2021 Christmas Swiss Bells Blog
2021 has been a very exciting year for the Swiss Bells. We have had graduations, a new niece in the family and new businesses and new jobs started.
2020 ended in style with a Bagpipe Concert by Lake Zug at Seelikon Badi (Seelikon Bathing Area) with two piper friends joining Damian, Matthias Kühnwho lives nearby in Meggen, Canton Schwyz and Robert Kieth Gunther who was visiting from Bensheim in Germany. There was mulled wine with homemade Christmas Cake to keep us all warm. Afterwards the party continued with an excellent meal of turkey with all the trimmings. At the bells the sky over Lake Zug was lit up by a myriad of firework displays from all over the City - accompanied by bagpipes on the balcony. 2021 has been a very exciting year for the Swiss Bells. We have had graduations, a new niece in the family and new businesses and new jobs started.
Andrea started back at her dental hygiene school in Zurich and while there were no opportunities to work, Damian went skiing every day with a sunny sky to Flumsberg. The highlight was piping round all the Pickwick Pubs in Switzerland to help celebrate Robert Burn’s with Colin Ramage providing the voice and guitar and Damian on pipes and Mark Chesterfield organising the Whisky tasting and haggis. We visited Luzern, Zug twice, Baden and finally finished in Bern - managing to avoid local lockdowns.
The highlight was a Staycation at the Parkhotel in Zug for Valentine’s with a beautiful meal and romantic evening just on our doorstep. Lent started on February 17th and as well as some usual abstinence, serious training started for the triathlon season in 2021 with Cannes Triathlon planned for April so running, cycling and swimming 3 times per week in Lake Zug. We were of course very saddened to hear of the passing of our dear friend and husband to our cousin Michele, Neil Stewart who had his funeral on Thursday 25th February which we were unfortunately unable to attend.
The month of March continued the theme of Lent with fasting and training and online piping competitions at the CLASP (Competition League for Amatur Pipers), BAG (Bagpipe Association of Germany) and The World Online Piping Championships - the idea being to give you an objective to work towards, to keep practising and hopefully improving. The prize list is a long way off. Sadly, March also saw the departure from this World of dear Aunty Mary Bell who left us on 13th March at the amazing age of 84 years young - again due to travel restrictions we were not able to attend but Cannon O’Sullivan said a beautiful mass on Friday 26th March which we attended virtually. A huge big thank you to Martin and especially Caroline for all the looking after of Mary both during her life and afterwards.
The first Sunday of April was Easter and somehow we managed to escape to be with our American friends, visiting them in Cabo San Lucas. We proceeded this with an excellent stay right in the centre of Mexico City at the Zocalo - every morning we were serenaded by the Mexican Army raising this enormous flag, easily the size of a tennis court at the centre of the square, hoisted 100 metres into the air. One day it was so windy that the flag had to stay up overnight - one of the soldiers literally took off, trying to take it down! Our trip to Cabo San Lucas was amazing and we would like to thank our very good friend Jeanne Marie Gergerfor her incredible hospitality - we’d love to go back. Damian’s youngest daughter was 21 on April 19th but again we weren't able to celebrate together. More on that later though.
The first Sunday of May saw a beautifully delicious lunch at the Basel Bell’s to celebrate the Orthodox Russian Easter. Basel was also the highlight for another occasion - finally the arrival of the Pizza Trailer into Switzerland on May 19th and a huge thanks to Walti for helping Pizzaiolo Damiano to go and collect ‘Girasole’ from Basel where we had to put the chassis and wheels on before a ride through the back roads to Rotkreuz.. This was the start of a three month effort to get the pizza trailer ready for commercial use. First thing was to obtain a licence number which required some seven trips to the Zug Office for Traffic Control (Strassenverkehrsamt Zug). Apparently they had never had to import a trailer from China! Then Girasole required a gas certificate for the pizza oven, the fryer and the plancha - it was not until mid August that we were finally able to use the trailer. A big thanks to all the people and companies who helped put Girasole on the road and launch the new business of PizzaioloDamiano.com.
June saw the first of a few road trips for the Bells. On 19th we set off for Munich in our trusty Fiat Panda Cross (aka Pietro), then Prague 20th, Brno 21st, stop off in Poland to see Ciro Guasco and his polish family Ania Dziwoka in their new Pizzaria, then 22nd & 23rd Krakow, 24th Auschwitz then Dresden, 25th Leipzig, 26th Bensheim to visit Robert before finally heading back to Zug.
The second road trip was a solo one to go and celebrate Elouisa’s 21st Birthday and Roma’s birthday at their house in London on Saturday 10th of July - Pietro took Damian all the way there and back via the Channel Tunnel, observing the 48 hour rule for travel which proved to be quite a challenge especially trying to return to France from Dover. The third road trip also started in July and this one saw us travel again with Pietro but south to Italy to first Portogruaro on July 23rd then onto Rimin 25th July and down to Ancona On 26th July to take the ferry across to Split in Croatia where we stayed at the Pink Inn in Podstrana and were joined by daughters Roma and Elouisa for 3 days before hitting the road again to go up north stopping in Ljubljana in Slovenia before heading onto Bregenz in Austria for a Damian Birthday treat at the Opera of Rigoletto on the Lake Constance before returning back to Zug.
August’s highlight was the visit of Robert to Zug and performing various piping gigs together - one for our good friends Roland and Anna’s Wedding anniversary in Môtiers in Val de Travers and back for an 80th birthday party in Luzern the same day. Luckily Andrea was driving. The other significant day was Girasole’s first outing to work at the Organic Market in Unterägeri on Saturday 21st but unfortunately it coincided with some really freakish weather that wiped out all of the organic crops so the market was suspended for two weeks but we carried on regardless and made pizza for those who turned up.
1st of September was Robert’s 50th Birthday Party so we organised ourselves and drove up on Saturday 4th north to Bensheim to help out , and it turned out to be a fabulous party - of course Pizzaiolo Damiano was there in full swing and there was music, dancing and of course bagpipes and our good friend Marco Kreissl even came along, bringing his lovely wife, Martha and cute daughter Mia. But the absolute HIGH POINT of September was Andrea’s graduation as a fully qualified Dental Hygienist on Friday 10th, followed by a well deserved holiday with the inlaws on the Canal du Midi from Monday 13th to Friday 24th.
October is always a busy month for the Swiss Bells. The big event was Andrea starting her new job at Smile Zone on 1st of October where she had been working during her apprenticeship but is now full time and being paid for the pleasure.The first week of October - Piper Bell was off again on tour with the Scottish Parade doing a tour of East Germany, picking up Marco Kreissl and joining Stevie Dewar and his Aceltica Bagrock Group - 2nd Stadthalle Zwickau, then Margon Arena Dresden Sunday 3rd, Tempodrom Berlin on Monday 4th and finishing Stadthalle Cottbus Tuesday 5th, before driving back to Switzerland via Giessen to drop off Marco. There was not much time to rest and then off for another weekend of piping gigs, culminating in a solo piping gig for a restaurant entertaining some 50 Swiss Germans up a mountain in Canton Neuchatel on Sunday 10th organised by Roland Fatton. It was then time then to celebrate Andrea’s birthday with a lovely surprise dinner in Zug where her best friends Nadia and Eveline turned up along with her Mum and Dad. During the meal we found out that we had a new niece born on the same day as Andrea at 18.51 hours. A healthy baby weighing in at 3.28 Kg. So we of course toasted the baby’s arrival. Then the Bells were off again on our 4th road trip to celebrate our 10th Wedding Anniversary to South Tyrol in North East Italy at the beautiful town of Scena, stopping en route in Davos where we first became engaged. On Saturday 23rd Damian was off to Malaga to spend a couple of days with his daughter Elouisa who is studying at Malaga University as part of her year out to learn Spanish at Portsmouth University where he was joined by Roma and we all had a lovely time.Malaga is truly a beautiful city. Another highlight for October was piping for a British Embassy event held at the Kornhaus in Bern where we had the pleasure of meeting the British Ambassador to Switzerland. The final high point was traveling through to Basel on Sunday 31st and meeting Serafina for the first time, Gordon and Marianna’s new baby girl addition to join their little family with Mia.
November saw a little return to a work life balance with pizza making and Andrea working flat out. And a final crazy solo road trip to London and Scotland - Pietro stayed at home this time and the White Renault Traffic Van (Francois) took Damian through the tunnel to England to London to celebrate Cameron’s birthday with him on Friday 12th and Saturday 13th - Cameron is working hard as a tennis coach while completing his Open University degree in Economics and Politics. Then off again driving on up North to Dunblane to Martin and Caroline to celebrate Martin's 60th birthday over a coffee, then dropping in on the Flannigans in Auchterarder for some brunch before heading over to visit Tom Johnstone and stay the night with him and his family before going to the funeral of his best friend’s brother, Paul Pagliari who was sadly taken from us after a long battle with cancer. The funeral was on Monday 15th at Saint Aloysius RC Church in Glasgow where all the Pagliari family went to school. It was lovely to see everyone again albeit under such sad circumstances.Then it was off to collect a haggis order from Balfron before heading down to Millheugh to have dinner with cousin Michele and then heading off early the next morning to Dover, Calais and onto Basel where life became very interesting trying to import Scottish Haggis into Switzerland. Contact Damian for the full story!! The rest of November was taken up with piping gigs and making pizza at a Christmas Market in Unterägeri where unfortunately our old marquee was destroyed under the weight of snow - a new one ordered and tried out for the first time.
December will see the second Bell graduation this year on Tuesday 14th where Roma will obtain her Teacher's qualification - Postgraduate Certificate in Education,(to add to her law and postgraduate law degrees) and where Damian is still hoping to attend in London's Central Hall,Westminster. Roma has been working as a qualified teacher in Hillingdon since schools went back in September.
At the time of writing this we are looking ahead to a lovely Christmas and a New Year full of surprises - a couple of days skiing is planned at San Moritz where neither of us has ever been - and a stay at the World Famous Waldhaus that claims to host the World’s largest Whisky Bar - so without more ado we will sign off and wish you all a very Merry Christmas and all the best for 2022.
Do slainte fior mhath!
Andrea & Damian