Alli and Ella have done much of the family´s travelling recently (as well as going to see Meat Loaf in Basel), and, together with Gwen, have been in England for a week, which included Ella’s fourteenth birthday. Alli also went solo to Brussels for a weekend school reunion. For the latter sojourn I stayed at home with Gwen and Bonnie (who has now been spayed, stitched and unstitched) as Jessie was always either out and about in Basel with friends or asleep in her room and Ella was away in Paris with friends. Later, I had to work in Basel while Alli, Gwen and Ella stayed with Nanny and Grandpa in Burgess Hill, and Jessie stayed behind to help with the house and dog-walking, as well as to see a succession of close friends leaving (and visiting) Basel this summer. The month had dawned in bright sunlight but for much of it the weather was, according to the Swiss online English language weather service “increasingly thunderstormful”. Our friend Geoff came to stay for a couple of days, managing to get the only flight out of London on the day that a month’s rain fell in England. It was a lively, hastily convened visit (a Lads’ Beer Summit) and it passed without too much damage. Jessie came with us on the Saturday as we meandered around central Basel looking for Heidi dolls, obscure CDs and cow bells.
I had earlier spent some days on business in England marvelling at the cheery inability of the English to run a hotel, the matey receptionist making me feel like a refugee instead of a high-paying guest at this half-timbered half-baked half-conceived ‘country’ hotel with dust and dead flies behind the brass stirrups and bugles, with the bad beer and the corked wine, the personal service quality of a unemployment benefit office, and where the staff behaved as if the guests were all up against it but making the best of it as we got through cold cooked breakfasts, leaking taps, laminated menus, uncleaned rooms, TVs that didn’t work, teasmaids that could kill (and vice versa), soap that was never used, taxis that didn’t turn up and all right by a great big airport that lost your luggage as soon as you handed it in and didn’t manage to get any planes off on time, presumably because it was permanently encircled by a doleful parade of airborne holding pattern planes trying to land. The key phrases seemed to be: “We’re doing the best we can” and “Let me see if I can sort you out a menu, Sir’ as if this was a complex organisational task which could be done only because they were doing their cheeriest best. I felt like asking if there was a war on, were it not for the possibility that they might turn around with raised eyebrows and say “Yes indeed sir, the War Against Terrorism. Haven’t you heard the latest, Sir?” And there wasn’t even any flooding at the time.
Ella and I have played tennis a few times and on one Saturday morning we arrived at the courts with a mixture of tennis balls, a Slazenger, a Wilson, a Spalding and so on. This is not an advisable action in Switzerland as everyone else always arrives with a clean set of branded tennis balls. This is how they know when to give a ball back to those playing on the next court. We were on a centre court (where we were forever asking the players on the adjacent courts for our balls back) so it was that we had at least one ball in our hybrid collection that was the same brand as the ball sets being used on either side and so when this ball strayed across unnoticed into the adjoining court, our neighbours invariably refused to return it until the very end when they realised that we had been playing with an assortment of balls, and that they had one otherwise unexplained extra on each side. At the end of the hour we promptly received our balls from the courts on either side, accompanied by an apology spontaneously given in English (even though Ella and I had been talking to each other throughout in fluent Romantsch with Slovak inflections).
I have had my first ever aromatherapy massage session, choosing lavender, frankincense and lemon aromatic oils for the big rub. Afterwards I almost fell asleep while walking out of the building but I managed to get home to have an unusually good night’s rest. We have also taken delivery ( a present from a leaving family) of a large trampoline, much to Gwen’s delight, and this is sure to provide hours of amusement in the future. The time flies towards our annual holiday at our French house, La Hune, Mansonville. Jessie is bringing her friend Bailey with her and together with Bonnie the dog, we shall drive to La Hune together (tomorrow), camping overnight on the way, so that we can pick up the other girls of the family (Alli, Ella and Gwen) as they arrive in an unperturbed state at Toulouse airport. For nearly ten years this has marked the pattern of our glorious decampment to La Hune each summer and it seems to suit everybody’s preferences. I know it suits mine, but then I am a simple soul.
Yours on the bounce,