This is the month that we all thought that winter would drift in, as there are rumours of snow on the lower reaches of the Jura, but during the day in the first part of last month in Basel and Oberwil the temperature often reached 20 degrees; Alli has only just stopped using the lounger when she has a spare minute. The fall (I prefer this fine old Anglo-Saxon word to its European equivalent of autumn) in Switzerland is characterised by clear bright colours and skies, brisk walks and echoing woods. It’s a fine time to walk a dog or two around the woods near the French border by Neuwiller. I have travelled extensively this year but last month chalked up an all-time record as I managed to spend time, for different professional reasons, in Mexico, Japan, Korea, Thailand and China. The month had started more prosaically with a couple of dinners out with friends at a Thai restaurant and, a few days later, an Australian restaurant, where the Antipodean owner assured us that England and France would be systematically humiliated in the Rugby World Cup by Australia and New Zealand respectively. My minibreak in Monterrey, Mexico was a breathless affair. I asked my driver where he lived. “In another world”, he said simply, pointing over the bridge to the sprawling suburbs of Monterrey from the heights of the Valle district, where all the foreigners live. Escaping from the searing heat I wandered around an exhibition comparing the tradition of Quetzalcoatl with that of Isis: the plumed serpent and the hawk god. My sojourn in points East was exciting and enervating: a first trip to Shanghai and to Beijing and a return to Seoul and Tokyo, the latter a city that fascinates me. I took a Sunday morning to walk slowly around one of the clan gardens of the Edo period, the Kyu-Shiba-rikyu Gardens, an unforgettable experience in which I saw how a garden can look beautiful from several different elevations, and all surrounded by tower blocks and droning traffic.
Twenty-five years after the extraction of three of my Wisdom teeth and with the fourth and last one having pushed through in recent months and starting to impact the other teeth, I arrived at my wealthy dentist for the treatment. I can’t precisely remember the circumstances of the first mass-extraction back in the early eighties, but I certainly was not shown the bloody teeth afterwards and I don’t remember feeling or experiencing in any way the act of extraction, to put it primly. This time it was brute force and although I was under a local anaesthetic it still seemed to hurt heavily. I also had three major fillings done. These Swiss dentists may be world famous but for days afterwards you definitely know that you have been with one.
Jessie went to England for a few days to see her friends and to be a tourist in London. She surprised her Nanny and Grandpa by arriving one morning at their sparingly used front door in Burgess Hill. Alli had asked them to be in at that time as a parcel was going to be delivered. They were reported to be delighted to see her, although I suspect it might well have cost a round of golf. Jessie has had another good academic report from school (biology excepted), and has recently changed her IB diploma subjects, dropping history in favour of music. Gwen featured in an excellent school production of Jack and the Beanstalk. Although I missed the live version, I was able to enjoy it later on a specially produced DVD for recalcitrant parents. How times change. Gwen also took a full part in the festivities around the street for the eve of All Hallows’ Day, otherwise known as Samhain, the end of summer.
Alli has taken to putting up signs around the house – one on the letter box asks for no advertising literature (rather an embarrassment considering my previous employer), another on the front door says that a dog rules here – I expect more signs to appear around the place such as Now Wash Your Hands Please in the bathroom or Wash Up That Dish in the kitchen or Leave This Bathroom As You Would Expect to Find It. Talking of dogs, we took delivery of another dog, Licorice, a cocker spaniel from our friends the McClays. (Why do so many pronounce this word “lickrish“, rather than “lickriss“?) Licorice has been very popular with all the children, especially Gwen and her friends. He will stay with us for a few weeks and has already upset the delicate hormonal balance of the household by being extremely amorous with Bonnie, the cushions on the sofa and Alli’s leg. I have been assured that such behaviour is purely from distant memory.
Yours from wherever,