Continuing snow, freezing winds, sludge and ice remind us that the Swiss are far happier in cold and wintry conditions; it’s what the country and its people are designed for, in a way. It’s as if the rest of the year is no more than an unfulfilling non-dress rehearsal in the art of being Swiss, a condition that only achieves perfect national expression in a proper brass monkey winter. The whole country seems somehow to relax in the icy conditions and the Swiss become content at the prospect of the snow-covered sunlit uplands arrayed around them. In the snow, even the buses and trams seem to be more punctual than they are in other seasons. Baselers seem to live fuller and stand taller through these shivering days of freezing mists and swirling winds. They talk animatedly together at staff canteens all week about the relative merits of ski resorts, then as the afternoon light fails on Fridays, they scarf up their kids, cram all the bulky paraphernalia of skiing into a big car and vroom triumphantly and deliriously off towards the slopes. I imagine the routes to Interlaken, Gstaadt and Grindelwald streaming with gunnel-packed cars merrily tooting, their happy occupants yodelling with joy as they reach their snow-laden destinations . Er, no, we don’t ski any more. But the children do. In the past month, Ella and Gwen have each had enjoyable school skiing trips and Jessie was invited for a weekend’s skiing in Verbier with her boyfriend’s family.
New Year’s Eve was unusual – we went to a party at the Campbells of Storchenweg and Alli drove home, anxious about Ella’s party at our house in the small hours. She needn’t have worried. As soon as we arrived everyone disappeared upstairs into Ella’s bedroom as if on a pre-arranged signal, leaving us to have a nightcap amidst xanthous paper plates and empty crisp packets. Later in the month we went to an Australian wine tasting event and again Alli abstemiously drove us home.
On the perennially troubled matter of computers and the internet, a computer-repair man has in four hours put our computer and internet access bang to rights, while also removing 453 viruses. None of these had actually managed to close it down or even damage it so I am left relieved but disappointed that I did not experience the full facial of virtual Armageddon. I have only once witnessed a really amusing virus, over ten years ago at my brother’s office, when the screen literally crumpled itself up and threw itself away. It was hilarious, but I feel bored to inform you dully that the family computer, internet, printer and router are all working. That is, until Mr Gates learnt of my past illegal use of his software as I tried to come clean and upgrade illegally installed software with a legitimately purchased update. This has caused some temporary IT difficulties but serendipitously I have found my best ever friend Adam through the glorious invention that is Facebook and my joy has been utterly unconfined at finding someone very important to me, with whom I lost touch nearly thirty years ago, and whom I had not managed to trace until now.
Jessie had her English friend Alex stay over the New Year holiday and they were out in Basel’s bars and clubs every night. Alex confided to us before she left that she thought the Basel scene to be livelier than that of Brighton. Praise indeed, but I feel that this is probably not the case if one is over fifty years old. On the university front, Jessie got conditional offers from Kings College London, Warwick, Surrey and Sussex and is now preparing her year off and the financing thereof. Ella is preparing her subjects for the International Baccalaureate diploma. She is interested in psychology or journalism as a possible career. She also presented and performed her special project for the Middle Years Program, a rearrangement of five contemporary songs. She distributed CDs of the five original songs and her radical re-arrangements of them. With three helpful friends, she performed the best example, a great cover version of Rise Against’s Prayer of the Refugee. It brought a lump to my throat and was a success with the audience. It finished her year of intensive work on the project. Basically, she is now as relieved as a Swiss in a snow plough. Gwen was also busy with a school scientific project about light and she also made a memorable photo album and scrapbook for her good friend Leah, who has now left Basel to return to America. I am just happy that our family has got through another year, safe and sound in wind and limb (more or less).
Yours in stark relief,
Xanthous Armageddon Vroom