Rain has been falling rather too often this month, great gallons of it bucketing down at the slightest hint of lowering cloud or greyish sky. Much of April has been cold, clammy and ten degrees below what it should have been. While cycling to and from work I have been caught in a major downpour several times as has Alli while walking with Bonnie around the fields. However, the frog chorus has now started around the environs – indicating the start of finer weather. Alli and I had a rare dinner out together, across the French border in Hagenthal at the Boeuf Rouge while Ella and Gwen went to the school’s Bollywood evening – but for us it was an unimpressive outing that started well but ended with us agreeing that it was more berni than bernaise. This whole region has a dearth of the restaurants that we agree are our favourites: simple, well-cooked, reasonably priced, unpretentious places with friendly, informal and welcoming staff. After four years we have found none of these in Basel although this may be a trifle harsh. Talking of harsh, I had a visit to England and experienced the Terminal Five delay zone and, yes, at the the hotel the staff were still seeing if they could sort me out a menu and telling me that the special was off, then charging me 150 pounds for a cold room in which the TV did not work.
We went to see an unusual version of Swan Lake with a troupe of Chinese acrobats performing a vertiginous display of contortion and balance. This included a lady’s pirouette on the top of a man’s head. We also went to the Middle Years Program musical concert at the school. This was rather less impressive, although Ella was in very good form with her guitar and voice in several of the pieces. Ella’s voice was as clear, confident and true as a bell. On this evidence her voice should be heard more, and her guitar playing improves all the time. She is also closing in on what she has chosen for her school project. The plan is to transcribe some well known songs into new interpretations. A few days later, Gwen was also involved in a rather better organized song fest at the school at which I arrived late after absent-mindedly getting off at the wrong tram stop. I took a long-delayed visit with a full car load to the dump site and threw away some inconvenient bulks, but I did marvel at the Swiss way of refuse. Even Swiss junk is neat and tidy, carefully stacked and tied before being thrown under the crusher.
We have now been three times on Saturday evenings to the picnic area in the woods nearby with assorted neighbours and their children. These clearings in the woods are maintained by the local communes and stocked with serviceable grilling facilities and wood for the fires, all ready chopped into the right size and neatly stacked. The first time we visited was for the children to toast marshmallows. This proved to be a great success so we tried it again the following week with sausages and hamburgers. I taught the children to play the game of Lurky after dinner as the light started to fail (the American name for it is “Kick the Can”). This was a game last played by me and my schoolfriends on shivering winter nights in Oxford in the 1960s. A fox also put in an appearance from its nearby vauxhall and seemed not at all concerned by human or canine company. Last week we did it again and it turned into a full-scale neighborhood block party with friends, relatives and other kith pitching up through the late afternoon and evening in droves with their dishes and meats for the grill. We had a proper camp fire, and everyone was kept well entertained. Fine wines and malt whiskies were in evidence. There must have been more than 40 people in all, over half of them children, all partying happily and differently in the woods as the night fell and as the fox looked on at us calmly from the undergrowth, patiently waiting for us all to troop off and leave the uneaten but cooked meats on the grill.
Yours on the sly,
Pirouette Crusher Fox