We are creeping forward steadily on the house purchase. The results of my medical, reported to you all last month as satisfactory, in fact generated a ruling from the bank’s insurance experts indicating that, on balance, I would not last another twenty years. A trifle harsh, I thought, even for being undeniably overweight. I decided to challenge the ruling and in so doing found myself mired in what I am now calling Frenchmanship. After some research in the procedures of the country that invented human rights I called on all possible influences, colleagues and pistons to change the ruling and took my case to the Chairman’s Committee of the Credit Mutuel, now 80% owned by the French Government. I argued my case in less than fluent French, and was ultimately rewarded with success. I now have a temporary and exceptional immunity from French assurance deces et perte totale. Now I have to concentrate on staying alive for the next 20 years and lose a lot of weight in the next twelve months. Dead easy, I’d say. The last hurdle in our year-long saga of property transaction is that we have to find another family to take over our rented house in Oberwil tout de suite.
Ella has excelled herself with the very high score of 55 in the results of her Middle Years Program (roughly equivalent to O levels). The all-time best school result is 62. She also won two special commendations, for Humanities and for Music, at the Middle Years’ Program version of the Graduation ceremony, at which she also played the guitar in two stage performances. The ceremony displayed the somewhat erratic organizational skills of the school and light relief was unintentionally caused when the balloons in a great archway of balloons by the side of the stage suddenly exploded one by one every twenty minutes or so during the speeches and presentations. Ella put together the show’s introductory video for the audience of several hundred parents and relatives. The Headmistress took the stage after the video show looking, I thought, shaken rather than stirred by the chef d’oeuvre, which had featured various of Ella’s classmates in a cornucopia of compromising positions. Possibly to forestall future contentious litigation from enraged fundamentalist parents, the headmistress pronounced somewhat ruefully: “well, that WAS a surprise!” Alli and I were seated behind a newly arrived parental couple who had not appreciated the artistic irreverence of Ella’s collage of photos and music . Ella was rightly undeterred. On the music front she went to Zurich to see Cold Play (for the first time) while I made plans to see Eileen Rose (for the fourth time) in Northern Italy by Lake Como.
The school also organized a friendly barbecue for new parents at which Ella was a helper. I wandered around feeling oddly like an old hand, meeting friends old and new alike, and bumping into the redoubtable Clive Smit, over in Basel for a weekend before a work project in Zurich. Gwen came 5th in the School long distance run and promptly qualified herself to represent the school in an international race in Lausanne next month. She has also completed a very successful school project on traditional African dancing and we were able to look at some of the tapes that her Grandad so painstakingly recorded of traditional African dances when he was in Nigeria in the 1950s.
Alli celebrated her birthday on the 7th, receiving some thoughtful presents and flowers from friends, neighbors and children. Her main present, she said, is the afore-mentioned house. On the Saturday previously I cooked a full family evening meal (in many years I have seldom been allowed into the cooking area) which was pronounced a success. It also featured meat, which has been largely eliminated from the family table these days. Gwen has been a vegetarian for several weeks now, and I am only eating meat on occasional Saturdays (or when it would be rude not to). It’s far too complicated to explain why I am doing this, but in part consequence I am losing weight and feeling better by this approach. Alli’s culinary skills have been tested by the new situation and although she and Ella still crave fleisch, she manages to cook meals as delicious as ever with pulses, vegetables and beans. It must be something to do with her addiction to Masterchef and Market Kitchen. It all brought back memories of the late great restaurant Uhuru in Oxford’s Cowley Road, where I ate every week for a year in the mid 1970s as a student, enjoying dishes such as Non-Violent Shepherds Pie and Leaf Wellington.
During walks, Bonnie, on seeing other dogs, often rushes up to them as if she is going to attack them violently. In humans this behaviour is seen as highly aggressive, like the proverbial horseman galloping right up to the castle walls, but dogs, generally speaking, turn no hair and see this behaviour indifferently, showing at most surprise even as their owner is reaching for a stick. I have surmised that this “rush” treatment can be compared to an over-hearty handshake in a human, which is irritating but not threatening. Humans do not treat such a handshake as an aggressive act although, given some of the handshakes I have suffered, perhaps they should. But Alli and I sometimes have to apologise to owners who think that Bonnie is not just a bit headstrong but a complete head-case.
Over in the Caribbean Jessie has in the past month been working in various jobs, employed as a researcher into tourism, a cataloguer of widgets on a ship yard and a general errand runner for Stanbrook Enterprises. This is all good experience but somehow I would rather that she was learning about the wonders of the law in some dingy northern English or Belgian factory town where winter had already arrived instead of writing mails to us describing how she has been riding a horse along the beach or watching the sun go down from the deck of a yacht or driving a speed boat or snorkelling along the famous Cayman trough. However, it looks like that has all changed recently and radically and in the past few days she has been involved in the meticulous preparation for a genuine murder trial. She is going through witness statements, autopsy reports, DNA analysis reports, even photos of the wounds..
No further questions, m’lud
Lionel, Jessie, Gwen and Ella, 47 Hohlegasse, 2009