Obama Tranquilisers Tea
There was celebration on a huge scale at the announcement of the new American President, delirious convivial manifestations, riotous assemblies and a dancing frenzy in our living room where some thousands of American and other types of teenagers congregated to watch the election special through the night, cheer wildly as the state results started to unfurl the national story, and weep uncontrollably with joy at the historic announcement in the small hours of the morning. I say “weep uncontrollably”, in fact many by then had actually fallen asleep right where they sat or lay, on and under the sofas, chairs, piano and settees, or slumped in front of chirruping lap tops. As I dozily made tea at 6am in the eery silver somnolence I made the assumption that Obama had won – and quite recently at that. By contrast, the Herbstmesse, a colourful annual multi-venue fun-fair celebration by Basel of the joys of winter, seemed this year a little becalmed, a sign of the times perhaps, and after having experienced it with the Miles of Luxembourg at the end of last month, we all went several times more. One such visit took place after we decided to go to dinner at a popular Thai restaurant, Lily’s, in Basel, instead of to a four-hour stage version of A Streetcar named Desire. Ella also took Gwen on another occasion to celebrate a glowingly positive report about Gwen by her teacher.
Bonnie has only just recovered from the near-death-by-poisoning incident I described last month. The cause, worryingly, could have been poison-laced horse dung which dogs often eat in the winter when the feed has added calcium. Anyway, no sooner was Bonnie up and running than she got hit by a car one morning as she was chasing a cat she saw in the far distance. She was accelerating and fast closing in on it as they both raced onto the main road from the fields. The cat darted under the moving car; Bonnie ran smack into the side of the car. I didn’t see it but it must have looked a bit like a sequence out of Tom and Jerry. Bonnie came back limping badly, her leg at an angle, cuts, bruises and minus her collar. She had lesions around her eye, was bleeding from her tummy and had dislocated her leg. So back she went to the wealthy vet at the bottom of the hill where she spent the day on yet another intravenous drip, painkillers, X-ray, tranquilisers and antibiotics. Bonnie’s plight moved a clutch of schoolchildren, and Gwen’s entire class sent her “Get well” messages and restorative pictures and messages, and these are now festooned around the wall and bookcase near Bonnie’s basket. Bonnie is now recovering from all this excitement but Alli is still taking the vet’s tranquilisers, handfuls at a time.
I went to Henley-on-Thames on the side of a business meeting and made a surprise visit to Gavin, a friend from when I worked in Henley in the late 1970s. I hadn’t seen him in years and yet he had hardly changed at all. Within five minutes we were on our way down the pub to meet other friends, Ian and Lesley. Alli and I went to an arts evening put on by the school in which Ella excelled herself by playing solid and efficient backing guitar on two memorable songs – Ryan Adams’s When the Stars go Blue and Jimmy Eat World’s Hear Me You. What a profound pleasure that was. I also heard an enthralling extract from my all-time favourite play Anouilh’s Antigone. Ella also played a blinder in the school indoor football tournament, scoring two good goals in the crucial match, helping her team to a great victory over their deadly rivals, the International Schools of elsewhere in Switzerland. En famille, we saw the Hoosiers play in Basel. They were still worried about Ray, but were energetic and impressive.
I have just come back from ten days in China, to Cheng-du where I looked at farmer training methods, and to Fuzhou on the south west coast where I talked to farmers and agronomists on a tea plantation (where the slave labour used during the “Great Leap Forward” produced miles and miles of dry stone walls all over the mountains), then to Beijing where I gave a training course in communications over two days. The visit included enough free time for me also to visit the Great Wall and to walk around the forbidden city, a truly extraordinary place. I was also able to see the relics of Sanxingdui, the recently discovered sacred memorial site of the mysterious Kingdom of Shu. After a memorable evening amongst tea farmers tasting various types of tea at a shop in Fo’an, I brought back copious amounts to keep us all going for years.