We had Alli’s parents, Laurie and Kay, to stay with us for a few days. The visit again amply demonstrated Laurie’s talents in the DIY arena. He hardly stopped for breath in between undertaking seemingly hundreds of jobs in the house and garden while I looked on helplessly but happily. For example, Laurie sourced, provisioned and erected a reasonably solid fence around key parts of the garden boundary, enabling us to let Licorice wander outside in the garden off the lead. Fencing has never been one of my strong points. In fact, it has never been a point of mine at all. Laurie also managed to do several other jobs that had been festering on my to-do list, some for several months. He shot through the house like a dose of salts fixing this and mending that, and by the time he and Kay had departed, the fixtures and fittings of the house had never had it so good.
We went with Laurie and Kay to spend a day in the Swiss capital city of Bern. Bern is a delight, a tiny mediaeval town built into the side of a valley, its buildings and cobbled streets hundreds of years ancient, untouched by war and civil destruction, tidy in its smallness and its composure. We stopped for lunch at the Zum den Altes Tramdepot, just across the bridge from the old town, next to a real live bear pit with two real live big brown bears in it. The bears, symbols of Bern, were padding around and playing up to the sightseers who fed them bits of fruit which the bears then caught in their jaws while lying on their backs, feet splayed out like giant teddy bears. After lunch we wandered around the shops and a winter market, then came back in time enough to have dinner across the border in France.
October featured the annual Herbstmesse: The market has been held annually in Basel since 1471. Nowadays it is more of a multi-site fairground but it has reverberations of times past. It was here a year ago that Gwen and I saw daredevil leathered bike riders racing each other horizontally around the inside of a giant barrel. Here a year before this Gwen and Alli had inspected a two headed tortoise. I have not yet found the bearded lady or the monkey-child but I feel that such sights must be there if I looked carefully. I did see a delightful hand-painted sign in the Messeplatz for “Lottie’s Chnoblibrot” (garlic bread) when I spent an afternoon with Gwen going around some of the stalls and attractions. Gwen went again a week later with Alli, Jessie, Ella and Kay while I stayed back home failing to erect the fence around the garden that I referred to earlier as having been completed by Grandpa Laurie.
Ella turned in another impressive report from school and this in a term when even by her sister’s admission she has had a huge amount of homework to do. Despite this, she is still at the epicentre of an active social life, and playing good tennis with me and my friends at the Aesch tennis club when needed. Ella also played very competently at a school concert for her year, providing guitar accompaniment to Snow Patrol’s popular song Chasing Cars. I also watched her one weekend playing for the school in a six-a-side football competition between international schools in Switzerland. The team didn’t do very well (Ella was consigned to between the goalposts for two of the matches), and some of us Dads were seriously questioning the team’s tactics and so basically, Brian, we blamed the coach. In our minds we sacked him the following morning before he could resign.
Later, at the School’s Showcase evening, Jessie could also be heard confidently on the cornet (now working towards Grade 8), leading a brass ensemble of uncertain boy buglers in a rendition of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. She is rehearsing a big role in the Basel English players’ panto (Frankenstein) and is the stage manager for the forthcoming school musical (High Street Musical), as well as giving piano lessons to a neighbour’s daughter and editing the school gazette Raw. She stayed behind in Basel to rehearse and party while Alli and I, Gwen and Ella went to Luxembourg to stay with Alli’s brother Tony and his wife Susanne for a couple of days (after the French railway strike robbed us of a day’s pleasure). We went to a Danish Christmas bazaar (like a British Christmas bazaar only with better looking items, tombola prizes and people), and were treated like visiting royalty as is the habitual hospitality level from chez Miles-Sorensen.
Overall this has been the month of concerts – the girls have seen in quick succession (and in various permutations): the Cold War Kids, the Fray, Newton Faulkner, Rufus Wainwright, Dolores O’Riordan, the Klaxons, Hayden and the National. Gwen – for the first time – joined me and Ella to see Wainwright and O’Riordan at the Basel AVO sessions.
After nearly thirty months of accident-free commuting I crashed from my bike once again last month, while avoiding a car that jutted out suddenly. I flew over the handlebars, clumpled heavily to the ground and rolled over twice involuntarily in one swift movement. I was fortunate, and had only aches, pains and bruises and apparently a cracked rib, although no-one believed me since I did not moan all night or clutch my sides in agony while walking. That happened a few days later when I got a severe dose of the flu, stayed at home for a couple of days, and irritated everyone.