Jack Serle

Ritual, a song for all, H. comes to call, enter the Fall

In Suisse on October 7, 2011 at 8:30 PM

It should be noted that with great regret images are not available for this edition of the Nascent Hack because said Hack’s camera is caput, knackered, broken. It should also be known that the thieving, bounder, charlatan cur that sold it to me not three months ago will be first up against the wall when the revolution comes.


There are rituals and routines that are common across the globe. Blowing on a spoonful of soup before supping it for example. Or casting about for something rude to say about your neighbour. Or a group of men partaking in casual racism, xenophobia or sexism when standing around imbibing.

One I would hold as certainly ubiquitous in the wealthier parts of the world is that which takes place when a student comes home from lectures. Not always a common I will agree, as it requires said student to have left for lectures.

Returning home the young scholar dumps books on the table and flops down onto the sofa. Opening their laptop they log into Facebook, switch the television on and watch The Simpsons.

It is reassuring to know that regardless of what language the episode is translated into, Marge Simpson’s voice is instantly recognisable.

Vive le difference to be sure. It was a celebration of a rather surprising similarity however that occupied me on the final Monday of September.


Eurovision is unquestionably a heinous crime against music. A source of anguish and teeth grinding for music aficionados, or snobs as they tend to be known. Its stupidity, lunacy and pageantry are a source of joy for others. In one brief moment it was a source of great inspiration for a truly wonderful scene as embedded for your viewing pleasure below.

Embedded from channel4 upload

Ignorant No More is the brain child of the rather splendid, ursine, future Egyptian premiere, AEN. Born from a keen appreciation that knowledge breeds understanding, tolerance and appreciation, Ignorant No More is a cultural showcase for each of the regions of the world, Groups stand up and present their nation and region in a way that will inform all of its quirks and lesser known charms.

The governance of The Acronym being handily subdivided into regions, Europe, Africa, Eastern Mediterranean, South East Asia and America, it was a simple job to segregate out my fellow interns.

Those of a European persuasion reading this will be thrilled to hear that in a bid to paint European culture in a manner not before seen by the rest of the world, we offered the assembled masses syrup waffles from the Netherlands and Eurovision.

It went down surprisingly well.

As the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland had not one but two personages upon the European presentation squad we made a logical division of the Union.

The Scot took the poets, politicians, thieves, scientists, singers, dancers and drunks from north of the border, I took the English and the Welsh because I have a smidgen of the blood and a working knowledge of that which is God’s own country spread west of the River Severn.

My titbits included the fact that the UK was invaded by the Dutch by invitation in the 17th Century, an event which is still remembered today in the Bill of Rights and the Orange Order. Also I put about my knowledge of Welsh (twll din pob sais, look you).

The Scot and I really did our islands proud when we treated the crowd to the UK’s finest Eurovision moment. Sorry.

What was most glorious was the gusto and verve our assembled European mass had when discussing just how awful and good Eurovision really is. The political voting where all the old Eastern Bloc countries club together and how the UK never really gets any votes from anyone. At a time when the European continent is being driven apart it is nice to know we can come together once a year to laugh at each other and bear out grudges with tactical premium phone line voting. This is, I learnt, exactly what Eurovision was for when it started, 54 years ago.


The week which began so promisingly took rather a splendid turn. Come Friday evening as I am settling in with a pipe and improving book of erotic poetry I hear a sharp knocking on my door. I have a visitor, it is more than that; it is a visitation. All the way from London H. had come.

 The arrival of H. coincided with the arrival of October. As the autumn approaches the cattle and goats of the Alps are taken from their top pastures to graze in the valley. As they are brought down it is something of a party. Summer is coming to a close, soon the days will be brief and snowy, but in the last gasp of summer the farmers and families get togged up in their best duds, the varnish on the Alpine horns is burnished up and the beer taps are primed for a last hurrah.

Garlanded with flowers the beasts proceed through towns and villages, bands play. Pamplona’s bull run can be analogised as (clichéd) archetypal Spanish: fast, frantic, fraught with danger. Passionate; a hot day soaked in sun, wine and blood. The cattle procession, La Desalpe, practiced in villages like St Cergue, is very much the Swiss equivalent. Slow, charming, antique atmosphere with beer and sausages. The altitude sun hot and the shade cold. Terribly Aryan with leather clothes, edelweiss and pigtails.

Being Swiss the procession had very punctual start and finish times. True to form, it ended when the plan said it would and true to form over sleeping mean the whole thing was missed. H. was devastated, near inconsolable.

“What’s the point,” she said downcast. “I was going to look at a load of smelly goats all day. Now I have to look at you.”

Fear not, I replied. For there will be ambience de fete. truly, the programme for the day’s festivities did indeed promise ambience de fete. Upon arrival at St Cerge low and behold, there was undoubtedly ambience de fete. In approaching borderline immodest quantities. Despite a paucity of floral augmented livestock there was more than enough ambience de fette to last a day of beer drinking and sausage munching in the Alpine sunshine.


Le Weekend as my inscrutable native chums might say, was filled thereafter with what Geneva was made for. Besides banking, being a centre of international NGOs and suchlike, and pathological neutrality. Geneva, like all good continental cities, is perfect for meandering, pottering, picnicking, strolling and lingering on a bar’s sunlit terrace.


Work at The Acronym alas called and the tug of London Life hauled H. back from the shores of Lac Leman. A nib dipped in black ink has drawn rain clouds across the horizon as leaves shrivel and plummet. Autumn is here and a flock of crows portentously wheel and croak outside my window. What this portends I dread to think. Having but three weeks left in this land with luck it’s addressed to my neighbour.

Regardless, portentous it is. Noisy too.


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