My French-kiwi husband and I were on our OE travelling in the ubiquitous Kombi Van. The previous morning we had woken on a remote forest road in a quiet white world. Inside, under our duvet that I had brought from Wellington, each breath we had taken had iced up on the inside of the windows and frozen. We agreed it was time to find a Ski Resort and a live-in job.
Non conformists always, we had taken an insignificant road into the mountains avoiding major resorts, stopping in a tiny village square in the middle of nowhere. Marc went into the only large hotel. He returned triumphant. I was to be a femme de chambre and he a plongeur. “What’s a plongeur?” I asked, thinking it might be a diver. We soon found out it was a dishwasher/kitchen-hand.
Madame, La Patronne, thought Marc was terrific and he certainly had a way with her. As for me she clearly assumed I was of low intelligence because I was a colonial and my vocabulary was limited back then. This was hilariously illustrated when she asked me if I knew how to use the vacuum cleaner. I could not find the French words for; ”yes, but not this variety” so I said “No”. There followed an extremely amusing pantomime where she demonstrated to a person of very little brain what a vacuum cleaner was for and precisely how to use it. I remained expressionless.
Some weeks later she took me up to a bedroom to point out the “moutons” (fluff) under the beds that I had not cleaned. I shrugged. Leaving the room she returned with Marc and they both reprimanded me, demonstrating with fantastic pantomime their expectations of me.
I remained serene.