All through the month there has been irritatingly uncertain weather coupled with scattered public holidays, and we have each packed in a full complement of activities. It was Jessie’s 17th birthday on the 9th May and we celebrated this by going to a newly found restaurant in Basel, the Noohn, featuring Asian fusion food. Jessie had requested an early meal as she wanted to spend the later (best) part of the evening with her friends. Oh well… She is working hard and has been through the school’s exam season, and will be working for four weeks in the summer as a temporary help at the company where I work. Ella has also been working very hard, spending long hours revising for her exams. She is now in the middle of these exams and is very focused on the work, even turning down opportunities to go out in favour of revision.
On her own initiative, Gwen and some of her neighbouring friends set out a little stall by the road outside our house throughout one holiday weekend to offer occasional passers-by a wide selection of fluffy toys, bric-a-brac, CDs and other unwanted items. This brought in an inordinate amount of money for items that were only priced at one swiss franc each. The extraordinary thing was that almost everything went, reminding me of the skip theory of London. The different economic areas could be distinguished from each other very easily: in the posh areas when you put out a skip and only half-filled it then it would be full to overflowing the next morning; in the rough areas the same skip the next morning would be completely empty.
On another weekend I went with Ella and the school tennis team to Leysin, a town in the Swiss alps near Montreux, where the school competed with four other schools in a doubles tournament over two days. Leysin, once the in-place to go for skiing (especially for the British), is now rather past it and down at heel. We all stayed in a backpackers hotel called the Hiking Sheep, sleeping dormitory style, although I and the teacher each got our own room. Ella played well and confidently although her partners were not always as consistent and they both had occasional crises of confidence that cost crucial points. On the same weekend Alli was in Luxembourg with Gwen representing the family at nephew Oliver’s confirmation/first communion celebrations, which were characteristically well organized, stylish and friendly.
Practically all through the month we have had computer problems caused by the non-functioning of the wireless router and the incompetence/fraudulence of the local computer shop. This genre of problems, so easily dealt with at work by simply phoning the helpline, has the ability to become all-encompassing at home and gradually to sap one’s will to live. I do not understand how people manage when family computers or daughters’ laptops go inexplicably and irretrievably wrong and when commercial computer repair shops seem to be nothing less than the modern repositories for every cowboy trader in the land.
We have managed some light gardening work between the rain showers and in particular I have effected the long-anticipated destruction of the decaying bamboo clump overhanging the pond, which has been thoroughly de-sludged by Alli. Compared to the Spring colours jumping up around the garden at the moment the bamboo clump had been grey-brown and was irretrievably moribund. We have also bought a new lawn-mower which, tragically, Alli cannot manage to start but which unfortunately I can. This has been a grave strategic mistake. I again went to England and took some time out to go to the West London Cemetary at Kensal Rise to see and tidy my parents’ grave. It was a sunny day, and I bought bunches of flowers from Tesco and wondered why it was not possible to buy a vase for what seemed like the whole length of the Edgware and Harrow Roads. I could not even see a flower stall outside the graveyard – where on earth have they all gone? And above all why have they all gone?
We saw two good music concerts last month (the girls saw more). The Willard Grant Conspiracy with special guest Howe Gelb were very enjoyable, and I managed to speak to Howe Gelb beforehand for a few minutes and obtained autographs for the girls (who didn’t know who he was). Of course, these are the very best autographs to have. The girls and I also went to the Basel concert of We Are Scientists. I later got talking to the lead singer of the excellent support band, the Indelicates, hailing from Lewes, Sussex, and I bought their CD. Now they send me electronic billets doux via MySpace which I cannot open.
Alli has just come back from some re-invigorating days visiting friends in Stockholm, and I am about to go away for an extended period on business in Brazil. At the school’s international festival, a success undaunted by the persistent rain, I bought some second hand books (resisting with extreme difficulty the temptation to re-purchase the books that I had contributed to the school a few weeks ago) and listened to Jessie playing the piano confidently and sensitively in a a few songs sung by her friends Jenna and Kate. One of these songs was her own composition Running Back to You, which sounds as good as ever and really needs a lot more air time. Talking of time, Alli got us all up this morning at 5am thinking it was 6am because this is what her alarm clock told her. With the light bright mornings, nobody noticed until we were half way through the cornflakes.
Yours at the gates of dawn,