Saturday, January 05, 2008

On skis and cheese

Yesterday, my first day back in Switzerland since the summer, after a long night's sleep and brunch, Laura handed me the car keys and asked me to ferry Camilla and her friend Lucia up the southern side of the Valley for their afternoon ski/surf outing. I was pleased to find that I hadn't forgotten how to drive on the other side of the road any more than I'd forgotten how to speak French. Sometimes back in Cardiff I find myself wondering about things like this. Part of getting old I suppose. Laura and I then went north up the valley side for a ski-de-fond session at Mont Soleil. Conditions were excellent.

The rolling landscape of the long plateau which is sandwiched between steeper mountain crests on both French and Swiss sides is a mix of pine forest and summer pasture land. Much excellent local cheese starts with cows grazing up here in warmer days than today. Farming has diversified however, taking advantage of the winds to generate electricity. I counted at least half a dozen wind turbines as we followed the piste an eleven kilometer round trip. There may have been more in fact, as I got a little confused when the piste took us both around and through an assembly of these new eco-landmarks. 

I was pleased to complete the outing without falling once, or being utterly exhausted. I felt rather cautious at first with the hernia operation just four months behind me, but soon I found that both confidence and control was as good if not better than this time last year when I was unbeknowingly nursing the injury. All I need to do now is work on improving my stamina.

Laura and Daniel had an evening choir rehearsal, so I was left in charge of the ham and split pea soup, and manufactured some mince pies with pastry left by Laura with some home made mincemeat. I was quite pleased with my efforts, and they were appreciated by both the family and choir members who returned to eat afterwards.

Supper was most enjoyable, as the choir members are a diverse and interesting bunch, including a several scientists, a farmer's wife and a pastor. If found myself sitting next to two guys who are Mac users and into Linux - 'Linuxiens' as they are called in French. As ever problem solving gets discussed whenever Linux is enthused over. It's great but imperfect, but users are keen to share knoweledge. One guy was having problems with a virtual machine installation on his Mac, and found help in a forum posting from an Italian. Not much problem as automatic translations are available on the web - except that they can be as hilarious as they are informative on times.

At one moment the discussion turned to the price of milk, as much a topic here with increased feed prices as it is in the U.K. The husband of the farmer's wife accompanied her for supper, and spoke interestingly about the economic situation. A great moment of hilarity ensued when the subject of milk processing arose, and how different qualities of milk products were dealt with. At the top end are the 'grand cru' special cheese. At the bottom end, the agricultural co-operativer 'milk-lake' products, sold to the French for processing into cheese disparagingly described as 'Gruy√®re d'Emmental'.  

It was an altogether stimulating evening, and not easy to get to sleep after both the physical and mental exertions of the day. 

I awoke late, to find that it had rained in the night. Not much chance of skiing today, just a damp stroll around town, and a quiet afternoon to catch up on myself.

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