Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Mom's Birthday

Today would have been Mom's 99th birthday. I can't believe how old that sounds - about me, I mean, to have a 99 year old mother. It's crazy - until I remember she was 38 when I was born; what a relief!

I don't have a lot to say about her that I haven't already said. I'm thinking of her all the time in some background sort of way, particularly when sewing or cooking.

I remember as a teen setting out to become the opposite of her, mainly in that she stayed at home most of the time and was content. Now I'm very much like that.

On this blog it looks like we travel constantly, but most of the time we are at home. Bill goes out walking most weeks and to the running club. I spend a few hours at a craft, sewing or knitting group most weeks, and meet up with a friend occasionally for a day out. There are the trips to get food or prescriptions but otherwise we are at home. When younger I felt staying at home was 'boring' but I'm almost never bored anymore. 

If I'm not doing one of my many hobbies, I'm trying to learn something new. That makes me very much like Mom. I'm pleased to be able to say that.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

The Last Day We 'Cheated'

Our last day in Basel had its ups and downs. We saw Jane and Chris off on a train to Zurich where they would catch their flight home to Sydney.  By the way, have you ever heard of the Gnomes of Zurich? I never had, but apparently it is a common catch-phrase that came up when we were discussing the whole Basilisk thing and Harry Potter associations.  Bill and Jane seemed quite familar with this phrase I'd never heard and they also related it to the Gremlins of Gringott's.  

It seems this is a British phrase arising after WWII when British politicians worried about speculation against the value of the pound. If you understand 'speculation etc' you're ahead of me. Anyhow, we waved good-bye to Jane and Chris, which was a bit of a bummer. 

Then we had quite a bit of time to kill before heading to the airport in Basel ourselves. The weather was not very nice. In fact about lunch time it began to pour and although we'd left our luggage in a locker at the train station, I hadn't been able to bring myself to leave my laptop in there. It didn't quite fit into my backpack entirely and I wasn't keen on letting it get wet, so I said I would buy lunch. 

We started out a little picky about where to go, but as the rain increased I just ducked into a brasserie near the Marktplatz. It turned out to be a decent choice, particularly as I had some Swiss Francs to get rid of. They took care of that.

It was hard to choose, but I ended up getting 'white asparagus soup' and 'meatloaf with veg'. Bill had some kind of exotic salad followed by sausages and wonderful looking hashed brown potatoes (only the Swiss call it something different). The soup was absolute heaven, though I'm not sure white asparagus tastes any different to green. I'm sure it was the huge amount of cream in it that made it so good. I was well full after putting most of that away and the meatloaf and (tinned?) veg were a let down after that. Bill's sausage was a far better choice but I wouldn't trade even that for my soup.  

I ate as slowly as I could, not wanting to go back out into the rain. When neither of us could swallow another bite we had to give in and leave. We still had most of the afternoon to fill. Bill led me to the Tinguely museum. Entry was 10CHF and to be warm and dry I thought it was worth it. But it turned out to be an astonishing place, even having seen the fountain.

In the main room there was a contraption, sorry, art piece, about 10-12 feet high with multiple stair cases, mostly metal, some leading upwards to a platform where one could go down some of the other stairs, but not all led anywhere at all. Underneath the frame was a collection of odds an ends that filled the space. 

Three months later (before finding photos to insert) I still remember a red velvet curtain, a doll that was past her best, a tacky gold framed painting of Venice inside a rusty guillotine and a large plastic garden gnome hanging upside down with his pointy head in a blue bucket (with lots of small coins thrown in, presumably by museum visitors for good luck). We walked around the thing several times, open mouthed, then climbed what stairs we could. 

There was a cord attached to a large bubble on the floor that looked like some sort of switch. Bill mimed that he was going to step on it, but there was a child half way up one of the ladders and I stopped him. Someone else stomped on that bubble a few minutes later. 

The red curtain opened and closed in front of the fancy doll. The guillotine opened and closed, obscuring and revealing the painting of Venice.

The upside down gnome spun around. He seemed strangely suited to do that with his pointy head as though trying to screw himself into the ground.

A person couldn't at least smile seeing all the useless activity going on with these pieces of junk.

For a long time, I thought this was the whole museum and did feel a tiny bit ripped off. We took our time perusing the gift shop section and there were some rather clever little gismos, but nothing we couldn't live without. Then one of the attendants said something that alerted Bill to the existence of another floor. 

That was a long string of large rooms each with 8-10 other 'art installations', films and newspaper clippings about Jean Tinguely. Most of the pieces had the bubble on the floor and there were about a dozen children (and more adults) who delighted in stepping on these switches. The thing was, it didn't always make the machines come to life like those street artists who stand immobile until someone puts a coin in their cup. There was an element of uncertainty, or perhaps of intermittent reward (like gambling). Everyone would hope to be present when the switch did work. 

Some machines drew scribbles with a pen on paper, others spun around, one shook a variety of appendages including an elderly and ragged pink velvet shoe. There were several like clock hands that moved continuously, but so slowly that one didn't immediately notice, and the 'hands' weren't affixed together nor did they move necessarily clockwise. There was one that seemed to have some sort of old rabbit fur or foxes tail affixed and when it moved it reminded me of one of my dogs riding a visitor's leg.  Except I could laugh about this instead of be horrified.

I watched part of the film about Tinguely and gathered that he and this woman (Niki de Saint Phalle), whom they didn't mention was his wife (or perhaps they did, but not in English) trawled garbage dumps and salvage yards in America and Europe looking for materials. One of the newspaper articles mentioned that he was a 'nihilist', which I don't quite understand except that it was sort of popular for a while. Several mentioned an exhibit in New York City that destroyed itself, which apparently rather kick-started the successful portion of his career. 

We both agreed it was totally worthwhile having gone to the museum, both from the incredible things we saw and from having the afternoon well filled in. I also promised myself that I would learn to do videos on my camera soon.

In the meantime, I found a couple on Youtube: Here  and Here.

We picked up our luggage and caught the bus out to the airport. Things were downhill after that, sitting for hours waiting for a delayed flight, arriving home to find our luggage had gone elsewhere.  I realised my glasses were packed (but I had 20-year-old ones that would do for a while), also my only house shoes and the charging cable of my lap top were unavailable for a couple of days.  Another couple with two very small children also endured that wait. Worse, theirs had started very early that morning. I was dismayed not to have my charging cable but things could have been worse. From the other woman's expression and her giggle, I would have bet money she'd packed her birth control pills in her checked / lost luggage...

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Swimming in the Rhine

Well, I must confess that I am bored with Switerland, hence my absence here. Also, after being away in France for a month there has been much to do around the house, laundry, garden and social-life-wise.

There are still a couple of things to share about Basel that I wouldn't want to leave off. There are still a million photos I could show you, but it's tedious. Instead, I will give you this link. You can use Google maps to walk each of those routes and the leaflet will tell you about the men they were named for and the sights you are seeing.

One day we, the four of us, had completed yet another walk that somehow ended back at the riverside and we had a drink at a sidewalk cafe. A tidy young man, short of stature but with all sorts of bulging muscles approached us. He politely asked if we were going to be there for a while, maybe 10-15 minutes? He explained that he wished to go for a swim in the river, but needed someone to look after his things. We were about to leave, but said we could stay since we had no pressing reasons not to and he was so courteous and speaking very good English. 

Then it got a bit strange. He thanked us and then apologised that he needed to change into his swimming costume, which would require him to strip off. He said he would be quick and mentioned that it was actually legal for people to be naked within 500 meters of the Rhine. I've been unable to confirm that statement but apparently nudity in Basel generally isn't illegal. I'd check that before ripping off your clothes, mind. 

We were generally speechless by then and he was quick about it. He did his quick change behind me, so I missed it all. I was of course moderately curious but felt it was beneath my dignity to turn around and gawp. Chris burst out laughing and the young man was so quick about it he was well down the road by the time I had my camera out. I thought Jane's face said it all.

I went closer to the riverside to see where the young man was going to launch himself. We'd previously seen a couple of teenage boys drifting down the river on some sort of floats. The tide was, as I mentioned about the boats on strings, quite swift, and the idea of going for a swim seemed a bit mental. Well, perhaps in keeping with his behaviour so far. We were all worried about how we would get out once in. 

We needn't have worried. He might have done maybe 400 meters in the water (drifting more than swimming, I would say) before attaching himself to one of the boat piers and hauling himself out. The boat driver seemed acquainted with this practice and perhaps with the young man specifically. 

We were all laughing a lot. In part because of the spectacle we'd just witnessed - well most of us - but also because for some reason Chris had decided to get back down on hands and knees to test the temperature of the water. This wasn't unusual for Chris except that he'd been having trouble with his back, I forget what he did to injure it, and none of us - including Chris - were at all sure he would be able to stand back up. I couldn't decide which of these characters was more ridiculous.

Jantz and Chris both survived just fine. And we all agreed that it had been a very interesting day.