Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Back from back from...
The ferry on the Rhine at Basel. The hills beyond are Germany.
...well, Basel in the first place. Or Basle. More Basel when you are actually in Basel as it is German speaking. Furthermore and nonetheless, I flew out Ryan Air and came back easyJet, in other words: went out an Irishman, came back a Greek.
Basel was balmy. Certainly warmer and more humid than England is, so arriving there in mid-afternoon was a little like entering a greenhouse. Andrew waited for me in his red baseball cap, as arranged, and drove me to the hotel a couple of hundred meters outside the old city gates. Deposited stuff - just one small piece of hand-baggage - in my room, then down for coffee with Andrew (from the University of Basel) and Padraig Rooney (from the International School), it being thanks to the pair of them that I am there at all, along with Roddy Lumsden and his partner, Nina. Padraig is fresh from winning the Strokestown Prize that I judged either last year or the year before.
After coffee Padraig took me for a walk around old Basel, on either side of the Rhine, returning on the ferry, as shown above , the photo filched from net the here (and that's probably enough linking), over to the Romanesque / Gothic minster and around and around, sitting down in a Movenpick for Hungarian style ice cream. The hotel doesn't do evening meals on Sunday so I walk to a nearby Indian tandoori place and sit reading my Flann O'Brien between bites. Hence the furthermore and nonetheless above. It is deeply catching, that manner of mannerising.
In the morning the reading at the International School to some seventy 16-year olds who behave impeccably and ask intelligent questions. Basel is chiefly pharmaceuticals so some of these would be the children of those working in the industry. That is about thirty-five minutes. Padraig drives me back into town and we walk around a bit more, including through the tropical house in the Botanical Gardens, then have a sandwich on another cafe terrace. Padraig is peripatetic and has spent time in Hungary. In conversation we discover than he has been reading some of the fiction I translated from Hungarian, including Márai and Kosztolányi.
I have a couple of hours at the hotel before Andrew comes for Roddy and I, so we walk to the university to fill in claims forms for travel and fees. Andrew has translated a substantial amount of complex work from German and we do an exchange of books, his including a rather beautiful set of two complementary volumes - his poems with photographs by Claudio Moser in a box. Gorgeous things. Padraig has already given me his book, The Escape Artist (the artist in question being Harry Houdini, of course). These book exchanges are inevitably the ways writers get to know each other.
Then down to Bergli bookshop which is not big but very civilised and fills up easily. Roddy and I do our thing, followed by a few questions and the signing of a few books, then a meal.
Sleep difficult. Call me at 5am, I say to the desk but I wake at 3am. That's how it goes.
Just back from opening the Voicing Visions exhibition in Norwich. Big show, complete with book and DVD. The church / art gallery is packed. It seems I know half the poets one way or the other. David H says the thank yous then introduces me do the opening bit. The amplification is not entirely magnificent so rather than speaking according to the introduction text I improvise around it and shorten it. General enthusiasm. not specifically about the speech, more about everything in general. The bohemian quarter of Norwich glitters.
This is getting to sound dangerously like Jennifer's Diary. Veronica McBollycock in her coming out dress at Ascot accompanied by the handsome figure of the Hon Angus Gherkin.. Etc.