Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Lives on the move

Yesterday, I said goodbye Baulmes, and travelled down the autoroute with Valdo and Anne-Lise towards Geneva, in thin fog, and amidst quite busy traffic. The pace of the traffic was less scarily fast than I recall, though still around the 65-70mph level. Valdo pointed out that on the Lausanne to Geneva stretch, there are now speed cameras every two kilometres! After the initial wave of prosecutions and heavy fines, the effect is plain to behold - no succession of cars rushing down the outside lane at 140 - 160 kph, flashing and causing others to pull over. In fact the accident rate is well down. No doubt the cost of savings on hospital bills, rescue services, and insurance write-offs, will quickly cover the millions of francs it cost to install twenty odd speed cameras.

We parted company at Crans prés Celigny, where they dropped me off at the house of an old friend with whom I lunched, and went for a walk down to the little port of Crans on lac Léman. I heard about the closing of a number of rural railway stations on the Geneva to Lausanne stretch, not to mention village post offices. There is a bus service which circulates the villages to pick people up and take them to the nearest train station, either at Nyon for intercity services, or at Mies, where the local shuttle service into Geneva begins. This takes so much extra time, that it forces shoppers and commuters living in rural villages to take to their cars. Geneva is short of housing, due to its expansion over the past decade. Rural villages in Vaud between Geneva and Lausanne are springing up many new suburban houses, and there's increasing traffic on the narrow roads, built around the needs of farming - it is still an active agricultural area, rich with cattle, fruit farming and wine making - the stopping trains are no longer there to swallow up the commuters, however. This rail streamlining policy seems to go in the opposite direction to environmental friendliness. In order to get into Geneva, I gratefully accepted the offer of a lift, where a few years ago I would have been able to get on a train at Céligny station at the bottom of the hill. It's the same all over Europe, it seems.

Anyway, I arrived at the home in Vernier of friends Keith and Claudine. Keith is organist of Holy Trinity Church Geneva, and we used to be colleagues. He's been over to Cardiff and played several concerts for us there. Claudine is currently working for the Swiss government at the UN in New York, due to finish this summer, and looking forward to the end of shuttling between two cities three thousand miles apart. It was great to relax and catch up again. Keith has another organist friend staying currently, and helping out with various services at HTC, Gingins and Divonne. It's a very hospitable household, and all sorts of interesting people come and go from time to time, and conversation around or after meals is always pleasurable. We're almost under the flight path from Cointrin, Geneva airport here, a reminder that I'll be on my way, back home to work in only two days time. Meanwhile, more opportunities to meet and converse with other old friends in the time remaining.

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