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Chalet Memories

 - the best thing about the chalet for me was as a 19-year old undergraduate (the first time) I met Old Members who were priests, barristers, civil servants, etc in very informal circumstances and learned a lot about the world that I wouldn’t otherwise have learned. I note that most of the photos you have of me are with people I didn’t know outside of the Chalet context. One teamed up with men who wanted to go on the same sort of walk in the full confidence that they would be good company.

– I saw the 1966 World Cup final in Geneva on the way to the Chalet. (I had seen most of the rest at Wembley, but muddled the dates or something.) To my disgust the Francophone Genevois all supported Germany, but congratulated me when England won. I hadn’t a clue how I was to get from Geneva to the Chalet – or even much of an idea as to where it was – but I met my Univ contemporary, Robert Boyd, in a lakeside café and we arrived in St. Gervais les Bains in some style in his open top sports car.

– The daughter of the hotel (Claudine, I think) was very pretty. One of our party, spotting a table tennis table (and an opportunity) asked her, “Voulez-vous jouer au pange-ponge?” The expression of troubled incomprehension on her face remains with me to this day.

– In an unreasonably lucky life the nearest I ever knowingly came to death was as part of the 1967 Chalet party. I was crossing a meltwater stream on a steep slope with a French OM when an avalanche started. For a couple of seconds I thought there was no chance of survival, but then the rocks only hit me on the thigh leaving me with severe bruising and shock. Large quantities of rock were being released all the time because the ice was melting back record amounts in a heatwave. Six other people died in similar circumstances that weekend.

– and what of Chalet Tennis, the mountain form of Real Tennis and tribute to the English ability to invent games for all circumstances? Does it still exist?

 

Lincoln Allison

(This was written as a response to a request for memories of the Chalet des Anglais on the Mont Blanc Massif used as a summer retreat by three Oxford colleges.)