Abigail Reynolds Residency at the K3 satellite space - BUDGET BUREAU
Abigail will be working at the Budget Bureau for one month. An additional image and entry will be added each day. Scroll down the text to reach previous entries.
I arrive at the flat. I read about Gentrification. This block in the Grünau district is being rebuilt because by Swiss standards the area has become unacceptably poor. The council are going to instigate social change by demolishing it and building fewer, more expensive flats on the site. In preparation the immigrant families are moving out. Artists are being invited to occupy the flats as they fall empty.
For now the infrastructure is still intact. I go to the community café for the 12 Franken lunch and so I am introduced to Anita, who cooks on Mondays. Today Anita has cooked hotdog and chips. She is going to cook on the evening of the opening in the Grünau on 27th March, at which I will be showing the fruits of my time here.
After lunch she tells me that she is from Liverpool and has lived in Zurich for 23 years. She got married to a Swiss man 18 years ago. “Home is where the heart is,” she says. “You can never fit in here. Never.” I ask if she goes “home” often, and she says that she hasn’t been back even once, and alludes to family troubles. I bring up the subject of Clare’s impending marriage to Sandi - another U.K./Swiss conjunction. “I had all my papers before I met my husband,” she says, and then, raising her voice as if she’s making an announcement; “My conscience is clear!” I almost look round for the jury. We are alone.
At the Grünau I am hunting for my key at the staircase door when a boy comes out, holding the door for me. He is Hispanic and has a skateboard, blue jeans, black t-shirt. I thank him and let myself into the BB. I see him pause outside then come back in and enter the flat on my floor. He is my neighbour. ‘Ciao’ he says. Two small white girls run up the stairs.
This flat on Bandlistrasse 44 is pretty much exactly the type of building that London doesn’t have: it’s central (by London standards), warm, with spacious rooms and large windows looking into and out of a generous courtyard. The kitchen and bathroom are well equipped. The blocks are only 5 high. In the basement is a very tidy washroom with a chart on the wall where you pencil in your name and flat number against the time when you are going to wash your clothes. I am reminded of a lecturer who once told me that when he lived in a big NYC block as a kid in the 1940’s, all washing and cooking was communal. The flats had no kitchens even, and when he got home from school and went to the kitchen it wouldn’t necessarily be his mother that cooked dinner.
Clare tells me that many of the residents do not understand why they have to move out. I am not surprised; I don’t really understand either.
Walking to the flat at 10 am I pass two black men, probably in their late teens. To my surprise they address me in English. “Hey, pretty lady” one says, and the other sucks on his teeth making that squeaky noise that I address to cats and black men address to women.
Leaving the Grünau at 11.30 pm Bandlistrasse is silent – no cars, no trams. As I walk, a girl wearing a lilac jogging suit passes me on a bicycle. The traffic lights turn red as she reaches them and to my amazement she stops. I catch up with her. I walk past her. There is no sign that any other vehicle or pedestrian is within blocks of us. I look back; as the lights switch to green she creaks back into motion. A middle-aged man with a pony-tail skateboards down the road. At my tram stop a youth wearing a leather jacket and an anti-establishment slouch also alights. I cross the road at an angle. He walks down to the pedestrian crossing and carefully crosses at a right angle. I feel oddly transgressive.
MITTWOCH 05.03.03 TAG 2
AUF DEM WEG ZUR WOHNUNG UM 10 UHR MORGENS KOMME ICH AN ZWEI SCHWARZEN MÄNNERN VORBEI, WAHRSCHEINLICH GEGEN ZWANZIG. ZU MEINER ÜBERRASCHUNG SPRECHEN SIE MICH AUF ENGLISCH AN. "HEY, PRETTY LADY" SAGT DER EINE UND DER ANDERE LUTSCHT AN SEINEN ZÄHNEN UND MACHT DAS QUIETSCHENDE GERÄUSCH, DAS ICH BENUTZE, WENN ICH MICH AN KATZEN RICHTE, UND SCHWARZE MÄNNER AN FRAUEN.
WIE ICH DIE GRÜNAU NACHTS UM HALB ZWÖLF VERLASSE, IST DIE BÄNDLISTRASSE RUHIG, KEIN AUTOS, KEIN TRAM. UNTERWEGS ÜBERHOLT MICH EIN MÄDCHEN IN EINEM LILA JOGGINGANZUG AUF IHREM RAD. AN DER AMPEL ANGEKOMMEN, SCHALTET DIESE AUF ROT, UND ZU MEINEM ERSTAUNEN HÄLT SIE AN. ICH HOLE AUF UND GEHE AN IHR VORBEI. WEIT UND BREIT IST KEIN FAHRZEUG ODER FUSSGÄNGER ZU SEHEN. ICH SCHAUE ZURÜCK: DIE AMPEL SCHALTET AUF GRÜN UND QUIETSCHEND SETZT SIE SICH WIEDER IN BEWEGUNG. EIN MITTELALTERLICHER MANN MIT EINEM ROSSSCHWANZ FÄHRT AUF EINEM SKATEBOARD DIE STRASSE RUNTER. ICH STEIGE AUS DEM TRAM MIT EINEM JUGENDLICHEN MIT EINER LEDERJACKE UND EINEM LATSCHIGEN ANTI-ESTABLISHMENT GANG. ICH GEHE QUER ÜBER DIE STRASSE. ER GEHT ZUM ZEBRASTREIFEN UND ÜBERQUERT SORGFÄLTIG DIE STRASSE IN EINEM RECHTEN WINKEL. ICH FÜHLE MICH SELTSAM TRANSGRESSIV.
I wake up with a crushing sense of Swiss reasonableness, which of course I can’t complain about.
A Croatian family on my staircase move out. Their carpets plummet past my window releasing clouds of 20 year old dust. Everyone I speak to refers to the Grünau as a ghetto. I have a meeting with Ursula at the Grünau’s re-housing office. She gives me a list of the flat prices – they are unbelievably cheap. I ask why no-one wants them, and she says, “Swiss people won’t move here because there are so many immigrants. It’s not racism, they just don’t feel comfortable.” I resist the temptation to point out that racism is precisely about feeling uncomfortable.
On the tram home I share my compartment with two men. One is unbelievably fat and is asleep, his face squashed onto his chest, looking like a ball of mozzarella that’s been tightly tied up with string. I pass him to sit behind the second man who is in his late teens. He has elaborately teddy-boyed his hair, partings running up from his ears to meet an ineptly bleached coxcomb. It is absolutely symmetrical, absolutely tidy. As he gently fingers his nape, checking the symmetry, I notice that the bleach must have been very weak not to turn his mousy hair a more convincing platinum. Mozarella begins to snore feebly. I lean sideways, one hand on the floor, checking Teddy’s shoes. He wears black DM’s, polished to a medium shine below his mid-blue jeans that are neither loose nor baggy.
DONNERSTAG 06.03.03 TAG 03
ICH ERWACHE MIT DEM NIEDERSCHMETTERNDEN GEFÜHL VON SCHWEIZER VERNÜNFTIGKEIT, WORÜBER ICH MICH NATÜRLICH NICHT BEKLAGEN KANN.
IN MEINEM TREPPENHAUS ZIEHT EINE KROATISCHE FAMILIE AUS. IHRE TEPPICHE STÜRZEN VOR MEINEM FENSTER RUNTER UND SETZEN ZWANZIGJÄHRIGE STAUBWOLKEN FREI. ALLE MIT DENEN ICH SPRECHE, BEZEICHNEN DIE GRÜNAU ALS GHETTO. ICH TREFFE URSULA IM MIETERBÜRO. SIE GIBT MIR EINE LISTE DER WOHNUNGSMIETEN - SIE SIND UNWAHRSCHEINLICH BILLIG. ICH FRAGE NACH, WARUM SIE NIEMAND WILL UND SIE MEINT: "SCHWEIZER WOLLEN NICHT HIER HINZIEHEN, WEIL ES SO VIELE IMMIGRANTEN HAT. ES HAT NICHTS MIT RASSISMUS ZU TUN, SIE FÜHLEN SICH EINFACH NICHT WOHL." ICH WIDERSTEHE DER VERSUCHUNG IHR ZU ERKLÄREN, DASS ES BEI RASSISMUS EBEN GENAU UM DIESES GEFÜHL VON UNWOHLSEIN GEHT.
IM TRAM TEILE ICH MEIN ABTEIL MIT ZWEI MÄNNERN. EINER IST UNGLAUBLICH DICK UND SCHLÄFT, SEIN GESICHT IST AUF SEINE BRUST GEQUETSCHT UND SIEHT AUS WIE EINE MOZZARELLAKUGEL, DIE MIT EINER SCHNUR ABGEBUNDEN WURDE. ICH GEHE AN IHM VORBEI UM MICH HINTER DEN ZWEITEN MANN ZU SETZEN, DER GEGEN ZWANZIG GEHT. ER HAT SEINE HAARE KUNSTVOLL ZU EINER TEDDY-BOY FRISUR GESTYLT, SCHEITEL GEHEN VON SEINEN OHREN BIS ZU EINEM STÜMPERHAFT GEBLEICHTEN HAHNENKAMM. ALLES IST ABSOLUT SYMMETRISCH, ABSOLUT ORDENTLICH. ALS ER SANFT SEINEN NACKEN BEFINGERT UM DIE SYMMETRIE ZU KONTROLLIEREN, BEMERKE ICH DASS DAS BLEICHMITTEL NICHT GENUG STARK GEWESEN SEIN MUSS UM SEIN MAUSGRAUES HAAR IN EIN ÜBERZEUGENDERES PLATIN ZU VERWANDELN. MOZZARELLA BEGINNT LEISE ZU SCHNARCHEN. ICH LEHNE MICH ZUR SEITE, EINE HAND AUF DEM BODEN, UM TEDDYS SCHUHE ZU SEHEN. ER TRÄGT SCHWARZE DOC MARTENS, ZU EINEM MITTLEREN GLANZ POLIERT, DARÜBER MITTELBLAUE JEANS, WEDER LOCKER NOCH BAGGY.
I meet a Swiss artist who tells me that he lived in NYC for 6 years but it disgusted him; so he came back. He is half Egyptian and is extremely handsome in a sexy Diesel-clothing kind of way. I ask him about Swissness. He tells me that there is no poverty in Switzerland, that after WW2 Switzerland became extremely rich for a small country with a tiny population. There are no employment problems – foreigners do all the shitty jobs like street cleaning so the Swiss don’t have to do it. He seems very comfortable with his description of Swiss utopia, so I ask him if he has any problems with living in Zürich. Well, he says, there are a lot of suicides. Switzerland, he says, is a golden cage.
As I move around the city, I often notice a billboard advert showing two blond children in Alpine costume (crisp white shirts, cherry-red jackets and hats, edelweiss...). They whisper together against backdrop of snowy mountains. I eventually transcribe the text into my notebook: “NICHTS VERRATEN! Daz Rezept seinen Würze ist und belibt geheim.“ Sandi translates this for me: “DON’T LET ON! The formula for our flavour is, and will remain, a secret.” This vaguely reminds me of WW2 “careless talk costs lives” posters. It seems to encapsulate the condition of being pure and Swiss.
FREITAG 07.03.03 TAG 04
ICH LERNE EINEN SCHWEIZER KÜNSTLER KENNEN, DER MIR SAGT, DASS ER 6 JAHRE IN NEW YORK LEBTE, DOCH ES WIDERTE IHN AN. DESHALB KAM ER ZURÜCK. ER IST HALB ÄGYPTER UND UNWAHRSCHEINLICH GUTAUSSEHEND, SEXY AUF WIE EINE DIESEL-KLEIDERWERBUNG.
ICH FRAGE IHN ÜBER DAS SCHWEIZERISCHE AUS. ER ERZÄHLT MIR, DASS ES IN DER SCHWEIZ KEINE ARMUT GIBT, DASS DIE SCHWEIZ NACH DEM ZWEITEN WELTKRIEG UNGLAUBLICH REICH WURDE FÜR EIN SO KLEINES LAND MIT EINER GERINGEN BEVÖLKERUNGSZAHL. ES GIBT KEINE BESCHÄFTIGUNGSPROBLEME – AUSLÄNDER ERLEDIGEN ALLE DRECKARBEITEN WIE STRASSENREINIGEN, SO MÜSSEN DIE SCHWEIZER SIE NICHT TUN. ER SCHEINT SEHR WOHL BEI SEINER BESCHREIBUNG DER SCHWEIZER UTOPIE, DESHALB FRAGE ICH IHN, OB ER ES PROBLEMATISCH FINDET, IN ZÜRICH ZU LEBEN. NUN JA, SAGT ER, ES GIBT VIELE SELBSTMORDE. DIE SCHWEIZ IST EIN GOLDENER KÄFIG.
WENN ICH DURCH DIE STADT GEHE, FÄLLT MIR OFT EIN PLAKAT AUF, DAS ZWEI BLONDE KINDER IN ALPINER KLEIDUNG ZEIGT (STEIFE WEISSE HEMDEN, KIRSCHROTE JACKEN UND HUT, EDELWEISS...). VOR DEN SCHNEEBERGEN IM HINTERGRUND FLÜSTERN SIE SICH ETWAS ZU. SCHLIESSLICH SCHREIBE ICH DEN TEXT IN MEIN NOTIZBUCH: " NICHTS VERRATEN! DAZ REZEPT SEINEN WÜRZE IST UND BELIBT GEHEIM." ES ERINNERT MICH EIN WENIG AN DEN ZWEITEN WELTKRIEG UND DIE "CARELESS TALK COSTS LIVES"-PLAKATE. ES SCHEINT DIE BEDINGUNG VON REINHEIT UND SCHWEIZERTUM ZUSAMMENZUFASSEN.
At a dinner I find myself with a group of well-dressed Zürichers. Only one, Stefan, is Swiss-born. A German business-woman explains to me that once you have got used to a Swiss standard of living it’s impossible to be comfortable anywhere else. This, she tells me, is because Zürich has the infrastructure of a big city, but is a small place. There are more Galleries and Theatres, more trams and busses per head than anywhere else in the world.
I am treated to a demonstration of the difference between Swiss-German and high German. After a struggle I correctly identify Swiss German as the one that’s doesn’t sound absurdly crisp. Stefan says that his ex-wife, who is from Hong Kong, thought his slow rasping Swiss German unbelievably ugly. The German business-woman tells me that in Zürich, people think Germans are arrogant and pushy, and would rather have a meeting in English than in the traditional business language of High-German. The Germans, she says, are the most hated Aüslanders here. I don’t believe her - I have already been told that Slavs are most hated; people say they are all drug-dealers. Besides, it seems reasonable to speak in English at a meeting in a country where the native languages are French, Italian and German – speaking German obviously privileges the German speaking part too heavily.
In the evening I take the n.o.4 from the Grünau to the centre. The tram is littered with rounds of coloured paper, like the left-over bits from hole punchers. A small boy is frantically roller-blading up and down the aisle. An Italian woman breaks off from her gossiping to scream “Leonardo” at him now and again. I walk into Wiederdorf. The pavement is similarly daubed with dense swathes of random coloured dots that look as if they ought to make some sort of image. At this time of year some sort of musical celebration exercise happens every night (and at random other times). The precision of the many marching bands is covered up a bit by the members all wearing matching home-made clownesque outfits, which makes them somehow more, rather than less sinister than if they were actually wearing a military uniform. Competing bands move vaguely and politely across the terrain, each trying to make as loud a noise as possible. It’s oddly melancholic – an attempt to repel darkness.
I go back to the community café. Today it’s spagetti with cream sauce. Anita wants our evening on 27th to be very very British, sorry - English, and is planning her menu accordingly. She shows me her shopping list. It’s this:
1) TUC and Ritz, with Gin-and-Tonic
2) Cheddar cheese and Pineapple on cocktail sticks
3) Prawn cocktail
4) Fish pie, Chicken and mushroom pie, with Pale Ale or Guinness
5) Carr’s water biscuits and stilton with sweet sherry
7) After8’s and coffee
I’m impressed. I’m looking at a snapshot of British cooking in 1980 when Anita left.
The elections are coming up on April 6th. I keep coming across expensively printed leaflets from the Schweizerische Volks-Partei. The SVP share the twin concepts of being Swiss and being secret / keeping it in the family with Appenzeller. Being secret is in fact the secret of Switzerland’s successfully high standard of living after WW2. Switzerland is the only country with an absolutely confidential banking system. This means that the biggest global crims can safely store their money in Zurich, and have done since the beginning of the war.
A bicycle has been promised to me by a German artist. Travelling from the Grünau to pick it up, I arbitrarily decide not to alight from the n.o.4 at Hauptbahnhof. I stay on until I reach the end of the line, which turns out to be on the dual carriageway that lines the lake on the “Goldshore”, not far from the centre. It’s called the Goldshore because it’s the side that catches the sunset, and furthermore, all the big money buy houses there.
I stumble off the tram into traffic and run to the shore as if I am thirsty. I grip the rail above the water and stare about me as dusk falls over the lake. It’s beautiful. The forest that rises steeply on the opposite shore twinkles with lights of houses. The inevitable 60’s communication tower rises dramatically above the tree-line. To my right show-covered mountain tops glow pinkly in the quiet sunset. Traffic slides past my back. I am overwhelmed. This experience changes my relationship to the Grünau – in South London terms it’s lovely there, but in comparison to this, it’s a pit.
The bicycle is fantastically tall with curved bull-horn handlebars and no gears. Despite it’s shortcomings it releases me into a physical relationship to the city. I start to map the city, drawing my way across it with the bicycle, understanding it physically. I spend a happy evening winding my way around the track of the 4, diving off into the Turkish quarter after a kebab, losing my way in a residential quarter. The air suddenly turns damp two tram stops from the Grünau, and I notice that at this point the space between the tram tracks becomes a lawn rather than asphalt.
I talk to Stefan about Blocher. He is one of the 7 people who run Switzerland and is the leader of the SVP. Whenever I mention his name in the Grünau people make snorting noises and say ‘Fascist!’ – which is remarkably similar in every language - and flap their hands. There is an egregious pamphlet in circulation sporting a drawing of a crowd smashing a hole in a barrier to climb into Switzerland. In bad translation (courtesy of Babelfish) the text reads:
“We have to owe that linking and the soft-intimate Ever more brutal Kriminaltouristen.
Widerrechlichte of intruders threaten our children, women and more manner with Uberfallen and force. With theft and Einbruchren they our Einbruchen rob them our saving and our property. Asylum-seekers' hostels make rob it centers of the organized Kriminalitat. On Schulhofen they dealen with drug. And in the middle on day they supply themselves on our roads shootings, in order to deliver their trade. Even the Pilizei dares with Verstarkung to only intervene. Debt to it are those linking and the soft-intimate: With their laxen foreign he and asylum politics, with luxuriosen social security benefits and their do-he-friendly law they make our country the storage tank fur criminal intruders from all world. Only the SVP says to it consistently no”
The SVP have so little tact as to fly leaflet the Grünau with this message. Stefan says Blocher has an American style, that he plays to peoples irrational fears. He tells me that, to avoid tax, Blocher doesn’t live in Zurich, so instead he spends a fortune on publicity.
The gallery complex at the Löwenbräu is huge and self-conscious. The most prestigious and expensive contemporary galleries in Zürich are cooly laid out in a vast ex-warehouse. I walk into the first commercial gallery to find a screen suspended in a large dark space. I feel a rush of excitement because I suspect that I am in the presence of the worst video I’ve ever seen.
The image shows a view out onto a sunny porch. A back view of an old woman in a rocking chair is framed by the dark space of the interior. The image is black and white, over blown up – grainy. I turn to Andy. “Guess.” I say. “What’s on the other side of the screen.” He glances at the video. “The view from the other side”, he says. We are not disappointed. On the other side of the screen is indeed a projection of the front porch.
The amazing predictability of this first encounter is prolonged through the entire building. The stuff on display is precisely the same as the stuff you find in contemporary galleries in Berlin, Toronto, New York, London, Munich... We all read the same magazines, drink cafe latte and buy our interior objects from Ikea.
On the third floor I find some prints on the floor that give me a nasty jolt. (see image) anyone who knows my pigeon leaflet will know why this bothered me…. Time for a break. I will be out of the Budget Bureau for a week.
Back in London I go to work at Tate Britain. I teach contemporary art to adults. Well, I do not so much teach as coax them to consider contemporary art as a valid proposition - it’s a funny way to make a living. I do it because I really like looking at contemporary art – I can’t help it. It’s never boring, even when it’s bad. Because I like it so much that I am, against my better judgement, often pushed to be impassioned. I routinely find myself standing in some marginal East End gallery infront of something that I would describe as being at the very least ‘interesting’, with a gang of people accusing it of being:
1 not art
2 badly made
(usually in that order)
This invariably results in me asking the group a series of questions to help them think their way round the decisions that the artist has taken. The bare blindness of their answers sometimes whips me into a frenzy of frustration … at which point I launch into a half-despairing peon. I praise the work for its humanity, sense of humour, straight-forwardness or whatever seems good about it. After my soliloquy the group shut up rather in the manner of a close friend who’s stepped over a line in teasing and retreats in the face of an unwarrantedly extreme reaction. I know this is not good teaching. I’d rather they got there on their own without me snapping – sometimes they do…
I am in Covent Garden with a different student group. We talk about what an artist is for. What, I say, do artists do? Why do we have artists? What are they for? Artists make beautiful things they say. (That’s always the first one) But, I say, there are plenty of beautiful things already. In fact the world is absolutely stuffed with beautiful things – everywhere you look you are confronted with another beautiful thing. How can an artist compete with that? Exhibit skill with materials, they say. But, I say, in our society we aren’t specially interested in people who are good at – I don’t know – turning wood on a lathe – or cooking… so what is it if it isn’t that…. and so we continue…
The question is a bit of a red herring because in truth there are many good answers to the question, as well as plenty of bad ones. Just wandering into any half-interesting contemporary art show will tell you that. I, like everyone else who has spent an unreasonable amount of time thinking about it, have a very clear idea about what artists do. Well, I have two ideas – one is utopian and the other is cynical. I know what I want art to be – for me – and I know there’s a gap between that and the way art actually operates, which contains all sorts of other things that I don’t want to engage with.
I try to write my press release for the show at the Budget Bureau. It’s difficult. What I want to do is very simple. I have compiled information on the language spoken in each of the 267 flats in the Grünau. There are 16 languages. I want to take a 267 word video clip of Christoph Blocher from the SVP speaking about Swissness and make the speech register the statistics of actual Swiss identity in the Grünau by making each word represent a flat. This means that 37 words will be Italian, 27 Turkish, 17 Croatian etc. It’s quite simple really, but fiendishly hard to make it sound interesting, as statistics never sound especially interesting.
I am thinking about yesterday’s conversation. What is the most valid thing for an artist to do – and what about an artist in residence? The term is not a good one because the precise and constant condition of an artist in residence is that they are not a resident – they reside elsewhere and travel to temporarily spend time in a place they are not familiar with. So what’s the point of this displacement? Why do I do it so often?
A student once told me that because humans are related to carnivores we can only see changes well, changes and motion and comparison. You can only see black in relation to grey. I think that has something to do with being here.
I wake as the plane touches down in Zürich. Focussing on the runway as we taxi toward the terminal, I watch the yellow road markings unfold across beige concrete slabs. I notice that the slabs have been cracked by frost and heat. I see a sprayed dotted curve, and I wake up fully. Some of the yellow marks are delicately sprayed signs and dots. Each crack and it’ solution has been noted – the runway is a repair map. Treacly black tar has been meticulously poured into every crack. It’s beautiful – the whole airfield is a careful and nervously responsive drawing. A drawing informed by actuality, not personal whim.
I go straight to the Grünau for a meeting with Gaby at Fuge. I left my flat at 4am. Now it’s 11.30 and I’ve had no breakfast, so when she offers me a biscuit with my coffee I hesitate – one biscuit won’t help. She sees my hesitation and misreads it, “It’s fine,” she says, “Swiss quality.” I take a biscuit.
Gaby calls some flats to ask people if they will let me tape them translating Blocher’s speech. I speak no German and I get the impression that she says “Guten abend, Macedonia? Guten abend Albania” I feel as though I’m back in the 1980’s listening to the Eurovision song contest…except that the word fascist keeps coming up.
At 7 I cycle to an opening at the Lowenbrau place. To my surprise all the galleries have a vernissage – all 7 or so of them. The building is stuffed with relentlessly fashionable bodies. All the women under thirty-five have their trousers stuffed into their socks. There is even a girl who has blue socks stretched over her spike heels so her socks are as containing as possible.
Outside, people wander the streets carrying large rainbow coloured flags printed with PACE in white draped over their shoulders. A boy walks past me wearing one as a skirt over his jeans. I fleetingly wonder about how I might get hold of the statistics that would financially link Swiss privilege to egregious non-European regimes, and consign the thought to the spare works pile in my head. This morning the pile received a project called “men who get hate mail” which was sparked off by my visit to the SVP offices in the centre. I spent 45 Franken on a video of Blocher giving a speech. The tape is over an hour long and shoddily edited. I wonder what motives other people have for spending 45 Chf on an hour of substanceless rhetoric. Maybe I’m the only one. I decide to copy it and then ask for my money back.
At the SVP office I speak to the secretary of the branch. The video is of the wrong speech – so I can’t use it. I need the New Year speech. Are you a journalist he asks. I say no, I am just interested in the speech. He has to call the man who made the video to ask him to send a DVD of it, and I hear him telling the man that I’m a journalist. I love the way that this operates. It works in my favour all the time. He asks if I’m a journalist and when I’m not it’s still easier for him to pretend that I am. This means I don’t have to lie and yet people still help me. He refunds my money and I promise to pick up the DVD on Monday.
Near the lake a gang of kids sprawl across the tram stop benches. It is nearly dark. The kids are be-dreaded; an early 90’s dog-on-string style that you don’t see in the UK now (except at summer rock festivals). As I approach the group I think one kid is having a fit, his body is convulsing a-rhythmicly. A second later I realise that he has a hackeysac and is a beginner. His erratic seizures are just the product of trying to keep it in the air. As people board the tram I watch him pick up his hackeysac, take a clear plastic zip-loc from his pocket, and carefully zip-loc it in.
I am still hugely enjoying the bike. I cycle by the Limmat every time I leave the Grünau, even in the dark. When I tell Sabine how safe I feel doing this even though it’s unlit and isolated she tells me that people go there to shoot up and I should take the road. I don’t take the road; I figure that the drug takers will be too busy taking drugs to bother with me. The bike makes me sit up very straight - feel like a district nurse that I once saw on a 1953 educational colour film about life on the Shetland islands. It’s not a particularly flattering self-image.