An unintentional musical theme joins our story briefly here, as we reach the Swiss lakeside town of Montreux. Bear with.
Our approach had brought us over challenging alpine roads, most of them driven by The Navigator Par Excellence, who had accidentally volunteered to do a spot of driving just before a fortuitous bend in the road revealed that it rapidly became tortuously steep, twisted, narrow and frighteningly unfenced for most of the uphill route.
A tumbling, sparkling river had gouged its own chasm of Knumpty-swallowing proportions to our immediate right and accompanied us almost to the summit of the range overlooking Lake Geneva and its floodplains, which we viewed at a brief stopover where the forest momentarily cleared and we were able to revert to our more traditional travelling roles.
Down we went, around yet more hairpin bends, continually buzzed by shoals of foot-waggling motorcyclists who were clearly enjoying the full width of the spectacular, unpopulated road, with only a slowly-wallowing Knumptywagen to impede their maniacal, knee-scraping progress.
So, into Nyon we rolled, heading left towards Lausanne along the lakeshore as best we could, eventually being persuaded by insistent signposting onto a higher and less scenic road. From here, we eventually reached Montreux itself and headed optimistically for a 3-van aire located lakeside within the town itself. Sadly, our optimism was misplaced as no such location existed, resulting in some fairly hairy manoeuvring to extricate ourselves from a teemingly busy cul-de-sac. Our sheepish English grins fell on stony ground with askance glances from the good burghers of Switzerland who clearly felt we should forthwith and immediately remove our enormous, bug-spattered and inappropriate four-wheeled British bulk from their genteel and very tidy Swiss lakeside promenade.
Onward then, we knew not where, until the suburb of Villenueve provided us with respite in the form of a public car-park adjacent to an open-air swimming pool adjacent to the lake. The day was ending and swim-suited families were clearly gathering themselves to return home, so the initially busy car park quickly and fortuitously emptied to leave us the pick of the spaces. With no sign of any overnight parking restrictions, we settled into a tree-shaded corner overlooking the now deserted swimming pool, Lake Geneva and a semi-distant historic-looking lakeside building which turned out to be Chateau Chillon.
So. To the musical connections. Unbeknown to us and only discovered when we subsequently cycled back into Montreux itself, there’s a great big and very realistic statue of Freddie Mercury in typical stage-pose situated on the lakeside promenade. It’s there because, apparently, up until his untimely departure, he had made Montreux his home. But his global fame pales into insignificance when compared to our real reason for visiting the town synonymous with its own annual International Music Festival.
For it was here that, over 40 years ago, the Navigating Rune Reader Par Excellence gave voice to her own musical contribution as a collective part of her convent school choir – which, with an average age of just 11 years old – performed several modish and popular choral numbers in front of an international and highly critical judging panel and, assumedly, audience. Although, at her own admission, few accurate memories now remain, the performance was (and remains) encapsulated for all time into a small, thin and now scratchy-sounding 7-inch disc of black vinyl. From this (or at least its now converted digital version) there emerges a delightfully innocent aural representation of Seafield Convent School’s unique performance at the Montreux Festival – under the steel-ruled guidance of a Sister André, who would rehearse her musical scholars by using the steel rule against the back of their legs should they so much as falter with the delivery of any musical note. Did they win anything? Not that any surviving evidence suggests, but memories are revived and relived every Christmas in our household when this unique memento is replayed incessantly to anyone naïve enough not to have heard it all before.