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Author's Chapter Notes:
This one by Alison H

The Chalet School
The Gornetz Platz
Canton of Bern
Switzerland

17th December 195x

Dear All,

Well, this will be my second Christmas in the Bernese Oberland, but this year I am back at the main branch of the Chalet School, which moved here from England a few months ago. It has been a very busy term; but I like to be occupied, and I certainly always have plenty to do here! However, the school will be closed over the festive period, and so I’ll be free to spend Christmas Day with my friend Anna.

The people for whom Anna works live right next door to the school, and so she and I are able to see each other all the time now. It’s wonderful to have one of my old friends here, and to have someone to talk to in my own language. The German which they speak here is not at all like the German which we speak in Tyrol! I found it difficult to understand people and to make myself understood at first, but I’m much more used to it now.

I need to be, for I have several young Swiss girls to supervise. I worry that sometimes they think I am too strict with them, but there is much work to do and not many of us to do it, for it has proved difficult to find girls to come here as maids. There are so many more opportunities for them now than there were when I was young and so grateful to have my job at the school, and they can earn far more elsewhere than the school authorities are willing to pay them.

We have to plan everything very carefully, too, as where we are, at a place called the Gornetz Platz, is quite remote. I’ve tried hard to lay stocks by for the coming months, for if it snows heavily we may well find ourselves cut off. It is not always easy to plan, though, because the people here get so excited when the weather is fine. They will insist on taking the girls off somewhere with virtually no notice, and then we are expected either to change all the mealtimes or to pack up two hundred or so individual picnics, just like that!

Still, I cannot blame them for wanting to make the most of this lovely place. The Alps here are not like the Alps at home, but they are very beautiful all the same; and the Gornetz Platz is very peaceful, if a little bit too quiet sometimes. There are about thirty chalets dotted around, and I am getting to know some of the local people now.

Almost all of the Oberlanders are Protestants, but there is a small Catholic chapel here. I go there every Sunday, and I will go there on Christmas Day with Anna. It is not like my young days in Briesau, though, where everyone from the village would attend church together. It’s strange where life takes you – back then, I thought that I would live out all my days around the Tiernsee; yet since then I have lived in Guernsey, in England, in Wales and now in Switzerland. The people of the Chalet School have been good to me, though, and, when new girls come here who are the daughters and nieces of former pupils whom I watched grow from children into young women, I feel that maybe this is a little like a home, and a family. I am afraid that I complain a great deal sometimes, but in truth I know that I am lucky, and that I have much to be thankful for. I shall remember that this Christmas time.

And so I wish you Frohe Weihnachten und ein Gutes Neues Jahr from Switzerland. May the festive season bring you and your loved ones only joy.

With much love,

Karen



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