This has been a crowded, jostling rambunctious month, teeming with alarum, pele-mele, noises off and background hiss. It started with Gwen’s house-wide posters inviting the family to her Gymnastics event. The posters (seven of them, each individually drawn) showed pictures of physical contortions that “Gwen will NOT be doing”, including the splits and the high bar. We haven’t got a high bar anyway, unless you count the washing line outside. But Gwen executed her moves well and received due applause.
Our car has died, quite suddenly – expiring more or less overnight. It had been ailing for months but a garage report on it was brutal and decisive. Fortunately, we found another similar car quickly and it is as if the unhappy event had never occurred. The new car is the same shape but it is red (a design first for this family). However, it has started to worry me that every time we get a new car, it is actually older than the previous one, and the previous one is either written off or not worth anything. I blame my career.
Jessie has been starring as the Pied Piper in the Basel English Panto Group’s production of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. She was very accomplished in a part that did not call for excessive speaking as the musical and colourful son of Mrs Bun the Baker (played by Ella’s maths teacher, Mr Sims) but it did require her to play live music, sing in a romantic duet and dance as well as lead a motley group of children around and about the stage of the famous SchoenesHaus Cellar Theatre in the oldest and most interesting part of Basel. Audience reactions varied through the several performances, as many were not aware of the hallowed traditions of the British pantomime season. The best joke of the evening was when the burghers of Hamelin were asked for effective ideas on how to get rid of the rats, the chocolate-maker, Miss Milka, suggested the adoption of the well tried Swiss remedy. This was to put up signs throughout the town that proclaimed that rats were hereby prohibited.
Gwen was eight years old on 12th December and had a rock-climbing party on the previous weekend, to which her classmates and friends flocked to participate. Although the establishment had asked for a certain number of adults to be present, none of us realised that our presence was to be transmuted to active engagement. I, Alli and several shell-shocked Mums were suddenly given basic training in holding and knotting climbing ropes then told to get on with it while all our precious kids scrambled up the sheer walls of the Kletterhalle like rhesus monkeys, leaving us adults tensely holding the lifelines with pounding pulses and hearts in mouths.
Some of you may possibly have glimpsed my forlorn shape on TV amongst the billions who got stuck at Heathrow just before Christmas. My experience might have been easier than most – just a single day of standing in long lines and a flight several times cancelled, re-instated and delayed, but I did get back to Basel in time for a long-planned drinks party that we had organized for our friends and neighbours. Jessie, returning from a week in England with her friends and with her uncle and aunt, had virtually no difficulty at all, returning the following day from Stansted.
Of course Christmas brought its own special enjoyments and delights, although a bout of food poisoning laid me low over the crucial period, many fine presents were exchanged and appreciated and all was very well with the world within our family. Gwen was particularly excited by the Advent and had decorated her room with several of her pictures of Santa Claus, the reindeers, snow-men and other festive scenes. Her entire room was themed to Christmas with letters, notes and pictures pinned up everywhere. When Christmas day dawned and the stockings were bulging, Gwen clearly felt that her work had not been in vain. Santa Claus even left an appreciative poem.
We are still waiting for the first major snow fall of the year and although temperatures are now hovering around zero most mornings, overall the winter remains mild and skis and poles are unused. Ella will go skiing soon with the school but has not had any real practice this season so far. We all look forward to the New Year, to my annual demonstration of culinary skill on the eve, and the visit of good friends to help us consign this year to the past and welcome a new year in which new changes and challenges seem inevitable. In a first for Ahem, you may now find the complete tally of monthly missives from the last two years on my totally cool MySpace web site (where it will be seen that I have a grand total of 7 friends), just go to www.myspace.com/lionelstanbrook
A healthy and happy 2007 to all of you