I made it. After 70 years of hanging around I got to be 70 years old today. I arrived in Switzerland on my birthday, after travelling on the night train from London, via Calais on the French coast, through France and arriving in Basel in the early morning hours. It was 1966. Little did I know then that this excursion would develop into a permanent stay, getting married on the way, becoming a paper swiss and have two kids into the bargain.
As an immgrant at that time, the Swiss did not let you in without a few obstacles to overcome. One was to have a medical examination at the border. You had 2-3 days to get it done, but it was the easiest solution to have it dealt with when you arrived as you were passing through. The medical station was opposite the railway station in Basel. When I arrived I realised there were about 100 others from all over the world waiting for the same process. I had to give up my passport, had a blood examination and an x-ray of the lungs. I asked for my passport but was told, come back in 2 hours when we have the results. Big deal, a cold and frosty morning in Basel, nowhere to go and nothing to do and wait 2 hours. I picked up my passport at 10.00 a.m., my examination was a success. There were a few dramas at the medical station where a couple were told they were not healthy enough. I remember on American lady, where they had found something on her lung. Funny after 50 years how these things remain.
Afterwards I caught the train to Zürich where the wife of my future chief was waiting for me at the station. I had lodgings in the house that she owned in Zürich. I remember looking out the window of my room and for the first time seeing a statue of Ulrich Zwingli, one of the church reformers of Zürich who, up to that point, I had never heard of. Today I could probably write his life story. I was living opposite the local Swiss Reform Church and also in the same street where the largest crematorium in Zürich was situated. What a birthday that was, but I wanted to go and there was no stopping me.
The following week was full of appointments at the local “Kreisbüro” to register in Switzerland and organise the documents to register my work permit. I also visited the British Embassy, or was it a consulate, to get registered in Switzerland. If there was a war the British would help me to get to a safe place, was the idea, although Swiss wars were mainly fought in the banks, so there was no danger. I also had a sickness insurance to organise, but I was soon on the way to become a legal alien. Today I have the Swiss passport. Mr. Swiss tells me he often has the feeling I am more Swiss than he is, although he can still speak the language better. I am also quite good at it.
What I did not realise at the time was that I would be sharing my birthday with all of the children in Switzerland, and most of the children in Europe. This day also happened to be St. Nicholas day, a children’s Christmas celebration on behalf of Santa Clause who was originally deemed to be St. Nicholas. On this day Parents mainly present their children with a sack full of various Christmas chocolate, gingerbreads, tangerines and of course a mixture of nuts, mainly peanuts. I took the photo in the local store. We always constructed our own selection of goodies, but today you can buy everything for the price of almost ten Swiss Francs. My birthday was famous, although when I had my own family I had to share it with my kids and St. Nicholas.
And now I am 70. Have aches and pains that no-one told me about when I was 20 years younger, write daily blogs, and have become a cyber golden oldie. I do not go anywhere without my camera, usually in my bag, and also my walking cane for the past year. Yes, there are some things that you wish did not appear, but it could be worst.
And now to continue as usual, cleaning, cooking and tending to my two computers. Thankyou all for the various birthday wishes I have received. I will be back later when the english colony across the pond is also awake. Have a good day everyone and do not eat too many nuts, save some for the birds.