I had another crash on the bike, well, a minor but abrupt fall as I cycled onto the pavement, the ridge of which was too big for the speed at which I was going. As I got up from the pavement (no injuries) I gave a cheery thumbs-up to a worried looking car driver who was arching his neck from the other side of the car trying to see what had happened to me. With my helmet and stupid anorak I suddenly thought I must have looked a bit like John Cleese.
I am teaching Gwen how to ride a grown up bike, and she is loving it. We decided that we would go cycling around the grounds of the school a few miles away. She was very good, not falling over at all, and delighting in her new found ability to push herself off and continue cycling through pedalling hard and maintaining her balance, which she said that she learned from her friend during the week. (huh, so not her Dad, then) She cycled round and round the car park (bumping into our new car just once through not being able to turn quickly enough).
We are trying hard to get around all Basle’s attractions, and so last weekend we went off to find the Grun 80 park so that we could play mini-golf. Jessie distinguished herself by playing superbly well, and was disappointed not to have won, but I pipped her in the end by doing really well in the last few holes. Afterwards I felt that I should not have tried to win and should have let Jessie win, but then again perhaps not. There was a merry-go-round (carouselle) with rather dirgey music and Gwen had a go as we watched afterwards while sitting on the grass. We then walked around the park, everyone in shirt sleeves in the sunny light atmosphere that contradicted completely the October dateline.
When I got to work the other day (I cycle in T shirt and tracksuit, bringing my work clothes in the ruck sack), I discovered that I had brought neither shirt nor trousers to change into and there were no spares in the cupboard in my office. It was too far to cycle back home to get them. I felt rather foolish, realising that I had one or two meetings that morning to which I would have to go in my still sweaty and damp tracksuit (I normally have a shower downstairs before changing into smart clothes at the office every morning). I sat down and thought it over carefully. Arguably I anyway needed a new pair of smartish trousers. I could do with another shirt. I would therefore buy these as soon as I had an opportunity to do so in town. In the meantime I had a couple of quite formal meetings coming up. None of the big wigs was at all put out at my appearance, and all understood that I had cycled in and that the early meetings provided the explanation of why I was “in mufti”. When the meetings were over I had about 45 minutes to buy the clothes and get back before I had to meet the company’s financial director in a meeting that I really did have to be wearing something other than a sweaty tracksuit. I took out the bike and started cycling it up the severe slope out of the bike sheds, changing the gear sharply down as I did so. There was a loud clang-crack – the chain had broken. I therefore freewheeled the bike down out of the gates and down the street to the bike shop and left it there for repair, explaining briefly and breathlessly to the man how it had happened. Time was running out. I walked quickly down the street and found a clothes shop where I selected grey trousers and dark red shirt, which fitted straight away. I bought them then returned to the office, went down to the shower room and had my shower, changing only then into the new clothes, instantly admired by the first couple of people to see me. I then went to see the guy, who proceeded to keep me waiting for over 40 minutes.
That was some morning! It felt like another fine mess that I had got myself into. Nothing actually went wrong in the end but circumstances were certainly conspiring to make them so.
Our dear dog Basil died last weekend. We had had him (and he us) for fourteen years and had brought him over to Basle with us in August. Already practically blind and deaf, one evening he started to breathe heavily and with obvious difficulty. Later, after we went to bed, we heard him in distress and clearly in pain. We both got up and went downstairs. Alli cleaned some blood from Basil’s hind quarters and was very upset. She phoned the vet and asked her to come around (it was past three in the morning). After what seemed like an age the vet came and suggested that she should put Basil down by a lethal injection. Alli agreed and she went ahead, Alli holding Basil as he died. We went to bed and much later to sleep. I thought of Basil when he was well and how obviously happy he had been so many times, and also how very sensitive he was, how he had comforted my Mum when she was missing Dad so badly and with so little understanding of what was going on just after his stroke, how he in his earlier life had so enjoyed jumping around the wild corn like a March hare on the banks of the Thames at Cholsey. We had had Basil for all but one year of our married life. Again in this strange and compelling year, it was also the passing of a stage in our lives, for we are unlikely to be getting any more pets while we are living in Switzerland.
I was even more upset the next day, having been too tired to take it all in the night before, and I was thinking of my father who died in February. Basil’s death (long expected), was still yet another example of death in this most changing of years. The year has seen the death of my father, the near death of my sister in law, the death of both of our dogs, of my friend Ian Purton’s wife, of my friend Franziska’s brother and some others. I guess this is going to happen more and more as we get EVEN older.