The Ferrette Morris Dancers danced at the village market in Oberwil, performing in the Cotswold Morris tradition, and Peter the Squire, a good friend of mine, bawled out the traditional call (from Horace’s Odes) to the bemused Swiss villagers: “Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero” which is, more or less, “Enjoy today; believe not in tomorrow”. For this and other less intellectual reasons, I am always tempted to join. I have the build, I drink the beer and I could grow the ponytail. And I have always wanted to dance with other men with bells on my feet and waving an inflated pig’s bladder around my head.
Ella went to Tunisia with the school football teams for an international tournament and the girls’ team won it outright, with Ella scoring in both the semifinal and the final. I had to pick her up after midnight from Basel railway station after their plane to Geneva was delayed. Even then, many of the team were stranded on the way to Basel after not getting out fast enough when they were supposed to change trains half way between Geneva and Basel. But Ella was one of the few who did. As I walked with her past the other waiting parents, I knew that they knew that I knew that they had another 40 minutes to wait to pick up their son/daughter. Ella was not feeling well through much of the Easter holiday weekend but recovered sufficiently to spend a few days in England with Nanny and Grandpa and to see her English friends. Jessie went to Oxford for some extra courses to help her through the looming IB exam. On the way there she went round Queen Mary`s College, London and loved the place, installing it as an second favorite venue for when the exam results are made known (Kings College being the first choice). Meanwhile, Alli and I took Gwen and a couple of neighborly offspring to Europa Park, a non-Disney theme park in Germany. The children also had an Easter egg hunt in the garden, where Alli and I have spent many hours this month. There is another parking bay-size of branches and saplings to be reduced to chippings. Gwen made the most of the sunny Easter and became proficient at the diabolo, a juggling prop consisting of a spool which is whirled and tossed on a string tied to two sticks held one in each hand.
Tequila, the Collie we look after when its mistress, a special needs school teacher, is away, has been here a lot. Not an entirely reliable dog, she is plagued by weak hips and hind legs. She also chases shadows and light reflections on the walls, floor and ceiling, which is a tough psychosis for a dog in a house with brightly polished tableware and big windows halfway up a hill with a low-lying sun early in the year. For the first year in the five that we have been here in Switzerland, the spring has woven the whole area with a profusion of Easter flowers, especially primroses, cowslips and snowdrops. The forsythia that at this time of year dots the hedgerows now liberally splashes them in a warm canary yellow. Whole fields are embroidered across with spring flowers like pointillist tapestries.
We all (minus Gwen) saw and enjoyed Bob Dylan at the St Jakobshalle in Basel. It was the second time for me (and for Ella) although, as I keep reminding my family, I queued for around seven hours one hot day in Oxford in the late 1970s for a ticket to his forthcoming concert and did not manage to get one. This experience put me off both queues and Dylan for some time, although queues have never been my forte. The afore-mentioned Europa Park and previous theme park experiences tell me that my time-tolerance for queues reduces by around five minutes per year and that the level stands currently at around 40 minutes – tops (and that’s only if I am with Gwen or anyone else around the same age). At this rate I will not be able to wait in any queues of any duration whatsoever when I reach 60 – which is probably about right. An early childhood memory I have is when I was told by my mother that as a special treat we were all going to visit Kew Gardens. I whispered to her that I didn’t want to wait in queues all afternoon.
Jessie has now finished school. I simply can’t believe it, and think that somehow we must have missed out a few years while she was growing up. I am beginning to understand that this is, generationally speaking, an entirely normal parental reaction. But it is difficult to think that she will not be around in the house much more from this summer, what with gap year then university. Ella and I went on a flying overnight visit to East London to stay a night with the Tallis Locks of Forest Gate which was fun, and to watch West Ham lose against Chelsea, which was not.
David Hall, our friend, has died after a long struggle against cancer. The news brought us all down and it distresses us still. He was wise, courageous, witty and decent. His whole family have been very strong these past months as his condition varied and declined. The quiz that I wrote and circulated last Christmas was first conceived to help him pass the time when he was in hospital, but such was his love of research and discovery and learning, he never needed these as he used much of the last period of his life indulging his boundless spirit of enquiry, expertly deploying the internet to perfect his understanding of everything from Swiss tax rules to electrical engineering, music history and computer software. There was a memorial service in Aesch, at which his wife and sons displayed great dignity and strength amid a huge turn-out. His elder sons Tom and Sam, accomplished musicians and writers, played a tribute to their father that was witty, acute and appropriate. The service came to a fitting end with the Beatles’ Here comes the sun, from Abbey Road.
RIP David Hall
Peter Sandbach and the Ferrette Morris Dancers performing in Oberwil, 2009