Monday, January 14, 2008

Wet Geneva day

I awoke to see ground frost outside, which was great for letting the dogs run around the garden for a while before and after their 7.00am feed. As the morning wore on it got warmer and began to rain, turning the garden back to damp mud, which meant keeping the dogs in to avoid getting them utterly unmanageably filthy, and the house with them.

I ventured out into the late morning town traffic to deliver a document file to the UNICEF office for Claudine, but was not able to because the recipient was out and the security guard un-obliging. Can't say I blame him. Security is all he does and it's big tie business in a place like Geneva where every international organisation's public face is a potential target, if not for terror, for protests by someone or another. If there was a proper receptionist in the interior to whom I might have handed something to pass on, they weren't visible from the outer lobby. You needed a proper reason to get past the guard through the automatic glass door, And in Geneva you don't get a security clearance pass without first depositing your passport or identity document. It's been like this at least since the early nineties when we first moved here. At least the armed guards and barbed wire that were commonplace during the Balkan crisis in the nineties are no longer a visible sign of the nervousness felt in the city through the proximity (two hours flight) of a major conflict zone. Geneva is always well prepared against trouble, but likes to do security in quite a low key way whenever it can.

Keith's flight from Zurich was cancelled, so I picked him up an hour later than expected from the airport. Then after a late lunch I made a second successful attempt to deliver the document file, just as rush hour was starting, and in the dark and rain. I was qite please with myself for negotiating all the traffic, especially as traffic priorities and road layouts have all changed since the rearrangement of the Place des Nations. The great grassed open space which stood before the Palais de Nations main entrance is now a sea of white marble and fountains - beloved, apparently, of small children on hot summer days.

Since I was last here a year ago, all the construction work has been completed and the famous 'broken chair' sculpture, tribute to the victims of land-mines, has been returned to the Place. There was a public outcry at the proposal not to re-install it and the city fathers behaved sensibly. In my view it's not placed quite rightly in relation to the proportions of the vast sea of marble, nearer to the Palais end of the Place. But, this visual awkwardness actually adds to the sense of disturbance which this giant wooden edifice of a chair with half a front leg torn away conveys. It's a piece of great power, rather than just the eccentric puzzle it appears to be when you don't know what it's purpose is. Art, context and interpretation are inseparable here.

Out to supper this evening with with four very dear friends, all active members of Geneva's Holy Trinity congregation. It's hard to realise that it's seven years since we moved away, at this time of year. I'm sorry that I didn't keep a journal during the first five years. It would be interesting to look back over that period in the sort of detail that a regular blogging discipline offers, to see how things have changed, how I have changed.

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