The highlight of the month has definitely been the Farewell Party for the Departing Swedes. Alli had become a very close friend to two Swedes, Ann-Lii and Susanne, through proximity and dog walking (one of the dogs involved was the one pining for Bonnie’s unavailable fertility a couple of short months ago) and she decided that we would host a grand farewell party for them and their husbands and friends (mostly of the Swedish variety) as well as for some of our neighbours. The party was a resounding success, if only judging from the unfeasible amounts of empty bottles left afterwards, but it was also a hot and sunny day with a clear blue sky and our garden and terrace were peopled by milling multilingual hordes exactly as intended. There were assorted children of various nationalities running around and between the bushes, while Jessie and her friend David worked unstintingly in and around the kitchen at spontaneous clearance and re-supply of victuals. It was a grand farewell and Alli is now considering the possibility of us going to Sweden for a future holiday, previously an unimaginable idea. So while we have now lost some good friends to the ongoing Basel expatriate churn, we met enough new Swedes to know that we stand to gain quite a few more.
I have done a lot of travelling, having been to Brussels, Bordeaux and the USA twice, breathlessly catching fortuiitously delayed planes at the very last minute on risky transfers after desperate dashes between terminals over acres of rolling mobile stairways and undulating corridors, panting past besuited Horatios and trundling across carpeted airhangar lounges. I also drove a car for two hours through an electric thunderstorm in North Carolina, through repeated forked lightning that was hitting the road with extreme prejudice, as well as being overtaken simultaneously and continually by 60-tonne trucks on both sides. Thank goodness for the blood pressure pills. A visit to my Romanian/Swiss doctor reveals (to her) that I am under stress and should slow down but how exactly is that done? A week in Bordeaux amongst the vineyards presented itself as a good idea, leavened also by the prospect of learning how to measure biodiversity (flora, fauna and arthropods) from advisers working for the NGO Earthwatch. A small group of volunteers including myself spent three days staying in basic scout huts near the large vineyard of a Girondin chateau between Bordeaux and Bergerac, studying and classifiying the local biodiversity, We first collected arthropods from two traps and looked at them through a microscope then classified them according to classical principles of taxonomy. We also went bird watching and listening in the early dawn and counted then sorted different types of leaves and grasses taken from specific areas near the vines. Talking of arthropods, more than three quarters of all animals on the planet are arthropods and constitute the bottom layers of the food chain. We volunteers took care to stay at the top of it by consuming excellent food and wine during our efforts. The stay included a major hailstorm which destroyed some of the vines, and I also found my first ever four-leafed clover.
The children have all finished the academic year at school, a circumstance of high activity and emotion, since they are all losing friends this year as jobs change, exams are taken and kids move on to even higher forms of education. The children’s reports and end of year tests were again excellent and in English Jessie and Ella both had perfect marks as well as perfect scores in other subjects. We continue to be very pleased with the school and with the easy and tolerant social atmosphere that it promotes. As we shall be staying in Basel for at least another two years, Jessie will definitely take her International Baccalaureate there and Ella will do her Middle Year Program there. There was another successful International Fair, during which Gwen – having predicted all morning that she would – won the main raffle prize, a personal fridge, which she promptly filled with Sprite and installed in her bedroom. I can only sketch the afternoon briefly as a couple of caiparinhas at the Brazilian stall nearly removed my memory altogether. On the playing field, Ella played football and her team won the cup, winning the final on penalties. Behind the Bike Shed, the Stanbrook sisters’ band, played their first real gig at the fair in the school’s aula and were very impressive indeed (and not just by my account). Later we went to a party in the sun-drenched Swiss hinterland and the band played again for the guests and, together with another band led by their friends, the Hall Brothers, were well applauded for their efforts. Ella later went to a rock festival in Germany (South Side) on an invitation from the self same family. In quick succession, another friend invited her to visit Paris, so her feet have hardly touched the ground since the beginning of the holiday. Jessie has had a friend, Grace, from England to stay and they have been out almost every night with her friends.
I have been at work in the garden cutting back the straggling trees and ballooning bushes, and was later congratulated for doing so by the neighbours. I also de-sludged the pond, cleared much of the front garden slope and pruned the bushes by the front steps again. It seems a pity to do so much work to the garden of a house that belongs, unfortunately, to someone else. Ella’s tennis continues to improve and her backhand is becoming especially effective. She again played tennis with me and the Sunday evening men’s tennis group and acquitted herself very well. One sunny afternoon I went on a bike ride with Gwen and her friend Jessie Kroenke; we found some cherry trees on the way back from Biel Benken and collected liberal quantities. The girls took a large lapful of cherries back with them and later made cherry juice with it.
The weather has been edgy and unpredictable of late and there has been a lot of both rain and sun, as if the sky cannot decide what season it is. One evening the sky had been darkening while we were having dinner out on the terrace, the dark clouds rolling slowly and menacingly around the valley. We went to bed with the sky growling. Then at 1.30am an ear-splitting crack of thunder right overhead threw us all out of bed with a start and a flash. It was the loudest thunder I had ever heard and I thought for a moment that the house was under attack from a bombing raid.
Yours with donner und blitzen