It was a Thursday morning, about 11ish, we were in Gatwick, and this was our third breakfast. Such is the way when you have to travel via London to get anywhere outside Scotland. We were on our way to Switzerland for this years Tai Ji rhénan in La Chaux-de-Fonds and, had it been next year, we could have flown straight to Geneva from Glasgow. But it wasn’t, so there we sat with a nearly 5 hour hang-around between connecting flights. Waiting around in airports, especially one as sparse as Gatwick, is a tedious affair and it often means that the only way to pass the time is to have a bite to eat, regardless of how many times you have already done so. Besides we were gong to be subjected to a diet of extreme vegetarianism over the weekend so we needed to pile on the greasy dead animal products before we left the UK.
Bob, Ronnie Robertson and yours truly finished off our coffees and headed over to the check in where we met up with Dan (Docherty) who was also attending this year’s event. After a leisurely wonder through duty free – to waste more time – and a long walk for Bob and Ronnie, to find the smoking area, we were on the plane and off to Geneva where we were to be picked up by Cornelia, the events organiser, and taken on to La Chaux-de-Fonds about a 2 hour drive away.
We were to spend the night at Cornelia’s Chalet, a quaint little building with no electricity and a hand pump for the water, set in the picturesque countryside surrounding the town. Not long after our arrival our fellow guests Epi, Lauren and Yacob joined us along with Cornelia and her husband who soon whipped up our dinner of Fondue which was washed down with a bottle or three of wine. Full of cheese,wine and bread (a sign of things to come over the next 10 days or so) we sat around the table bathed in the only light in the room coming from the flames under the fondue bowls and a few candles and fuel lamps. We listened and told stories and jokes until tiredness started to win us over and we set about making preparations to bunk down for the night. Now I’m a light sleeper and Bob, Ronnie, Epi, Yacob and Lauren all had admitted that they were professional snorers. Oh fun, a good nights sleep for me then. But to be fair they only snored one at a time, in a kind of snore tag match throwing the honours from Bob to Epi to Ronnie back to Bob to Lauren…you get the picture. Addionally every time someone went to the toilet there was the sound of furious pumping coming from the small room to get enough water into the cistern to enable it to flush. Ahh well who needs sleep!
Needless to say I was one of the first up the next morning. After a breakfast of bread and cheese we wondered around outside the chalet admiring the views and, as often happens when taiji people get together, we ended up in the field next to the chalet pushing hands. The sun was shining, the air was clean, the location was beautiful and the company good – a great way to start the weekend.
We were supposed to be picked up and taken into the town at some point but someone decided we needed the exercise so we set off to walk there, a journey of about 40 minutes(ish) across fields and farm trails and tracks. Now those wee wheels on your suitcase may be wonderful on the nice shiny, flat floors of airports but they don’t manage so well over rough grass and stone covered, pot holed, cattle tracks. A sight it must have been, if anyone except the cows had seen us. Six guys strolling through the fields carrying rucksacks and suitcases, clambering over or under (which ever was easiest) wire fences, weaving our way through the aforementioned clanking cows. Eventually we got to town and made our way to Cornelia’s house were we dumped our stuff in her studio, showered and washed up, then head out for food not realising that 90% of the places where we could get something to eat would be closed.
The rest of that day was spent meeting up with various people and finding our hotel rooms, or in my case Sylvie, who had offered to put me up for the weekend – and I was sharing a room with a non snorer, bliss!
We all met up again at the main hall for the events introduction and a showing of the film Cornelia and her students had been making over several years. Which was interesting.
You quiet often see the same people at these events and it is always nice to meet them again and catch up, as well, of course, as meeting new people from all over Europe and sometimes further afield.
The event itself went as smoothly as it always does. Cornelia and her team work really hard to make sure everything happens the way it is supposed to. And if there are any problems or mishaps, which at any event of this size there are bound to be, then we the participants aren’t aware of them. Well done to all those concerned in the organising and running of the show.
As ever there was a large selection of workshops covering the whole spectrum of internal arts on both the Saturday and Sunday . Various styles of taiji forms, qigong for health, push-hands, applications, weapons and games were all on offer from some of the most well know and respected teachers around.
The Saturday workshops lasted throughout the day, with an interval for lunch, and then in the evening everyone puts on their glad-rags and sits down for a meal, to watch some demonstrations and then to boogie the night away until the wee small hours. Occasionally a bottle of wine or two is also consumed.
The Sunday workshops are often full of people with a slightly tired look in their eyes and, dare I say, even a tad bit hung-over. However that doesn’t stop anyone participating to the full. At lunch we traipsed off en masse to a local park where Cornelia had arranged for the press and a TV crew to film us all doing our thing. It was raining and a bit on the cold side but that didn’t deter anyone as the park was soon over-run by all these strange people waving their arms and legs around on the soft and squelchy grass and the puddle strewn pathways.
After lunch came the free push-hands. For those who haven’t attended such an event this is an often looked-forward-too part of the weekend. Basically it’s free push-hands with different partners for 10minutes sessions. A bell rings then you change partners for another 10 minutes and so-on. It gives you a great chance to push with people of all sizes and shapes, levels of experience from total beginners to highly advanced teachers. It’s a great leveller as sometimes you can be pushing some-one around like a rag doll and 10 minutes later you are the rag doll getting thrown around nonchantly. It usually lasts for about 3 hours which gives you plenty of time to try and get around to pushing with as many different people as you possibly can, and as always everyone wants to try pushing with the teachers to feel their skills.
After push-hands its tea and cake time as a selection of pastries and sweets are laid out on the tables – they tend not to last too long. Then it is a case of good-byes and see-you-next-times as every one makes preparations to leave.
All in all it was a great time, as it always is, and I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend.
Many thanks to Cornelia and all her gang, all the participants (for without them there would be no event), Sylvie for a bed and breakfast and of course Bob.