trying to work all of this out in the dark.

I got my breathing under control and grabbed a glass of water. What was that!?

The next instant my alarm was going off at 9am. Lie IN! I checked to make sure my lungs would function properly and slunk off to the shower. Ah what a shower, just the right temperature, nice pressure, fresh cold water to brush the toothy pegs. Actual heaven on earth is Pepe's bathroom. Pepe's sofa was the first time I'd slept inside in 4 days.

We both got ready and I declared "Pepe! That was a lovely shower, now lets go and I'll get breakfast!" He took me to a cheap pub he knew of which turned out to be a Weatherspoons. Bloody old weatherspoons though. The building was older than Buckingham palace and the design for the Clifton Suspension bridge was decided in the same room as me tucking in to my bacon, sausage and egg.

We chatted a bit more over breakfast and walked around Nelson Street where the majority of the festival was conducted. Huge pieces were strung up at every turn. This  piece of a black woman holding a baby was formed using parallel lines. Pepe said that this gave it a sort of 'Japanese Garden' feel to it. I think he was right and I'd never seen anything like this before.

It was time for Pepe to leave and we bid farewell to each other. I really needed to get out to the road and start flying my sign. I didn't know whether I was going to hitch home, south towards Bournemouth or anywhere. I thought I'd let the road decide.

I walked about a mile out of town to a petrol station and instantly spent 2 hours standing at the side of the road. There were plenty of cars passing, and they were only going about 20 miles per hour. I'd chosen a spot with loads of space to pull over, but no one was playing ball.

A guy approached and said "Listen mate, used to do alot of this back in the day, you'll be better off just up 'ere" I walked with him for 15 minutes whilst he told me about his days hitchhiking and that the spot he was taking me to was a gold mine. Plenty of traffic, slow pace and lots of room to pull over... Sounded just like where I was.

We got to a subway under a flyover and he pointed to where I needed to be. He'd already told me directions for how to get to his house if I had no luck, wanted to sit down, or even stay the night. A pretty nice bloke. But one who was drinking 'Special Brew' at 11:30 in the morning. Damnit Adam. Why do you get sucked in to this stuff!?

I stood at the sparsely populated, fast flowing section of the M32 with no suitable place for cars to stop. Mr Special had no idea what he was talking about. This was the worst place a hitchhiker could try and solicit a ride from...Ever! I trudged the 20 minute walk back to the Shell garage I'd come from. Lesson Learnt.. look for open cans of +7% alcohol before taking someones opinion as gold.

I stood for another hour and a half. Absolutely no one was even taking a whiff. I was holding a rather ambiguous 'East' sign as well. Nothing too specific. I gave up. I was tired, lonely and I wasn't sure of where I was going to sleep that night. A Megabus drove past and I wondered how much their £1 bus advert was true.

I pulled up the website and plugged in Bristol to London. I wasn't surprised to find that the journey was not a pound but was surprised at its cheap price. £5. I booked the 15:30 from Bristol town center, kind of ashamedly. It is a Hitchventure afterall and this was the first time I was going to PAY for any sort of transport.

The hitchventure is more about the free travel though. It's about meeting people, hearing their stories and experiences. One of the Spanish guys had said to me the night before at the Board Game night, "You can get a bus for £10". It was as if even to these CouchSurfers, who, I'd have thought would share the same mentality, the IDEA of hitchhiking was alien. This surprised me.

I used the remaining 2 hours of my stay in Bristol to check out the shops in Cabot Circus and soak up the glorious sun on a bench. The bus was on time and boarding was simple. I cosied in to my seat with Bob Marley in my ears, frantically googling on my phone for places to stay in London.

It was no use... For couchsurfing to work you need to be prepared and know what your doing weeks in advance. Hitchhiking doesn't lend itself nicely to Couchsurfing. You can never tell where you will be at any one time. Never knowing when you'll arrive somewhere.

I got to London and walked around Pimlico, admiring all of the very regal buildings. Wondering what scandalous behavior was going on inside those of the rich and famous.

I checked in with a couple of nearby hostels. Every where was sold out of the Large mixed dorms at £12 a room and wanted £50 for a twin private. I gave up. I walked back to Victoria and bought a ticket to Littlehaven.

I'd been away for 5 days, covered hundreds of miles and enjoyed every minute. It was an apt time to go home. The road had told me to go home.

I let on to Kerry, my girlfriend, that I was staying in London. "Don't sleep on the streets!" she pleaded. I played along, not telling her I was on my way home. I asked for a hug just as I got to the front door and she asked how she'd do that! "Come and open the door and you can"

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Hitchventure 2012: Day 4...

Rain rain go away. It woke me up... at 5:15!

I'd seen on the TV the night before that the rain was on its way but I atleast thought Id make it through the night ok. I dragged the tarpauline over me and rolled over. My hips always seem to hurt with these little foam camp mats and I couldn't get back to sleep. Baby wipe shower it was for me.

I trekked down the hill in the rain, bought a can of monster and a sausage roll from the Londis in Llanberis and sat waiting for the public toilets to get unlocked. That felt more laborious than waiting for hitches so I grabbed a bit of card from the Londis bin and set out. I was on the road and flying my 'East' sign by 6:45. Way too early. About 4 cars passed in an hour. Luckily Dug was in the 5th.

He was just on his way back from work. His friend had secured the civils contract of a stretch of road between Caernarfon and Porthmadog 6 years previous and the council paid them to conduct daily bat surveys on the local Hook Eared bat (?). It pretty much meant Dug had to walk a 3 miles stretch of road at sunrise and look for dead ones.

He was very informative. Apparently you can buy a bat detector! It works by picking up the sonar like sounds that bats use to navigate and, through their differing frequencies, the device then pops out a breed of bat. All of this was 'good for £140 a day!' or so I was assured. His Shiatsu Fall-apart told a different story.

Each town meant another tributary on to the A5 and more traffic and I was soon in Betws-y-coed. Hitching was slow. Drivers in Wales seemed to excuse them not giving you a ride by pointing in different directions and then holding their hands out through the windscreen . Then a G reg Golf rumbled past, slowed, braked and turned around in a car park. 

James and Gina turned around and shouted out 'Where you going?' I said 'whereva, England?'

They were going to Gloucester, just a few miles North of Bristol, my next destination. Awesome! I had considered hitching East to the motorways and then Service hopping back to the South East and home, but with a direct ride pretty much to my second option how could I decline?!

James played the most awesome compilation CD I think I've ever heard, I snapped a photo of the track listings for later. The reason they were driving from Wales down to Gloucester was that their friend, Tom, was on a walking adventure. He was walking around Wales, then hoping to go on to Ireland and Scotland, continually walking untill he raised £10,000. It was his 54th day and he'd raised about £200. Ouch!

To top it all off he had just had his pack stolen. The rats had been kind and un-tied his boots from it for him, but taken the pack and its contents. James and Gina were delivering a whole new pack with contents to him and were now on their way back.

I was knackered, sitting in the back of the car I started off my normal happy chappy self but I could sense I was starting to flake. We had a bit of a mad dash back as Gina had to be at work at 12:00. I suggested we jump on the M5 and James hooned it down the motorway dropping Gina off at 11:59! Just in time!

This is where Hitchhiking really does show people at their best. James was willing to drive 30 miles South to drop me in Bristol city centre and then drive back again. If you ask me that is humanity at its greatest.

I wandered round Bristol aimlessly for a few hours, surrounded by an enormous array of decent, well produced graffiti. Some were sprawled over 7 floors of office blocks and other high rise buildings. There was no way this was all done illegally. I later found out that this week was a festival devoted to Graffiti and that the best artists had been shipped in and had scaffolding erected to show off their skills.

The standard really was incredible. I've only really seen graffiti that is 'thrown' up in rushed minutes for fear of being caught.

This stuff was different. The artists had been drafted in, some paid, and time allocated without prying public or authoritarian interference. And it showed.

I still hadn't anywhere to sleep for that night. I'd seen on the map that there was a large green park just to the South-East but I didn't fancy another night under the stars, bat/sheep friends or not.

I sat in Maccy D's trawling the Couchsurfing listings for Bristol. I'd done the same the day before in Llanberis but I'd had no replies. I even posted in the 'Emergency Bristol Group' for people who arrived in Bristol and had no immediate accommodation.

I sent out about 30 'surfing' requests if you combine yesterdays and todays efforts. I didn't think I'd get a bite. I've never surfed before but I know from talking with the surfers I've had stay that it can be very hit and miss.

One profile stood out, a guy called Pat, and I sent him as humorous a request as I could, while still telling my plight. To my surprise he messaged back 30 minutes later saying that it wasn't ideal for me to stay and he was out of the house until 11pm at a dinner party. However he said that if push came to shove I wouldn't have to sleep on the streets.

This was encouraging and I continued to send request after request. I also clicked on the 'Activities' button. I've been invited to the Brighton and Hove CS Monthly Meetup and wondered whether Bristol organised similar events just on a whim. Voila! They DID. And it was tonite!

The Bristol Board Game Night was to be held at the Full Moon Backpackers Hostel. Perfect, Board games, company and a cheap(ish) bed if I could bare my wallet to stretch to it.

I sat in the garden of the bar staring down everyone who entered, eagerly expecting them all to be attending. Then Pepe strolled through and I instantly recognised his face as the organiser of the group from the site.

He walked over and extended his arm, obviously catching sight of my pack. Two others joined us shortly afterwards. Turned out all three were Spanish!

Now, when I read Board games I usually read Bored games. This night was not the case. We played such bizarre and interesting, thought provoking and skillful games that I wished I hadn't had the 2 beers before they arrived.

One involved a sort of snap competition coupled with a wooden Totem, another used little runes with numbers on and another a kind of pawn moving game but you could put up walls. It was awesome. I'm sure to buy the Totem pole one. 'Speed Jungle'

We played and laughed for a few hours until Pepe looked at his watch and said he had to leave for the gym at 22:30. I had succumbed to getting a room at the Hostel. £15, not too bad and it was the cheapest in town. I messaged Pat and thanked him for his offer but I was sorted.

Just as everyone was leaving the bar they all congregated at the end of the table and nattered in Spanish. I thought they were just chatting and supped on the half of cider that Hector had given me. Then Pepe came back. "I can't leave you here in the hostel. Will you come and stay at mine?" Sure. I'll stay, but I could sense some sort of hesitation in his voice. He explained that he was going to the gym and would call me in an hour.

He rang exactly an hour later and we walked to his apartment which was very nice. He explained his caution as he knew I was a hitchhiker. In Spain hitching used to be fairly common untill the 80's and now pretty much no one hitches. (Sounds a bit like England) This made him uneasy with my motives for being in Bristol and wanting to get a Couchsurfing host.

We chatted about politics, London riots, Spanish corruption and the importance of CSing untill about 12:00. I was knackered. Up at 5:15 with the rain and all. He offered the comfiest sofa in the world and I'm pretty sure as he said good night and shut his bedroom door I was out like a light. Good ... Night

Final day over at Day 5

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Hitchventure 2012: Day 3...

I woke up groggy. I'd had a tough night.

When I was rigging my tarp up I didn't notice the little white clouds with black legs walking around. Now it was dark and I was trying to sleep I really did notice them. Sheep, everywhere. They were noisey, I could hear them pulling the grass out, a couple baaaa'ed all night and I swear one of them let out a prolonged, human sounding, fart. One tripped up on my guy rope and there was a large commotion as I shoo'd them away wearing my boxers and a head torch.

Shower was awesomsauce as per usual. Had to pay £1 for 7 minutes though. Then I was free. It was ascent time! I ate a huge breaky in 'Pete's Eats'. A caffi (Welsh spelling) but more like a hostel. Obviously taken up the slack of the official YHA property. Big, cheap food, communal areas to be used 'as and when' by scouts, groups etc. and showers at £3 a go.

Asking in a few shops, mountaineering outlets etc if they could look after my bag for a couple of quid revealed that the "No win, no fee, lose my stuff and I'll sue you" mentality had hit Wales. All I wanted was somewhere to leave my pack while I went up the mountain. A small hotel was obliging 'but if anything happens we accept no responsibility'. Yes, yes I gathered that was coming.

I'd read that there was an 80% chance of a clear summit today, and it looked like it was going to be true. Lovely fluffy clouds soared over, casting shadows on the  surrounding mountains.

I'd done it again though. with the big 'I am'. Snowdon. Pfft piece of cake. Far from it. I'd even taken the least steep route! Llanberis path runs from the town of Llanberis over a 4.5 mile route to the summit. But I was panting and sweating and spluttering. A sign of my bad fitness and the need to give up smoking!

My back was the worst. my shirt was drenched. I'd, sensibly, worn a non-wik-away super-duper mountaineering shirt. Some people call them I'm-going-out-on-the-town-not-a-mountain shirt. And this collected ALL of the sweat my body could produce. It was disgusting. As I was passing people they would wait a minute and then murmur, presumably to their comrades, about the big dark patch on my back.

Oh well, screw it, I'll never see them again. That's what travel makes you appreciate. Your not in the business of impressing, you don't really give two hoots what anyone thinks. It's pretty selfish business.

Then at about 800 meters in came the clouds. Big fluffy clouds that soaked anything and anyone in them. Luckily I'd bought the 'cheapest mac in the shop' and pulled it out of its stuff sack, tearing the sack in the process.

So now I was sweating on the inside and getting pretty much rained on on the outside. wonder if there was any point in the jacket... Wasted £24.99.

I was gasping for a drink when I got to the top. Gave the Cairn a hug and hurried in to the cafe to shelter from the wind. No cold tap to be found. None in the toilets and none of the staff would fill it up. I bought a snickers, ate it, then bought another one and munched that down.

If I'm really honest with you I was ready to get the train down there and then. I was shagged, 2 nights of sleeping rough, a party with a heard of sheep during one, and walking 1085 meters up a mountain in a cloud had sucked it out of me.

I queued for the ticket, plastic debit card in hand. 2.5 hours to wait and £10 to get down! Screw this. I huffed out of the cafe back in to the fluff and started down Llanberis path. I'm glad I did. It was no where near as hard as the climb up. I was using bizarre new muscles very rarely used. Walking-down-hill muscles. And I was facing the scenery. not a path of rock and gravel.

Grabbing my bag I spoke with the guy behind the counter of the hotel who was intrigued with what I was doing. I explained and urged him to grab a piece of card and try it. He told me about a hotel that served £2 pints with free internet. I ran till my little heart could pump no longer. Lager

I ended up pretty drunk off of my £10 in the bar. The sign of how little I was eating. I wandered around Llanberis and found a quaint old church with its gates locked. I scampered over the dry stone wall and noseyed round. Seemed like no one was there and what looked like the perfect hobo alcove in a side door to the right. Out of sight and out of mind. I fashioned a little bed as best I could, tarp at the ready incase it rained.

Then I just sat there, listening, watching the clouds and generally trying to take my mind off the fact that I was hunkering down in the grounds of a church with a graveyard!

I'm in no way superstitious or have any belief in the afterlife blah blah blah but something just didn't feel right. It was probably the thought of getting caught. But hey, what's the worst they can do? Ask me to move on?

I turned my netbook on to chill out a bit with a film. My choice: [Rec], The Devil Inside or Machete! Nice one Adam. Only horror films.

Then all of a sudden the organ chimed up inside the church! Not just random notes but whole scores of music. I was nervous as hell. I was now snuggled down outside a door with god knows how many people inside practicing the organ!

It was played well though. I have plenty of videos of it! They'll be coming later. They practiced for about an hour and then I heard shuffling, banging and finally a big ole lock turning. Phew.

I had trouble sleeping the whole night. The concrete wasn't particular comfortable, the temperature was alot cooler than the previous night and whenever I opened my eyes I could see 4 or 5 bats flying around the alley next to me.... Oh god

Click here to carry on to Day 4

Monday, 20 August 2012

Hitchventure 2012: Day 2...

I woke up really late. The sun was already up and it was about 8 o'clock. A lie-in if you ask me.

But I felt good, turns out stinging nettles make good bedding when laid on. I brushed my teeth and packed up, putting my long johns on over my shorts to get out of the wood alive and without big nettle bumps all over me.

At the services I found a shower... BLISS. Showers are awesome. If you haven't ever been without one, try. You will fall in love with the next one you see. So I stood there for ages, soaking up the hot water, I felt so good after and stood outside the services with a sign for West, sheepishly asking a few punters who were exiting.

Peter was a Doctor before retiring and offered to take me 20 miles down the road to Shrewsbury. He knew of a service station there and said it'd be ideal. I'm always cautious of taking other peoples opinions of hitching spots as, usually, they have never hitched themselves and so cannot judge whether a particular place will be good or not. Peter on the other hand was spot on. It was on a busy junction and had a lay-by on the road West which is what I wanted to take.

I waited about 30 minutes with no bites before the heavens opened. It chucked it down too, not rain, more sheets of water, like a waterfall. So I sat outside the Esso garage feeling like Jay or Silent Bob outside their convenience store. I still flew my sign. 'West'

Surprisingly I heard a shout from a little Suzuki something. "Where you off to?" came a weird, Devonshire/Welsh accent. Vicky was coming back from V Fest and she looked it! I explained I wanted to get to Snowdon eventually but anywhere in between would be good. She laughed and said she could take me to the bottom but she wasn't driving up!

So we sat for an hour an a half, driving down the A5, a beautiful road, and chatted about marriage, child birth and other bizarre subjects. It was cool. She rang her husband who had the thickest Welsh accent I've ever heard, so much so I couldn't understand him. She thought that her picking up a hitchhiker would be an issue but, I think, he wasn't too fussed and more concerned with which baby pudding to buy their 6 month old for dinner.

I was in Llanberis by 2pm. Sat at the bottom of Snowdon and in the rain. My cheap £4 Tesco umbrella had broken and I was getting wet. The road to the Youth Hostel was about half a mile of 30 - 40 degree uphill that killed my legs with my pack on my back. I was treated to a disheartening note on the door of the Hostel. "Sorry no vacancies tonite". Damnit. I walked around the building looking for an alcove or even a pair of trees where I could string up my tarp.

I found quite a large room on the basement level which had chairs stacked neatly in the corner. It must have been a meeting room or something similar, but it was empty, and that's what mattered to me. That was my haggling weapon.

I waited around outside as the weather improved, topping up the tan on my neck! I began to become curious as to how 'youthful' this youth hostel was as reams of 40 somethings with glasses arrived or departed from the keypad controlled door. I personally thought the YHA had a rule that it's accommodation was suitable for youngsters (under 30) who needed cheap, no thrills accommodation to help them in their travels.

Well it turns out it isn't. Not his particular Youth Hostel atleast. It's more of a hotel i'm afraid to say. To be booked well in advance by 40 - 60 years olds or families with young children. I was quite disappointed when the Warden said I could not have a space, even when I notion-ed towards the, seemingly, disused meeting room. They could not spare a space big enough for a young traveller to lie down. I guess times have changed.

I continued up the mini mountain road to a campsite about 200 meters away. I explained that I had little money and needed somewhere to string my tarp for the night. "Your a student right?" Said the farmer with another thick Welsh accent. "Erm ... I can be?!" and he charged me £5 instead of the usual 10er.

I fashioned a pretty terrible tarp setup and hurled my bivvi under. I ate a whole load of Bombay mix whilst I watched 'Kurt and Courtney' (Documentary) on my netbook and swatted at the hundreds of midges that flew around my head.

I'd had a mixed day. I'd made huge progress hitching wise with a direct, 1 ride, stint to Llanberis, but my high was ruined by the apparent loss in morals of the YHA. Still nothing could be worse than shooting yourself because of a crazy wannabe rockstar misses.

Plus all I had to do was lean out of my tarp to look at this! Tomorrow, I walk up it!

Keep going for Day 3

Hitchventure 2012: Day 1...

So that was a bit embarrassing! A full blown mental meltdown quite publicly on VagabondingAdam Facebook account! Sorry about that!

I really don't know what came over me. I was sat at Pease Pottage for a good hour and a half. There were no takers for my 'M25 East' sign. Just a few good people asking if I wanted to go West, towards Heathrow.

All of a sudden I just freaked. There were a few trucks in the truck park from the continent. An Albanian, Lithuanian and others I couldn't work out. None of the drivers looked particular nice, clean or in anyway friendly. I started to worry about the channel crossing. What would it be like? Would I ever get a lift? I'd read loads on the internet before leaving and was bold as brass sitting at the PC at home, but now I was out there, really doing it. I was having a Britney moment.

It all got a little too much. I rang Kerry and urged her to bring me the Collins Handy Britain map as I only had the European one. Europe was out. I couldn't do it. My gut feeling told me not to and with Hitching, that is what you listen to. Not your heart or even your brain sometimes, but your gut.

I freaked a tiny bit more while she drove to me and ended up sitting in Crawley park while the car had some work done in the garage, grimacing through my teeth and audibly moaning at my disappointment. I had a chat with Kerry and she thought it was because of my control freak nature. She's probably right. There was just too many things that were out of my control. Language, ferry, places I'd never heard of, let alone knew where they were geographically. I would be totally removed from everything.

I rang my Mum (Yes I know, pissy girl again) and texted a few good mates. It was back on. Screw Europe with your funny voices and unknown places. Great Britain here we come.

Kerry dropped me back out to Pease Pottage and I proudly span my 'M25' sign with glee. This is what Hitching is about! Joy. There were 2 female hitchikers just round the corner. They wanted to get IN to London and not around so we agreed I could hitch in my spot and pass on any rides headed in. It took no longer than 20 minutes and I was in a car and on my way.

I got to Oxford services in one ride with a nice lady who was quite high up in a pyramid sounding business. She tried her hardest to get me to sign up but I've dabbled with Ponzi schemes before and it only produces losers. I entertained her babble though and she got me a hell of the way up the road.

Mark and Carly were next to pick me up. And in a magical film makers moment it was all caught on camera. They had just been to a lavish wedding in London with boating trips on the Thames and a full 3 course meal for 150 people!

They were bound for Manchester, where they lived, and were able to drop me off on the M6 just after Birmingham. Sam gave me a short trip down the road to Telford services where the sun started to go down. I'd travelled 180 miles in under 4 and a half hours. Quite an achievement!

I found a small wood next to the services and got stung to death getting in! I lay down my bivvi and didn't even set up a tarp. I was confident it wouldn't rain.

Head over to Day 2

Friday, 17 August 2012

Biggest Adventure Yet...!

Hitchventure: Going South

I know it sounds crazy, I know it probably isn't advised... but its different. From tomorrow morning I will be hitchhiking to Barcelona, Spain ... or trying at least!

 I'm rocking a new quiff hairstyle courtesy of Mumma Vaga and have my best-est cheery chappy face on to try and get as many quick rides as I can, but deep down I ... am ... pooping it.

At the end of the day I've chosen to do this.

I'd like to go back to Barcelona. I have visited once before and it was a long weekend of drunken haziness so I'd like to re-visit with a clearer head.

Having said that the main goal (If there is one) of the trip is to get to a night club called Razzmattazz. It's basically clubbing heaven on earth. 5 warehouses all joined together, each playing a different genre of music. Cheap drinks, tables made out of concrete, rammed with up to 5000 people. The video below is probably a bad example of why I want to go back...

The 'goal' is very loose. If I don't make it to Barcelona and end up sleeping in Newhaven Ferry port for 8 days and coming back I will still be happy. The whole idea is to get back out there hitchhiking, exploring and interacting with everything/one in the world.

I've managed to amass a pile of probably unnecessary items of clothing and essentials for a ten day trip. I have to be back on English Terra firma, and preferably home, by 28th August as Kerry has an amazing couple of days planned camping and safari-ing at Longleat House from the 29th.

Whilst my pack and its contents looks big, it only weighs a mere 10kg which is more than comfortable.  
So if your anywhere between Horsham and Barcelona and you fancy giving us a lift, let me know... otherwise pray for fast, frequent, quality rides and keep checking back to see my progress!

P.S. Check out the mutha of all scribes! A Sharpie Magnum!

Friday, 10 August 2012

Natives Chalet cookery course...

Kerry and I just got back from the Natives Chalet cookery course held at St Teresa's girls boarding school near Effingham, Dorking.

Boarding school accommodation
To say I want to go back is an understatement. Our course instructors were brilliant. Tony was a 50, possibly 60-something who jacked in a near 6 figure salary in London to pursue a better lifestyle and was now on his 9th season working in the Alps! He floats about in the summers, helping out at his friends' place, fishing and camping in the Highlands of Scotland and running a few cookery courses. Sounds like a life of bliss!

Dave had worked as a resort manager and was on hand to answer questions about what it was like to work a season. Unfortunately for him a mortgage and sprogs means he's had to bow out of seasonal work.

Going to a boarding school was a weird thing to start. We were allocated small boarding rooms to live in. When I tried piling in to Kerry's single room with her Tony pointed out that it was a single bed and I may be more comfortable in a room of my own!

Bread crumbed Fish, Beef Bourguignon and Carrot and coriander soup
I'd perused through the Natives Chalet cook book before. I even bought a copy! (Only for them to make it free online :() So I kind of already knew what to expect and had practiced some of the recipes at home.

The days involved splitting up in to teams of 3 or 4. These teams would then work together cooking parts of meals, cakes for afternoon tea and desserts which we all ate around a communal table and discussed.

After afternoon tea (16:30) we then had a bit of down time where we watched a few films and generally milled about. The team who were responsible for cooking dinner that night then had to be in the kitchen by 18:45 to serve dinner at 20:00.
Human Buckaroo, Tom is under all of that!
As can be expected from potential seasonnaires there was quite a bit of drinking involved. Vino seemed to be the tipple of choice amongst the other guys and I'd dread the pint of red, white, vodka monster and beer that would come round to me during a certain drinking game :0

One night a top notch bloke called Tom managed to neck his bottle of cheap plonk quicker than I can down a strawpedo. Much antics followed including quite a large amount of smelly sick, until he finally passed out on the sofa. Then a huge game of human Buckaroo unfolded including lit table lamps.

Mine and Kerry's graded meal
The week culminated in Kerry and I teaming up to cook a proper 3 course meal of our choosing. We learnt that when planning an evening dinner there is more to consider than just what to cook. We had to take in to account colours of each course and their similarity to the other courses, colours used within each course and whether they fit with other ingredients. The starters shouldn't be too close to the main ie Salmon triangles to start followed by poached salmon for main course.

We decided upon: Seasoned Tomato and Mozzarella on a garlic crouton with Basil for starter. Main was Lamb chops with a homemade rosemary and red current sauce, Gratin Dauphinoise potato with Sauteed French beans and glazed carrot batons. All of this was followed by Gooey chocolate brownie with ice cream and a sticky chocolate fudge sauce.

Stunning array of meals produced by everyone
It was a pleasure to cook with Kerry. I'd been paired up with some really nice other wannabe chalet hosts but it was good to know that Kerry and I can work efficiently together without getting all Gordon Ramsey at each other! The final graded meal went without a hitch. We were both really pleased with the final result. Timings all went well, nothing was burnt/under cooked and the presentation was spot on.

The whole meal was then tasted and graded by the instructors whilst we cleared the kitchen. We achieved an A grade for all three courses! A massive boost and proof that we can cook to a high standard. When we finally got to try it it was stone cold so wasn't too appealing but if judged by smell and looks alone I'd have given it an A too!

The people really did make the course though. Everyone was 18 and fresh out of 6th form. I felt like a Grandad at a christening. But everyone was so nice. There were no spats or agro, everyone got along and if we weren't cooking or eating we were chugging the beers or lolling in front of a film. I really hope to meet some of the guys and girls again out on a ski resort and it really would be a pleasure if I was fortunate enough to get to work with any of them.

Thanks for such an awesome week everyone!

Skiworld and Alpine Elements are two ski tour operators who run chalets and hotels in Europe. Kerry and I were both able to have 1:1 interviews with the recruiting managers from both companies and felt they went well. Fingers crossed we are offered a job with either. Hopefully our cooking this week impressed them.

Are you thinking of the Natives course? Go for it!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

A mini pre-travel freakout...

In 3 months, to this day, I won't have a job...

I'll have no income whatsoever, no routine, security, structure.

Supping a beer with some good friends
Kerry and I got back from Global Gathering dance festival on Sunday. Out of the four times we've been this was easily the best. A combination of good, hot weather, friends new and old, along with (in my opinion) the best line-up of artists made it one to cherish in the memory bank for years to come.

Festivals have become an integral part of 'Summer' for me and I can only titillate with my appetite as to where we may go next year whilst we are on mainland Europe.
Kerry and I at Global Gathering

Two senior technicians at work have both taken particular interest in my plans. They are men to be respected. Knowledgeable beyond belief and those sort of people that you know would make a good Dad. Always guiding, steering but never pushing. There's a poignant question that they keep asking me independently of each other.
'There's no chance of you waiting another year then?'
Whilst the travelling seed was planted a few years ago, a change at work definitely pushed me to make the final decision. Now, however, that change seems to not apply anymore. I'm enjoying my job again and it's a damn good job. I'm too committed in myself to stay though. Travel is something that I need to do and definitely in the very near future.

Still, for these wise men to ask the question, makes me take a step back.

A good friend of ours, Dave 'Rave' of 'No Fixed Abode', left for his perpetual globe trekking trip last week. His first stop being a hot target of mine, India. We celebrated with a typically English curry and I don't think anyone can remember getting home after drinking the town dry. It was an obviously emotional meal for Dave and it made me think about the enormity of the situation he (and soon I) would be facing.

All these emotions and thoughts seemed to finally rise in to a huge cacophonic crescendo last night. I had cooked a mushroom risotto and had a few glasses of wine with Dad before going to my room. Kerry was on her first night shift and I sat on the edge of my bed not knowing what to do. Thoughts running through my head like stampeding wildebeest through a savanna. Doubt, fear, worry all culminating in a 20 minute blubbering mess.

I lay on my bed crying. I don't cry much ... if ever really. Not since Marley and Me came out I don't think! But now I was crying, really really crying. All because I was scared. I was thinking of what it would be like to not nipple cripple my Dad whenever I got home. Not to wind up my Mum on controversial subjects until she gives up with a hug. Not to reminisce with my beautiful friends about adventures we'd been on, mistakes we'd made, laughs we'd shared.

I wonder how I'm going to cope. Not being able to do normal things. Not being able to ring my mate up for a pint. Not being able to confide in my Mum. Not being able to ask advise.

These are all things to overcome I guess. Mainly fear ... lots of fear ... It should come ... But its difficult.

(PS. Don't take the mick cos I'm a pissy girl!)

Ever been scared? Like really scared? Leave a comment below