I have noticed that the year is hurtling through its course at an ever accelerating speed. A packed and passionate month with a strong family characteristic started with the visit of cousin Christine and a very convivial weekend with her and my brother Clive, whom she had not seen for many years. We see Clive more often than that but it was nonetheless an historic occasion. Christine (unlike Clive or I) has hardly changed over time. Gwen took to Christine immediately, and within minutes of meeting her had taken her measure, interrupted her a few times, and was sitting in the back of the car talking away to her contentedly about all manner of things. During the weekend we explored Basel together, had a memorable meal at a Mexican restaurant and went on a drive through the Black Forest through splattering rain, returning home to watch family videos and examine sepia photographs.
Our dear Aunt Monica died last month. Clive, Julia and I went to her funeral in the chapel of Glamis Castle and she was laid to rest in the village nearby. The funeral was a perfect event in a perfect setting. Afterwards there was another memorable social occasion at Airniefoul, just as there have been so many in the past, with the wider and ever bigger family deriving from the Clements and the Vivers showing and proving that life charges on just like the clouds that day scudding low and purposefully across the Scottish sky.
Gwen has discovered organized rock climbing, thanks to having been invited to Carter’s birthday party, at which she was the only girl. She was very proud of this achievement: “boys’ parties are more fun”, and we have now booked a rock climbing event as her birthday party in early December. She has also and suddenly become very literary and has been copious recently in writing and illustrating original stories.
Ella has bought a rather unusual yellow Fender guitar. The owner of the shop, Alfredo, took charge of the sale and explained that the guitar was unique and would certainly look very cool in a band. He took the guitar through some riffs and licks, impressing us with his and its ability. Alfredo also threw in a lot of extras and said that the guitar would be serviced free by the shop for ever. His clincher was to suggest that if we wanted to sell it back to him in a few years’ time he would probably pay more than it cost now.
Jessie has had a successful Halloween party at the house, at which prizes were given for the most successful costumes. I was amazed and encouraged by the efforts that went into the fancy dress. Jessie has also been given the lead role in the local English-speaking theatre group’s annual pantomime. She will be playing the Pied Piper of Hamelin. I have gone with Jessie and Ella to two concerts in the past month, to Ryan Adams and the Cardinals and to Matt Costa, one of Jessie’s discoveries. The Matt Costa concert was excellent, although before he came on, I felt that I had to retire to the bar, as I was finding that the bass line of the rather indifferent support act was making corrugated patterns inside my body. Unfortunately Ryan Adams underperformed, and his concert was very disappointing.
Nanny and Grandpa Miles visited us in Basel for a few days and became adapted almost immediately to a comfortable routine which involved walking down to the village every morning for a coffee with the village locals and engaging in some light banter in Swiss-German, which appears to be Laurie’s fifteenth working language. We spent an excellent day together walking around Rheinfelden, a village that straddles the Rhein, Switzerland and Germany. People around us looked relaxed, fit and contented and… old. They were also all well dressed and coiffed. A group of older, white-haired, sun-tanned people near to us were all on bicycles, wearing sports clothes and talking and laughing loudly with each other for all the world as if they were the local rowdies of the village.
Bonnie the dog is getting more and more accustomed to living with us, and is almost house trained, in the sense that she wakes us up in the middle of the night if she wishes to go outside to answer the call of nature. She is eating a huge amount of food for her size. She has a small body and long legs. In this respect she is the opposite of me.
I have visited Mansonville, after the repair of the roof of La Hune. A great work has been finished by our Belgian builder friends, and although I was unable to see around it very well in the failing light of a fleeting visit, it looks good and secure. I think and hope that its incontinence while rain falls on it has now been resolved.
Major dental work looms following continuing toothache. I was shown the problem with a hand mirror but could see only off-white teeth and pinkish gums. “Mother Nature!” the dentist said as he explained how much it would cost. I told him I thought it was less to do with Mother Nature and more to do with Father Time. He laughed good naturedly as one does when presenting an enormous bill.