Alli’s cooking abilities have attained a higher level of quality than ever before. On a recent cookery course she was even overheard putting the teacher right on a moot culinary point. Her recent creative surge is due, she says, to reading the new cookery magazine Delicious, and to lots of practice. It’s also due to Christmas; she spent many hours in the kitchen preparing for the visit of the Miles en masse, in the form of her parents, brothers and their families: a replete gathering of the clan that I was so privileged to join over twenty years ago. We even commandeered a neighbor’s flat to put up the better elders. Our Christmas flashed by, abetted by feasts, fun and games in the family way, complemented on Boxing Day by the arrival of the Halls and Neil Kelly for lunch, after which we were rewarded by a promptu concert from the Hall twins. The snow fell for three days from the 24th and gave everything around us a deep fluffy winter coat of white just before the temperature plummeted to -10°C. On Boxing Day we ran out of heating oil for the second year running after the supplier failed to deliver as promised and on New Year’s Eve we had a burst water pipe in the pool house, discovered early, but the house, so generously peopled, took the strains with ease and fulfilled its big promise. And that’s not all: a new street sign shows that our road in the local dialect goes by the name of Sag-i-wag.
The Christmas cold snap was simply the latest of several during the month, and one morning I cycled into work when the temperature was -14°C. Within five minutes, despite significant padding my chest was tight, my toes were freezing and I could already feel the cold pulling hard at my cheeks. My fingers were becoming difficult to feel; even my teeth were hurting. The change in temperature made me feel so dizzy when I finally got into the warmth of the changing room in the basement of my office that I nearly fainted. I had to sit down for ten minutes to recover while I rubbed my stone fingers through my gloves. The next day saw the first of several days of black ice, new snow and slush, and rather unadvisedly I cycled into and from work on each of the days. I decided to give up the bike a few days before Christmas but changed my mind on a morning when I assumed that an overnight thaw had rendered the trip safe. Wrong. I had hardly got out of the car park by our drive when the wheels gave way on some slush-puppy looking ice and I fell, with a grounded suspicion that I had just further damaged knee cartilage that had been troubling me for several weeks already. After being given a lift in a neighbor’s van the full 80 meters back home, I was driven to the emergency ward of the Bruderholz hospital; was diagnosed as having torn my medial meniscus cartilage; was prescribed a mountain of painkillers and two months of physiotherapy; and am now destined to spend many days on the same crutches that Alli used when she broke her ankle this time last year.
Gwen had her 12th birthday party, attending this year’s Basel English Panto with her friends. I found the show rather flat and confusing, but my finely tuned dramatic criticism seems rather curmudgeonly for pantomimes. Gwen has surprised and delighted us this year by insisting that all the presents that her family, uncles, aunts, grandparents etc were going to give her should instead be cash-estimated and sent to an animal charity on donkey rescue and welfare (Happy Hooves). So it was that I found myself in mid-December sending a substantial three-figure sum on Gwen’s behalf to the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad. Alli and I are very proud of our unusual and thoughtful daughter. Earlier, she went with the school for a swimming gala to Neuchatel. The school won overall but she was unhappy with her own performance and now wants to do more swimming practice next year.
Ella went to Zurich as part of (and Vice Captain of) the school’s Varsity Basketball team and also to the Model United Nations meeting in Paris, where she played the role of a journalist (hanging around for long periods doing nothing – just like the real thing), but also finding the time to maintain her determined revision for exams next year. She has received news of her first provisional acceptance (by Sheffield University) and I am sure that there will be more such. Jessie came back home from her first term at Sussex University in mid-December looking healthy and fit after all the exercise that she has had with the Frisbee game Ultimate, but ahe was soon attracting ailments. Unburdened by academic preoccupations, Alli and I welcomed our friend Clive one night for dinner, and attended an enjoyable and civilized Christmas party given by Cindy and Graham. This was cut short by a call from Jessie, suffering from a throat infection at a party on top of an icy hill in Muttenz, thus needing UPTI (urgent parental taxi assistance). With my artist friend Neil I saw the popular exhibition at the Bayeler Foundation in Riehen on the art of the Vienna Secession – Wien 1900 – featuring works by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. My friend Monty also came over one day and patiently worked to create a wireless network throughout the house, although this may still need some tweaking to be fully achieved.
With my profound wishes to you all for a very Happy and Healthy New Year. Now, where the peace on earth did I put those crutches?
Stanbrooks and Miles, Christmas 2010