The colors of this year’s Fall together with four weeks of bright November daytime sunshine have been extraordinary. Once the thick morning mists have cleared, a flickering palette of bright greens, pithy oranges, flaring yellows, flame reds and burnt russets is scattered during our walks with the dogs around the Leimental, the best of the several picturesque valleys carved to the south, alongside the Birsig stream and whose paths and roads connect several Swiss and French villages. Leymen is in the French Sundgau region, “land of the fried carp”, in the south of the Alsace. From the 12th century Landskron hilltop castle, we can see across to the Vosges in France, the Schwarzwald in Germany, and the Jura in Switzerland, the mighty Rhein winding between all of them with Basel in the centre. How lucky we are to live here! But not so lucky just now for our elderly neighbor, who became the latest victim of the gigantic Leymen roadworks scandal when a raised pothole knocked her from her bicycle. She appeared at our door with blood pouring from her head and Alli drove her immediately to the hospital for treatment. I may well be the next victim, jailed for roadworks rage as I grind across the building site shaking my fist.
Geoff came over from England on a flying trip to join me and Neil in watching Wilco at the Kaserne in central Basel. It was Wilco’s first time in Basel (Neil and I saw them in Zurich seven years ago). The venue was just outside one of Basel’s main Herbstmesse sites with its neon roller coasters and look-at-me screams. After a while the lead singer Jeff Tweedy announced that he was feeling unwell and expressed the hope that he wouldn’t throw up, a revelation that created a mild reverse riptide effect from the bobbling heads at the front. He said he had eaten bad lentils at a French truck stop. I liked this detail. On the road, the band eats dodgy food from motorway caffs. I had assumed that they would be flying first class, or at least have had a celebrity chef on the coach.
Moving from dodgy to delicious, Alli and I were treated liberally to dinner at a Lebanese restaurant in Binningen by our good friends the Barnes of Biel Benken. Evenings with the Barnes bring the best out of us and in the early hours Alli and I often end up dancing together, which we scarcely ever do elsewhere. A couple of days later we welcomed the Kellys and Annet for Sunday lunch. I also went to England for a couple of days, mostly to talk with some friends about a possible business venture. I saw Jessie for dinner in Brighton and also the next night in Battersea, where we together attended the legendary Mike Waterson’s 11/11/11 dinner party at his restaurant the Gazette in the mod-posh part of the south bank. The party brought together, he said, his best friends, and so I felt privileged to be there, despite his several unprovoked public swipes at my impeccable reputation in his witty speech of welcome.
Gwen, who has been picked for the school’s basketball team, completed with distinction Basel’s annual Stadtlauf for the third year in a row. We went for dinner at Tibits afterwards with friends. I also took Gwen and her friend Puck to Freiburg, and grabbed the shopping opportunity with gusto, finishing at least half of my festive mandate, as I am an impatient shopper and the Christmas market there had just begun. We had a large German lunch at Martin’s Brauhaus in what is now a family tradition. I also took Gwen and her friend Maya to a marche bio in Orschwihr, then on to the excellent Christmas market in Mulhouse.
Ella’s article on the Rizzle Kicks was published in the Loughborough University Student magazine. I thought both the article and the magazine were impressive – a far cry from my drowsy days as the fey arts reviewer on Oxford’s Isis. And, btw, I am quite frequently asked about my use of American spelling and terminology. I normally use the word Fall instead of Autumn, and this is why: The Old English fiæll and the Old Norse fall came together in 16th century England as the collective and typically descriptive term denoting the season (leaf fall). Before that, the English had called the season Harvest, a term retained in Germanic languages as Herbst. In the 17th century, as English emigration to the British colonies in North America was swelling, the new settlers took the current English language terms (and spelling) with them across the Atlantic. While the word Fall then gradually became obsolete in Britain as European continental influence increased, it became the more common term in North America. A similar story goes for many of the spelling differences between the US and the UK. As you see I am determinedly fighting this creeping obsolescence in the Mother Country. We wish a merry Christmas to you all!
Gwen, a golden statue and Puck in Freiberg, November 2011