There was a pleasing symmetry to this month as it was precisely bookended by the 60th birthday parties of good, close and long-standing family friends. At the beginning Alli and I went to East London to help celebrate our friend John’s birthday and to catch another view of the magnificent garden that his partner Jan has created. It was a memorable day: the English weather again obliging us all and making the garden sparkle with flowers, and a friendly klatsch of interesting people practising the gentle art of conversation. John even made a graceful and simple speech, which is unusual (the speech, not the gracefulness or the simplicity). At the other end of the month Alli went to Brussels to celebrate the birthday of Claude in the company of many other old friends in common. On this occasion I was unable to come but, anxious to impose myself on the proceedings nevertheless, I sent a video to be played to the gathering. In less than fluent and more than atrociously English-accented Flemish, I congratulated the francophone Claude on his birthday and hoped thatFC Anderlecht would win the Belgian League. At least that’s what I think I said. Apparently everyone laughed at the video and I am delighted to hear this (Ik ben blij om dit te horen!).
Never would I have believed, 44 years ago when I first listened to “After the Gold Rush”, that Neil Young at the age of 68 would be rocking the oenophiles at the 67th Colmar Wine Fair “comme un ado”, half an hour up the road. However, I actually missed this, as well as a free invitation from my friend Adam to the grunge godfather’s concert in London’s Hyde Park in July, as well as other free invitations to football matches: the FA Community Shield, and Crystal Palace vs West Ham in the Premier League, offered by friends and relations all in the space of the last two months, but all reluctantly refused due to our nailed on summer travel movements and commitments. Talking of the summer, we are going to take a family holiday in New Zealand’s summer over Christmas this year, visiting friends old and new, my cousin Christine, who is helping with the travel arrangements, and other family connections. The tickets are bought, and we will be going to and fro by, er, Malaysian Airlines.
Emma, the young daughter of a French friend, came to us to spend a week with Gwen, and while there was not a great deal of verbal communication between them, they went cycling a few times, often getting caught in the rain or the inevitable mud, and played board and Wii games. We went to an amusing English language production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Nightin the courtyard of the Schoeneshaus in Basel, and also to an exhibition of enhanced photographs of the Castle and environs of Ferrette, and had dinner in the Cafe Jura afterwards. On another afternoon we walked around Basel with the rain stalking us deliberately wherever we went. On another we went bowling. With even the famous Rheinschwimmen cancelled because the Rhein was too swollen by rainfall, and because it felt more like winter than summer, it’s been a decidedly poor show on the weather front in August, especially when compared to our sun-dappled July holiday in south west England. My Swiss friends had predicted an early end to the season when the first full moon (of which there were no less than five in the month) was greeted with a monumental storm in Basel that had whole trees waving an urgent goodbye to the summer.
Two parties in one weekend (the one during which Alli was away in Brussels) signalled for me the beginning of the fall, and both took place in our village. The first was The French Letter Quiz Night, which attracted a record number of participants and sold out the local Restaurant A L’Ange, and for which I again took the role of querulous quiz master. On the next night the street party of Rue de la Scierie took place. With still more Anglophones moving to the street this past year, this is now a very cosmopolitan affair in which English is heard almost as much as French, the former tending to dominate in the later stages. Oddly, it did not rain, and we sat contentedly under the small marquee in the road until the early hours of the morning. Late August also marks the advent of Agrogast, the cornucopian Food and Wine Fair in Hegenheim. We again went with the Jarvises and the Barneses to wander around the stalls, and to taste and buy wine from our prosperous wine dealer. We had dinner in the cowshed that served as a temporary restaurant, and where the smell of recently departed cattle and the ubiquitous flies tried our patience and discovered it less than stoical. It may be observed that often the company compensates for the food to make the occasion enjoyable. We had the same friends over for a barbecue feast at home when the weather noticed and stopped us from eating outside.
Gwen is demonstrating her precocious talent in photography and has set up her accounts in Facebook and Flickr to offer her services to take photographs of events, birthdays, bar mitzvahs, portraits and groups etc. She got off to a flying start last month with a couple of commissions, the first of which has already been undertaken successfully. https://www.flickr.com/photos/gwenstanbrook andhttps://www.facebook.com/gwenfernphotography for more information).
Jessie has now finished and delivered her Dissertation on Restorative Justice for her LLM (Master of Laws) and with it her student life has come to an end. She has been offered and accepted a permanent job with GIZ, the German development foundation where she worked last year in Bangladesh, and will return there next month to continue and build upon this work with a four-year contract, causing much family delight albeit mixed with a twist of consternation from her Mum and Dad (about the forthcoming absences). Ella, also no longer a student, has just finished her first full month as an intern in the HR department of Loughborough University, and actually enjoys it. I feel a secret and guilty pleasure about this, as I have never understood HR language or vocabulary, and so it is gratifying to know that my own daughter will be helping to correct this recidivist defect.
Ambiguously, my door is always open. Feel free to circle back and drill down.
Lionel in the Garden of the Tallis Locks, August 2014
Bonnie, Leymen, August 2014 (Gwen Fern Photography)