I bring news of my latest bicycle accident. It was about three weeks ago. It was dark, stormy and raining again but I was cycling well and comfortably on the cheap but cheerful and relatively new bike that I had brought over from England (the one that had thrown me over the handlebars on 1st October). Unfortunately over-confidence got the better of me and as I was overtaking another cyclist by moving across the tram lines, which were close to the edge of the payment, and with the sound of a tram behind me, my front wheel got stuck in the tram line and I fell very heavily, crashing to the ground and sliding and scraping quite close to another tram passing in the opposite direction. My elbow was very painful and, in getting up, I could tell that I had quite a few scratches and bruises but again I had been lucky not to have been more seriously injured.
Considering the proximity of the tram as it whistled past my ear I was lucky that I did not slither across the other tram lines just before the other tram came. I felt shaken by the experience, but the bike was worse. The back wheel had buckled badly and would not turn properly any more. I could not, as I had twice before, just get back up and collywobble away slowly. The bike was no longer usable as in the back wheel did not turn around anymore: a sizeable repair bill loomed. I dragged the bike to the bridge and down the steps to join a tram to Oberwil, phoned Alli and asked her to pick me up at the tram station. Believe it or not this took some persuading. I bought a cycle ticket as well as a ticket for myself and spent ten minutes in a crowded tram carriage trying to manoeuvre the broken bike in such a way that it did not bother anyone. People stared at me as only the Swiss know how. I now realise that this was because I was bleeding profusely from both elbows but I didn’t know that at the time.
It was still raining when I got off the tram and was collected by Alli and Jessie. I bathed my sore elbows and anointed the various cuts and bruises around my body with tea tree oil, then rather shakily changed, saying goodnight to Gwen as I did so. Gwen was fascinated with the cuts on my elbows and wanted to look at them very closely, gravely advising me that I needed to put a bandage on them.
The upshot of the accident is that I have had to leave both my knackered bikes at the bike shop for scrap and have bought a reasonably good second hand one. I asked the bike shop owner if there was anything on the old bikes worth salvaging. He was quite direct. No, he said, they’re british and cheap. er, maybe the bells. A rather welcome extra and unexpected achievement of the new wheels is that with them I manage to cycle all the way up Hohlegasse (our road) from the village (a major hill, in case I am now confusing you).
Ella has been taking lessons on the electric guitar, which we gave her early as a Christmas present (99 pounds from ebay, a real corker). She is very pleased with it. She had been practising, as suggested by the teacher, with my Spanish guitar, and with Jessie had immediately started to work out the riff for the Cream classic “Sunshine of my life”. As one does.
We recently had a travelling fair for a couple of weeks all over the bigger squares of Basel. It’s called the Herbstmesse, and it takes place all over the city in different locations. It was fun going there just with Gwen. We were talking all the time. My mother used to tell me how much she enjoyed talking to little children: it was so restful and easy. Grandma would have loved talking to Gwen, and vice versa I expect. We changed bus at Bottmingen and got off near Peterplatz in the centre. This was the most quaint and restrained of all the centres of the fair, comprising mostly artisans’ stalls and an old fashioned carrousel at the centre of the square, as well as a kind of walk-through pirate’s ship, which the girls went on.
We caught up with Alli and Ella, who was looking a bit bored, and who later confessed to missing her friends, as Jessie was out on the town with hers. We walked over to Barfusserplatz via the old part of the town, and went on a whirling thing there. It was fun but the centrifugal force was such that Ella was hurt by my massive weight pressing onto her during the ride. Shortly afterwards she wanted to go home and so she and Alli left, leaving me again with Gwen to go on some more attractions. We walked from Barfusserplatz to Munsterplatz and we went to the attractions there. Prominent among them was a big ferris wheel and Gwen and I had lot of fun on it before going on a big slide a couple of times. We then walked back, bought a big tiger shaped balloon and joined a packed tram going back to Oberwil. I had some difficulty keeping the balloon out of people’s faces on the way back, much to Gwen’s amusement.
I am now playing regular squash. There are six others in our group. I think I am improving each week but I am certainly playing quite hard and come back utterly shattered every Sunday morning.
Jessie is doing really well at her swimming, achieving again as in Burgess Hill, but in a foreign country and not even knowing what the German for Ready Steady Go is. Her times seem to be as good if not better than in Burgess Hill, and she is practising four times a week. Also please note, Jessie has taken up the drums and is in a rock band called SPENT.
Gwen is now cycling on roads with cars passing and on muddy tracks. She gets herself up steep hills, following me, generally on Sunday afternoons and staying on through sheer will power and strength in her legs.
I came over to England by car for a company conference at the Grove, a posh hotel in Watford (THEY call it Chandler’s Cross), at the beginning of this month, starting off from Basel one Monday morning a couple of weeks ago at around 6.00am. Luckily there was no frost or rain, and I could tell quickly that I was making good time, albeit after another slightly frustrating time trying to get onto the French motorway from Basel, which is a real intelligence test that I keep failing.
I got my hair cut on the way to Watford (round the M25 anti-clockwise) in small village outside Maidstone called Bearsted, in a barber shop run exclusively by attractive and slim girls. The one doing my hair talked about how stupid the girlfriends were of the boys who came in to get their hair cut. They were jealous, the stupid cows. This was the sort of conversation that would never be heard in public in Switzerland, so I got a very forcible and amusing reminder of the different culture that I have so recently left behind.