We returned from the warm climes of New Zealand to the cross-field Sundgau swoosh of the moaning west-south-westerly, creaking windows, frosted mornings, then later to flailing snow, shrugging hoary wind-blown locks and dusting the surrounding hills with cold comfort. Once home, Alli suffered from the effects of a persistent virus that laid her low for several days. An early social date she missed but I attended was the French Letter Hunters’ Dinner at the Aux Chasseurs in Leymen, an annual celebration of harmless pretence (that we had all spent the day hunting wild boar and thus ruddily deserved the hearty eventide consumption of the same). My fare was an un-ruddy mushroom vol-au-vent, but I had the hunters’ vegetables of spetzli, Brussels sprouts and red cabbage. The late evening declined into an evil smelling slurry of fatally drinkable digestifs.
Jessie’s graduation in Brighton gave us the chance to see her again very quickly after our already legendary winter holiday. She had suffered for most of the two intervening weeks in Dhaka with a persistent stomach bug, but managed to revive for the Congregation. The ceremony in the Dome, next to the Royal Pavilion, was engaging and enjoyable, thanks to a lightness in the formalities and a genuine sense of humour among the Faculty and Officers of the University in their splendid multi-coloured gowns. Jessie was awarded her Masters’ Degree in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice by the University’s Chancellor, Sanjeev Bhaskar, who had opened the proceedings with witty words of welcome and a general request for hugs, love and cartwheels. (One recipient of a degree honoris causa, the filmmaker Andrea Arnold, did each. The novelist Graham Swift did none but made a good speech). Jessie also won an award for the best dissertation of all the graduates in the law faculty, an achievement that earned her a Distinction and made us especially proud. In the evening we went to Riddle & Finns, a seafood and oyster restaurant on Brighton beach, and had an excellent meal together with Laurie and Kay. Sam, Ella’s boyfriend, came to Brighton the next day to visit Ella, who has been starting to think about her next job after the current internship. I spent some time with friends Robert and Anne, and Jessie, who was staying the week with her grandparents, started to pack boxes of her belongings for removal to Dhaka. She also visited her friend Jenny, who was about to leave for a delayed honeymoon. We will not see Jessie again until next Christmas, unless we somehow manage to get to Bangladesh before then. I spent a couple of extra days in London, meeting and catching up with friends, wandering around Battersea, Westminster, Victoria and Pimlico (including many venues of my teenage and other youthful years), and dodging the encrusted traffic in my Barclays Bike before returning to Basel.
Gwen completed her Personal Project and demonstrated it coherently at the school during a weekday evening, with all the others in her year. As in previous years, the creativity, determination and imagination generated by the projects were wonderful for the parents to behold; revelatory and inspiring, especially as the students lost all inhibition quite easily in explaining what their projects, on which most had spent months undertaking, painstaking and annotating, were all about, and why they were innovative and worth their time to do. Gwen’s project was to to accurately re-create fashion photographs she had found in journals, using her own friends as models and her own photographic equipment to do so. She had been enthused and excited by it; and unlike many parents we had had virtually no involvement in it. Her project earned many plaudits from friends and other parents, and we are yet again very proud of our youngest daughter.
Our chooks are no more. Following the violent death one mid-morning by marauding falcon of one and the disappearance of two others (who later came back traumatised), we decided to pass them on to a local farmer. We will get hens again this spring and we will guard them better. Already I have plans for a redesigned and super-efficient vegetable garden incorporating a new and restricted chicken run which will improve the view for us, and the safety for them. The last days of the month therefore saw me digging over the still warm undersoil, despite the brushing of snow and frost on the top.
Yours in a flurry
Lionel, Alli, Gwen, Jessie, Ella, Kay and Laurie, Brighton Pavilion, January 2015
Ella presenting her Personal Project at the ISB, January 2015