I travelled to Strasbourg today for work, a quick in-and-out. I used to live and work (at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) in this beautiful city and I am always happy to return. However, as I get out towards the Council of Europe and European Parliament complex of buildings I do tend to get a little nostalgic. I used to walk to work and had a favourite route that, at its end, took me past a green field where storks would hunt for frogs, over the Ill river and past an old tennis court and swimming pool complex. My favourite spot on the walk, though, was the wall of an old barracks (still functioning as such). There was a little gatehouse with a miniscule garden in which the occupant had built gaily coloured windmills and aeroplanes and other constructions. And at some time a Captain (I imagined it was a Captain) had planted a vine. The vine, carefully tended, had grown and grown, pushing several bricks out of the way and itself through to the outer side of the wall. I once managed to look at the other, inner side of the wall. The rest of the vine had long since gone, but the bit in the wall remained. I am not completely sure why, but I used to get a lot of pleasure out of seeing ‘the Captain’s vine’. Today, I had half an hour to spare, so I retraced my old steps. The green field and the storks have disappeared. First the field became a car park and now ARTE has a building there. The tennis courts and swimming pool also went a long time ago, replaced by a multistorey car park. The gatehouse is abandoned and the brightly coloured windmills have rotted away. But the barracks are still there and I looked eagerly for ‘the Captain’s vine’. Horror of horrors! The wall has been repaired. The Captain’s vine is no more.
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