I was lucky to go Brooksbank School in Elland, a West Yorkshire town now described as an area of multiple deprivation. Happily, growing up there, my friends and I were unaware of this. We lived in a strong community with our extended families. And at school, we had some great teachers, the wonderful Tim Enright, our Latin teacher. Our art teachers supported us to run a Film Club. And music played a big part in school life.
And then there were the sports teachers. I was hopeless at sport and hated it but Brian Campsall, who went on to become an international rugby referee, had the inspiration to arrange annual ski trips to the Youth Hostel in Aviemore. And this is how I learned to ski.
My very first skiing holiday to the Alps was to Samoens, a beautiful town in Haute Savoie. This was a revelation: blue skies, powdery snow, the most amazing scenery, views of Mont Blanc, great food. It was a fantastic experience, again made possible by some great teachers at Brooksbank.
About fifteen years ago, I went back to the area with my husband, and we’ve been back pretty much every year since. Samoens is not so much a ski resort as a beautiful town linked to a huge ski area. Its tag line is ‘A place to fall in love’, and it is.
Our latest visit, just before lockdown, made me fall in love with the Samoens and Haute Savoie a little more. The town was hosting an outdoor photography exhibition celebrating the lives of the region’s centenarians. Beautiful photographs, each with a couple of simple lines providing touching, amusing, heart-warming glimpses into the lives of local people. The themes were around community, respecting the landscape, loss, friendship and kindness.
The exhibition was a gift from Pochat & Fils. Pochat & Fils, local cheesemakers from neighbouring Le Grand Bornand, had also achieved their centenary. It was powerful to see a company celebrate an important milestone by focusing on its community through art. It was beautiful, moving and inspiring.