Just as soon as December began, I had a funny feeling that it was all going to end in Christmas. The winter market stalls were already up and running in Barfusserplatz; there seemed to be more parties taking place earlier than usual, there were silver frosts in the mornings, black ice on the roads, grey slush on the pavements and heavy white snowfalls. Our road, with its overarching trees, looked like a winter tunnel wonderland and for several days one could have ridden a bobsleigh down it to the village. The English Comedy Club’s panto was playing to sell out audiences in the small theatre at the Schoeneshaus (when we saw it Gwen admired one of her beefier classmates parade himself in pink and frills with bunny ears). This was shortly after Gwen had run the annual Stadtlauf in Basel, performing and finishing well in Basel’s mini-version of the marathon. Gwen has also been making good progress on her ambition to be a cook (I think she means a celebrity cook) and has been making breakfast for us at the weekends and over Christmas. She makes excellent scrambled eggs and one evening she made dinner for seven people – pork in mustard sauce.
We hosted the Miles of Luxembourg over Christmas and with them sallied out on a freezing Christmas Eve to the ice rink and on an even colder Boxing Day to nearby Reigoldswil, where some of us took a cable car up the mountain then struggled to the peak of the Juras in piercing icy winds. We then rewarded ourselves in the warmth of a Swiss kitchen with schnitzel, beer and chips. Christmas day was quiet, just the two families and presents galore, parlour games and indigestion. I received some good presents from the girls – Bob Dylan tickets from Ella (he plays in Basel this Spring), printed postcards of La Hune from Jessie, and a drawing of a lion by Gwen.
Alli and I went to Cork in Southern Ireland to attend a wedding. The weather was clement and we enjoyed looking out to sea from the coastal walk around Ballymaloe. We stayed at a comfortable B & B in Shanagarry and managed also to buy some excellent local smoked salmon, pickles, chutney and jams for Christmas. The wedding was followed by a memorable reception at Ballymaloe Hall, the local stately home. We spent some time sight-seeing in the area and wandered around the city of Cork, a slightly dissonant cross between present-day Guildford and 1960s Oxford. Our way back was not as smooth as the coming: our plane was delayed and we missed the connection back to Basel, meaning that we had to stay at one of the overpriced Heathrow hotels overnight and get the first plane back the next morning. On unpacking at home, we found that the chutney we had bought in Shanagarry had spilled out over the contents of the suitcase. What a pickle!
Jessie’s university application and personal statement have now been completed. She will be applying to study law at either Kings College London, Queen Mary’s London, or Warwick, Sussex or Surrey Universities, following a gap year. We are also delighted and very proud that Jessie passed her Grade 8 Bb cornet exam with flying colours. With an ability to play several instruments of different types to a very high standard she has to be the most accomplished musician in the Stanbrook family so far. Two years behind her, the also musical Ella has started to think about her International Baccalaurate subjects and is proceeding well with her imaginative special project that involves creating and playing new acoustic cover versions of popular songs. She and I have continued to play tennis regularly on Sunday evenings with a small group of other players. Ella holds her own admirably with the others and last week she passed me effortlessly at the net several times. We also all saw and enjoyed the school musical Grease at the ISB for which Jessie was the Stage Manager and Ella was in charge of make-up.
A very Happy New Year from us to all comers, stayers and goers
Lionel searches for sixpence in the Christmas pudding – 25th December 2008.