The challenge of last week was preventing kids sunburn from peeling. Challenge met! They may have gotten very sick of being lotioned every time they turned around but they did. Not. Peel. And now they finally have some idea of why sunblock is actually a good thing.
Painters have started freshening up our house, and all the others in this cluster. An exercise in neighbourly politics, mostly. But I’m glad to change the very pale yellow to a creamy white, as boring as white may be. (Yellow was a pretty risky choice for the previous owners! You aren’t allowed to paint your house just any colour; if it doesn’t fit with the surroundings, which in this corner are all white, the Gemeinde can order you to redo it. Conformity rules.) We’re also (almost all) getting new lamps for the entrances. And we finally collected some furniture Armin’s brother in law was getting rid of, so our dining/living room is more the way we want it and the kids have new work spaces (old dining room is now C’s desk, C’s old desk is now M’s). All little steps towards a fresher, better home space – but we’re still without proper lights in most rooms of the house, and the entrance hall desperately needs a solution (space to hang jackets and store bags and sit down to change shoes), and the cellar is in chaos, and the garden REALLY needs an overhaul… All of which just sounds completely exhausting. I’m knackered most days; I don’t have any excuse but I really am. This is not ideal for a new home owner. (Yes, I’ve been to doctor and had the bloodwork and like I say… No excuse.)
School holidays have started. This week they’re on the holiday programme at the Gemeinschaftszentrum but then it’s just hanging out at home… And maybe a week in Venice, but more likely not. The kids have holiday passes that get them discounted or free entry into a huge range of places (swimming pools, museums etc) so our to-do list is clear. But we’re all lazy farts really and would rather cherish some quiet time. Yes, even after lockdown. Especially after lockdown. We all got really attached to the gentle rhythm of our days.
Been thinking a lot about privilege – not as an abstract but in the very immediate ways it’s operated in my life. Of course I hold a lot of privilege that’s always in action (white, educated, able-bodied, straight and cis…). But there have been other, specific ways I’ve benefited in the different places I’ve lived. For starters, being a white South African has meant quite different things in pre- and post-1994 SA. (Don’t get me wrong. Whites are not an oppressed class in SA. But this isn’t a treatise on racial politics.) Holding a South African passport was a privilege at one point (allowing me a working holiday visa to the UK), although not a very strong one; having a Swiss spouse was much more valuable. But simply living in Switzerland has brought the most dramatic material changes. It’s a real “rich get richer” situation: we came here with very little, Armin has a modest salary and I’ve been mostly unemployed, yet the money keeps piling up, enough to buy a very comfortable house within 7 years. Yes, some family help was involved and of course that’s its own privilege. But we could have done it anyway – it would have just taken another few years. This is pretty astonishing to me, especially considering that our household income is considered low enough that from year to year the kids sometimes get subsidised health insurance. (Not something you apply for, it just happens, based on your tax return.) My point being that the only factor driving this accumulation of wealth is living in a rich country. Other people who’ve never lived anywhere else and have no comparison would reasonably assume their success is something they’ve earned all by themselves. Same for people outside Switzerland who enjoy other advantages that they don’t even realise are advantages. Privilege is a hell of a trick.
Lighter note: yesterday I trekked down to Basel for brunch with my most valued group of friends in this country. The five of us each live in a different city (though two of us are at least both close to Zurich), three of us are now parents (one brand new!), so semi-regular all-day brunches are the way we get to hang out. It’s been a looooong time since the last one. So so welcome.