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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

My Week in Switzerland

Carlos overlooking Lake Geneva

....of cow bells, arranging music and climbing the hills

"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, but must be felt with the heart."

-- Helen Keller

Once upon a time not so long ago the loudest sounds on earth were not produced by humans. A cow mooing here and a horse neighing there would pierce the silence of Europe's countryside, and specifically Switzerland where I have spent this week.

In the echoing hills people could converse at considerable distances without shouting. By raising their voices they were heard a mile away. A fiddle, a recorder and yes a guitar, could really make the hills come alive to the sound of music, without amplification.

My heart beating and out of breath I have struggled up the hills around St. Cergue until reaching summits 1200 metres high. From there I can hear cow bells, the distant whining of car engines and leaves shaken by the breeze. I have caught panoramic views of Lake Geneva and the city clinging to its shores. Beyond it, miles away, I can see the snow-capped Mont Blanc and her sister mountains, enclosing this land mass of Europe in a silent embrace.

Carlos at the UN World Health Organisation in Geneva, August 2013

Yesterday I went for lunch at the United Nations' International Labour Organisation in Geneva and followed it with a walk around the grounds of the Château de Penthes and the Botanical Garden. Strangely enough the Garden seemed devoid of people: more like the hills beyond than a city park. A recent storm had uprooted several huge trees - one of them still lying on its side like a wounded animal.

Back in the village in this nearly idyllic setting I have worked on various musical arrangements which I shall be playing in the Autumn. Without interruptions I have made rapid progress as I scribble my notations on manuscript paper. Taking a break one day early in the week I strolled through the village and stumbled upon Peter and Claudine Boswell's Café Chez Claudine where I had a delicious café au lait and a scone à l'anglaise. Sitting back I admired the original paintings and photographs decorating the walls and perused one from an extensive library of good books, mine for the asking.

Yesterday afternoon, three unsaddled and unblinkered horses tied together were walked briskly through the village high street. They were calm and untroubled. Beautifully groomed, the sunlight bounced off their flanks. The rhythmic interplay of their hooves could still be heard as they receded from view. A queue of cars straggled nose to tail behind them, their engines reduced to a quiet purring.

In the hills above, a wild deer briefly emerged from the trees, while cow bells jingled all around. The storm clouds were gone. The late afternoon sun had begun to cast its long shadows.

10th August, 2013, St. Cergue, Switzerland

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