Sunday, 14 July 2013

Forty nine days

This week: Balsthal: Olten: Saalhof: Brugg: Dielsdorg: Zurich: Zurich: tomorrow home.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Event Horizon

As far as I can go, Zurich, the outer edge of my walking endurance. 600 miles. My Limit? Physically drained, wiped out but stimulated by being in a city. Happy to be here. My mind still wants to wander. Habit. Stop.

Thanks to Peter Ench and Gallery Weiss for the woodcut. 

Three crashes, one day.

Having some lunch, out of the way, by the river. A bit of quiet, an opportunity to read. A woman with a pomeranian strolls along, dog yapping. They stop behind the bench, another dog walker stops with her chihuahua. The two dogs yap wildly whilst their owners talk. The little dog is on an extendable lead. I'm trying to read. A cyclist smashes into the back of the bench, just avoiding going into the river. He has hurt his leg, the bike is badly bent. He had  got tangled up in the extended  lead. Everyone is shocked. The dogs are quiet. The dog owners know they are to blame
Hot afternoon on a small mountain road, no traffic. Stream running close by. A very beautiful stream. Cool clear water. The road has just been resurfaced, warnings about Grit. Car goes by. I go round the corner and can see that the car has hit a tree, and gone into the stream. The driver has climbed out. The car is badly damaged, Driver OK but upset. Police car, and then tow truck arrive almost immediately.
Lovely evening. Two cyclists, helmets and cycling gear, flying down through the town. Getting dark but you could see them coming from a long way off. They shoot through the arch then realised there are steps downward on the other side. Bikes and cyclists come apart. They sprawl either side of my table. One of the bikes was bent but the cyclists seemed OK, hobbling a bit, damaged pride.
The farmer Johannes owns a dairy herd. Twenty cows, each cow has a bell with a different acoustic. Listening out for the bells tell him where each of them are. Johannes says his biggest problem is tourists nicking the bells. Three went last week.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Linden woods

Another hare, the pied wagtail returned with a badly fitted yellow head transplant, I sat in a pasture full to brimming with tiny wild strawberries. 

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Walking into town.

Horses; sirens; scaffolding companies; large dogs; white painted tin fences; recycling; rusting lorries; roof tile suppliers; Amcor (and whatever it is they produce); buses turning round; small dogs. 

Ear wigging

Small group of suited business people (men) discuss the politics of the new pope. They are in this town for a conference on wine distribution.
Two groups meet in a suburban street. They discuss mushrooms. 


Pale blue butterflies everywhere, the colour of unfired porcelain and as delicate. Four anthills, complex piles of pine needles. A small black butterfly with two neat red circles on its wings. Lovely thing, only it wouldn't leave my left knee alone. Fly off, then come back, same knee. After twenty minutes I swotted it. Must have been the steak I ate last night.

Caran d'Ache

This blue felt pen dominated the view for a whole day, everywhere I went it followed me. I couldn't escape.

Monday, 8 July 2013

fifty plus

Thanks to the Modern Toss and Rick.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Forty-two days

This week

Ste. Croix: Switzerland: Couvet: Big Storm: La Chaux de-la Fonds. Dry out: Twice: St.Imier: Biel: Solothurn

Chocolate: Absinthe: Gruyere and the outside of an asphalt mine.

Saturday, 6 July 2013


Fourty black and white storks spread out across a field of cabbages. Bosch factory in the distance. On the lake a crested grebe carries on regardless in amongst an all male group of swimmers playing Beach Boys hits. Loud. They are wearing plastic Hawaiian garlands. Drink absinthe chasers, then beer. 

Hunt the thimble

Between wayside markers, every fifty metres or so there are painted diamonds showing the route. Particularly in dense woodland you become a bit dithery if you can't spot the next one. Your heart rises up when you do.
These routes are maintained by the local rambling group. A good job they do. This diamond was on a pine tree on the ridge between mountains. Very high up, steep drop either side. The diamond and the black outline are in gloss paint. From their  regularity I'd say they were stencilled. All this and a light grey undercoat. Three pots of paint, three wet paintbrushes. Must take the whole day.

Friday, 5 July 2013

St Imier


The towns and villages either side of the Jura mountain range were the centres of watch and clockmaking during the industrial boom period of the mid nineteenth century. Precision engineering. The swiss tourist board and lately Unesco heritage status recognise and glorify this.
The downside to this boom was the dire poverty experienced by the majority of those working in the industry, either in engineering workshops or as outsourced homeworkers. Unions and craft alliances developed to seek better working conditions and sensible wages. A situation similar to those experienced in the sweatshops of Bangladesh, Vietnam, China etc today. Company towns with workers paid twice a year (St George's and St Martin's Days). High interest credit to cover the interim. 
St Imier became a centre for radical political thought. The watchmakers of the Jura with their anarchist common sense perspective challenged the dominance of Marx and Engels theoretical form of communism. The Jura Federation even had its own International conference to rival the communist International. The tourist office didn't have any information on this, but around St Imier itself there are information boards explaining the varied political tangles of the period. There was a memorial conference last year at Espace Noire, the anarchist social centre in the town. 

Thursday, 4 July 2013


It's not the mountains, the storms, the wind, bears, boars or the wolves that worry me, it's a field full of doey-eyed milk and meat machines.
This morning a gang rushed over to check me out, I had to make a quick swerve under an electric fence. Not pleasant. You're supposed to shout, but you can hardly hear anything over the racket of their bells. Advice sought.
Similarly with farm dogs. Nasty beasts. 


Everywhere signs. I am on (walking) Route5, Geneva to Zurich, Zurich to Geneva, the indirect way. In the town the indicators are on each street corner, don't want you to stray. In the countryside less close, but still frequent. If you haven't seen one for twenty minutes best go back and check your route.
Measured not in distance, but in time, as on the motorway or telling your mates. Steep mountain walks, how can the going up time be the same as going down? Different age groups, capabilities, lost in thought, butterfly obsessive, lovers in conversation? Dawdler moi, the times must have been worked out by the local speed hill walking team. There goes one now. Set in Helvetica it must be true.

The meeting house for all mankind.

Before I left someone said that BBC radio is obsessed by death. I hadn't noticed. Listening to snippets of radio4 in the past weeks, I can only agree. 
Micheal Irwin escorting people to Switzerland (euphamism), Nile Rogers 'not outrunning death' and Rhydian Brook's no one talks about death. What is there to say that everyone doesnt already know? Instinctively.

thank-you Job.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Art Nouveau

It's chillier and wetter higher up, but the flowers are better.
A dead mole and a dead badger in quick succession on a jurassic limestone path, mystery.

Rue de la Serra 39. La Chaux-de-Fonds

This was where Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris (Le Corbusier) was born. It is now a joke shop. 

Chemin de Pouillerel 12. La Chaux de-la-Fonds


This was the first house that Le Corbusier had built for his parents. Significant in his career as it's design is a departure from L'Art sapin, the local pine tree variant of art nouveau developed by his mentor the sculptor L'Eplattenier. Corbusier had been to Germany and the Balkans. He was looking beyond the Jura. His boat was setting sail, Paris the next step.
I wish Graeme could have seen this building. He was so proud of the boat they made on top of the QEH. He would have made a good architect. It might have satisfied his urges. 

Monday, 1 July 2013

Protein plus

A bit mindblowing is the thought that the cow bells have been ringing constantly since the first time I came here forty years ago. So many cows, so much grass, cud, milk, cheese, cheese products.
All that time, all that goodness, and they haven't been able to come up with one decent tune. 

Horses have bells too. 


Pinch punch. The peak of le Chasseron. Bullet, Nyon, Grandson and Mont Blanc in one swoop. And a cafe. Breathless. You can understand why Frankenstein's monster and Mrs Shelley came here. It's the romantic heartland.