Jessie updates us regularly with her news as she freewheels around New Zealand. She finished her parliamentary job with New Zealand’s next-but-one Prime Minister at the beginning of the month and has started on the travelling and sight-seeing phase of her visit. Highlights of her month past have included her record-breaking bungee jump (8.5 seconds in free fall), meeting groups of new friends on the Kiwi equivalent of the Magic Bus, getting her nose pierced, spending quality time with my cousin Christine, in whose house she was very well received and looked after (“Everyone is so lovely here” she wrote), the experience of Milford Sound, the proper way to cook great spinach (yeah, right) and many other mentionable and unmentionable excitements. I exchange notes with her when I have stayed up too late in the small hours and she is in the bright promise of the Antipodean morning. Such is globalization. She is also raising money for charity by jumping out of a plane and freefalling until the parachute opens near the ground. So I use this opportunity to appeal strongly to you all on her behalf to pledge a few dollars to push her out of that plane (photos will be supplied) and make a contribution to the charity Water – to obtain Jessie’s eternal thanks (and mine) please use link http://mycharitywater.org/p/campaign?campaign_id=4240. She is just over half-way to her target, but there are only a couple of weeks left before time runs out. Roll Up! Roll Up!
The redoubtable Miles family, minus their rocker son Ollie from the heavy metal band Braindirt, stayed with us over Easter. We all walked up as if pilgrims on Easter morning to the Landskron Castle at the top of the hill overlooking Leymen and looked out across Baselland and the Sundgau, and although the view was not crystal-clear we could also see easily across to the Black Forest on one side, to the Vosges on the other and across to the Alps on another. The thirteenth century castle has an interesting history as do many castles, ruined or restored, in this grenzland of France, Germany and Switzerland. We also went to Paul and Elise’s excellently sociable party in the Bruderholz while Susanne took the children to the pizzeria in Leymen. On Easter Monday Alli and I worked in our strange new garden, in which interesting and new plants are now springing up: wild strawberries; lilies-of-the-valley; miniature daffodils; peonies, and many other less identifiable plants. Gwen and I sowed a first lot of assorted vegetable seeds after preparing seed plots. We are also growing a generous complement of tomato plants. Gwen single-handedly gave the chicken coop a second coat of preservative paint and so only the run now needs to be built. Gwen and I set our postbox exactly where the French postal authorities wanted us to put it and at the exact height that the French regulations require.
Ella, Gwen and Alli went to see the singer Mika in Basel, and the related CD stayed in our car CD player for many days afterwards. I wrote last month about the Highland cows in a nearby field, and now there are two little Highland heifers, smudges of shaggy brown in the meadow. Ella spent a few days in Lisbon playing in a soccer tournament and was the family’s sole victim of the Icelandic volcano explosion, having to return from Lisbon to Basel by coach in a journey of more than 24 hours, a difficult journey mitigated by the fact that both the boys’ and girls’ teams won the tournament. On one walk recently with our dog Bonnie I at last saw and examined the not-very-famous but genuine and well-protected dolmen of Aesch. For some reason Bonnie keeps getting attacked. It must be something to do with her friendly nature and the unleashed aggression of many badly trained French dogs. But I do think that Bonnie might also be sending psychological invitations to other animals to attack her. The other day without any provocation whatsoever a Siamese cat attacked her at the tennis club. And the geese at the pond nearly always have a go.
We spent a great weekend with our Belgian friends Laurence, Claude, Anne and Sophie – it was all too short but still enough for Alli to catch up on the news from Brussels in the early hours and for us to spend time at a wine tasting event. We had an enjoyable lunch yammering with the Kellys, imbibing some fine Australian wine one Sunday afternoon, a day before I returned to my bike-riding habits after a break of four months. The journey to work is now double the previous distance and takes an hour, so the commute is similar to the time I used to take on the Brighton line to London, except that now my journey is on a bike, costs nothing, and has health benefits, especially to my lungs and coronary arteries, although I do admit that my backside was a lot more comfortable on the 06.25 from Burgess Hill. The following week I drove a white van to the deeply quiet Swiss village of Murgenthal to collect a table from the ex-owner of our house. Loading the table after 9pm and in the failing light I was requested robustly by a householder to be quieter in my exertions and by a local vigilante couple to explain precisely what a French delivery van was doing in their tidy village.
Notwithstanding, a very happy, loud and fiery Beltane to all
Anthony, Gwen, Sophia, Susanne at Chateau Landskron
Alli in Rue de la Scierie garden, 2010