Alison is excited by the wealth of stories that have been uncovered in her memory whilst attending Deborah’s most recent summer life writing course. She hopes to make creative writing in memoir or observer style part of her semi-retirement – if she can stop working.
The picture itself is so faded now that only I know what it really holds within its narrow pale pink frame.
Alison Quesnel, a self confessed workaholic, left the corporate world to review and change her life. A health issue helped her to focus more than she had intended and she is enjoying ticking things off her list of things she always wanted to do. Creative writing is one of them. This story of growing up is one of many she has experienced as an adult and even in her sixties she is expecting more of them.
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.
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