Monday, 20 August 2012

Tale As Old As Time

I once read that the most commonly used word in the English language is ‘time’.  It’s not surprising really, is it? Time controls everything and everyone- it’s one of the rare things that even Gary Barlow has no power over. I’d be willing to bet that you have recently wished that you could slow it down, speed it up, jump forward in it, and rewind it, haven’t you?  

So even if we could control time, would we know what to do with it? Perhaps we should just accept it for what it is.

The cast of my favourite musical advise the audience that you should savour the present because- apart from death and paying taxes- everything in life is only for now. They remind us that we can make it through the hard times because they won’t last forever, and that we should appreciate the good times for the same reason.

Unfortunately none of this makes me feel any better about my latest argument with time. In the next few weeks I am going to have to once again say goodbye to my latest adventure and the set of characters that have made it so amazing.

It feels as though it was only five minutes ago that I was writing about my heartbreak at leaving Ireland and now here I am, devastated as once again time takes over and moves me on- this time from France.

Anyone who has ever seen or spoken to me in the total of six months that I have spent in this beautiful resort in Loire Valley will tell you that to say that I enjoy my job is a huge understatement. Last year I was told during my end-of-season appraisal that it was ridiculous how happy I was- that everyone should be a little bit miserable when they are at work.

Now I’m not saying that there’s nothing I would change about my life here in France. My little princess arms were not designed for the long-distance carrying of heavy barrels/planks of wood/inflatable canoes. Nor was my bladder designed to live more than thirty seconds from the nearest toilet. In an ideal world I would have more than two minutes of internet access a week, my phone would work somewhere other than the one tree a five minute walk from my bedroom, and I would be able to get to the supermarket more often than once a month.

But, if time were willing to bargain with me, I would happily put up with all of the things that I complain about on a daily basis and stay here until February. I would continue to build arms to rival Popeye, live with my constant need for the toilet, and learn to love my repetitive and somewhat malnutritious diet.

Because- I remind myself as my sweaty body drops the huge canoe on the floor for the fifth time, waving to the three children who have been shouting my name for the past thirty seconds and smiling happily at the old couple walking past- some people don’t love their job ever, let alone for eight of the nine hours a day.

Yesterday afternoon I was skipping- yes, skipping- through the campsite with a huge smile on my face. I had a black nose and whiskers from my morning spent as a tiger, and spikes around my eyes from my afternoon as a dinosaur. When I arrived at the tent, Flynn Ryder- my colleague, housemate and new favourite person- put a La Bumpa on my head.

For those of you who are not familiar with La Bumpas they are very unflattering white and green helmets that fasten underneath your chin with Velcro. Their official use is to protect the wearer’s head during water activities such as canoeing and raft building but I, along with most of our guests, suspect that they are in fact designed simply to make the user look ridiculous in their holiday photos.

 As I stood outside the tent dressed as a tiger and a dinosaur, La Bumpa resting on my head and genuine smile fixed on my face, a guest looked over at me and laughed.

“You have a great life, don’t you?”

As he said it, I pictured my friends back home.

Two of my friends got married last weekend. Four others are celebrating their wedding anniversaries next month. Many have jobs in London: traders, legal secretaries, PAs. Most of my uni friends are teachers. Several have had babies. Lots have bought houses.

What did I do today?

I woke up this morning to the sound of Flynn doing his vocal exercises: a silly thing that we do in the morning as a result of watching too much of The Big Bang Theory. I went to the shop to buy us each a Pain Au Raisin and spent the next ten minutes being taught how to pronounce Pain Au Raisin. I dressed up as a tiger and decorated the tent like a jungle. I sang songs from The Lion King, did a silly chant about Romeo and Juliet, played ‘Lion, Lion, Hyena’ and ‘Tiger Cub’, and made my own snake. I spent the majority of my lunch break running away from Flynn as he attempted to blow raspberries on my ridiculously ticklish skin, before returning to work to help build a raft.

Following raft building I spent fifteen minutes defending myself and my team as the other (very competitive) instructors argued that we must have cheated because we won. I then proceeded to dress up as a dinosaur and stomp around the campsite roaring at the top of my voice and looking for The Missing Dinosaur Egg.  

My day involved the phrases ‘no we don’t eat bumblebees’, ‘I normally use a cauldron’ and ‘no, England isn’t the biggest planet but good guess.’

We have serious discussions about whether it would be better to live in space or under the sea; we refer to each other using superhero codenames and we sometimes have whole conversations in film quotes.

On our lunch breaks we go to the lake or the pool, the free gym or the bar. We spend our evenings having barbecues, watching the evening shows or doing party dances. We play a ridiculous number of games of Pool and we spend the majority of our time dressed up as endless characters from pirates, clowns and cowboys to detectives, aliens and wizards.

I spend so much time with people under the age of eleven that when Flynn hurt himself this morning I called him a silly sausage, rubbed it better and told him he was a brave soldier. Flynn is twenty years old.

I beamed up at the guest and answered: “I’ll grow up one day.”

But the whole exchange got me thinking.  

For a start it made me consider the differences between my life and the lives of the majority of my friends.

When is the right time to grow up? Should I have grown out of my pirate accent now and taken on a more serious, office-appropriate one?

Should I swap wandering around the pool for waltzing up the aisle? Should I give up acting like a child to have my own?

I considered how my friends feel about their lives and considered how I feel about mine, and found that time appears to affect everyone differently. The majority of my friends love their grown up lives. They love the money, their relationships, their independence and the direction in which time is sending them. Meanwhile I love my child-like lifestyle. I love the lack of responsibility, the fun and the memories that I am creating.

My colleagues Flynn, Lumiere and Peter Pan are of varying ages surrounding mine, and all feel the same about their lives as I do about my own: reassuring me that time isn’t running out, that as long as I, and those around me, are happy, that’s all that matters.

The exchange also got me reflecting on the wonderful summer that is soon to end.

 When I told people that I was to return to the job and the resort that made me so happy last year I was warned that it wouldn't be the same. That I might ruin last year’s memories and regret it.

I decided against thinking about it too much. The way I saw it was that this is a place and a job that made me so happy last year: returning is guaranteed happiness.

As you already know from reading the beginning of this entry- I was right.

I have been just as happy this year, have met just as amazing people and have made just as special memories. From out-of-the-mouths-of-babes moments to wish-I-had-the-camera moments, singing, dancing and laughing moments to ground-swallow-me-up moments, this is a summer that will stay with me forever and that I will treasure until I’m as old as Beauty and the Beast’s Crazy Old Maurice.

Here are a few examples of why…

1.     Sport-themed Pub Golf: The Camping Edition.
As soon as Lumiere heard that Flynn Ryder was turning twenty whilst we were here, she sprang into action to organise everyone into enjoying themselves. For those of you who were not already aware, the staff accommodation here is made up of two rows of tents directly opposite each other: creating what Lumiere refers to as Staff Village. Each tent contains two members of staff who share a kitchen and live area but have their own bedroom.
On Flynn’s birthday each tent was required to choose a pub-style name for their establishment, offer one drink to each member of staff, and decorate the tent according to the theme of the name. For example Lumiere, being French, opened the tent that she shares with Nala as The Champagne Chateau: decorating the walls with huge pictures of old castles and offering champagne to each member of staff.
Every person, at Flynn’s request, dressed as a sportsperson and proceeded to go to each tent, drink the beverage offered as soon as possible, pose for pictures and move on.
Once every drink had been consumed the excited party moved to the bar where everyone proceeded to dance together until the lights were turned on and the floor was being swept around us.
 My memories of this night involve a lot of laughing, and I have no doubt that the pictures will continue to make me smile into my eighties.

2.       Killer.
It was a beautiful Monday afternoon. I was wandering past The Champagne Chateau when my name was screamed and I was asked to go over to Lumiere and pick three pieces of paper from three cups in her room. Continuing with the theme of organised fun, Lumiere had decided to start a game of Killer. Each member of staff followed the same pattern as me, leaving them holding three pieces of paper: one naming a person within the team, another naming a location, and the third naming a piece of equipment. We were required to ‘murder’ our named person in the stated location with the piece of equipment. We had twelve days to do it in without being murdered ourselves. Once we were murdered we passed on our own task to our murderer.
Flynn helped me to murder Rafiki in the lake with a spoon within three days. Set on winning, I was extra careful about where I went and with whom, when one day- five days into the game- a package arrived for me. Eeyore insisted that I go to pick it up from reception as he picked up his washing tokens. I had my suspicions, but it was Eeyore. He looked up at me with his huge, sad eyes and uttered those fateful words: ‘I’ll have to go on my own then.” Guilt kicked in- as the manipulative donkey had known that it would- and I went with him.

He murdered me in reception with a flag.

I haven’t yet found the strength to forgive him, but I’m thankful every day that I’m living with people who spend their spare time like this.

3.       The Gunge.
As part of my job every fortnight we are required to hold a charity event to raise money for a good cause. This week someone thought that it would be a great idea for the guests to be able to bid on the opportunity to throw gunge over the instructor of their choice.
Now I’ll be honest- being the princess that I am I thought that the guests would spare me the pain, humiliation and smell, and vote for the bigger, competitive boys.

They didn’t.

Instead they thought that it would be hilarious to see noodles dripping from my nose and my hair filled with rotten tomatoes.

The guests paid €35 to see Flynn and I covered in a concoction made up of raw eggs, mould, noodles, tinned tomatoes and old jam.

I washed my hair three times and still brushed some tomato out of it this morning.

This is perhaps not my favourite memory but one that had to be mentioned nonetheless.

All in the name of charity :)

So as I pack up my tent and prepare myself to say goodbye to my lovely Flynn, Lumiere, Peter Pan and the other characters who have made my adventure so exciting, I’m beginning to compile a list of the things that I’m most going to miss…
     Peter Pan greeting me every morning with ‘You look amazing today! Belle, you are fantastic and today is going to be a good day.”

2.       The hilarious things that children say. From dinosaurs being around a month ago to B*witched being from the olden days, I’ve heard it all and am always in suspense about what’s going to come out next. When I asked the children this morning which three things they would want on their own planets, one child responded that he would take a spanner, some goggles and a carrot. Ah to be four again…

3.       Lumiere using the patch of grass right next to my tent as a toilet. There’s nothing like bare body parts pressed up against your window to make you choke on your dinner…

4.       Goofy’s dancing. We have been lucky enough to have Goofy grace our campsite just for the last few weeks and I cannot stress how happy his presence makes me. One of the funniest people I have ever met, he moves like nobody I have ever seen before and will no doubt never see again. I will remember them forever.

5.      Flynn Ryder. He has been my colleague, housemate, best friend and partner in crime. He’s been a constant source of laughter, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to chew off and an excellent chef. I couldn’t have coped without him.

6.       Standing at the side of the lake and looking over it to the bar and the beach. It provides the most beautiful picture and is my favourite place in the whole world. Standing there reminds me how lucky I am to be here and how thankful I am that this is the direction my life has taken me in.

It’s not all beautiful views and happy dancing though. Here are the things that I’m not going to miss….

1.       Listening to Stacy’s Mom blaring out from Flynn’s playlist all day long. I wake up in the night with that song in my head now. After September I never need to hear it again.

2.       Having to go on a trek just to get to the toilet. Those of you living in a house with a toilet (and I would imagine that’s most of you) don’t realise just how lucky you are.

3.        Realising in the shower that my towel is back in my tent.

4.        Acting surprised and impressed when guests come up the name ‘Titanic’ for their raft. Very original.

5.        French opening times. The shop is only open between eight and twelve thirty, then four and seven (the exact hours that I am at work), the restaurants in the nearest town are only open Wednesday to Saturday, and almost every other day is a bank holiday.

Despite all this, as I’m sure you can tell, I have absolutely loved my second summer here in paradise and am so sad that time has crept up on me again and is forcing me to leave.
I have to remember that I will always have the memories, and that the next adventure will no doubt be just as magical.

Especially since it’s in Disneyworld!

That’s right; on 12th February 2013 I am moving to Disneyworld, Florida for twelve whole months.

So time- you may be able to push me out of France, to change my appearance and to make me ridiculously sentimental.

But as long as I continue to meet wonderful characters like Flynn, Lumiere and Peter Pan, you will never make me grow up.

And there’ll be plenty of those in Disneyworld- right? :)

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