Daily Prompt: Going Away

Basel 05.09 (18)Basel Station

Relocating does not only mean moving to a differet place: a new home, new surroundings. There is a lot more to it, especially if you relocate to a different country. When I boarded the train at Victoria Station in London in 1966, it was a exactly 51 years ago to the day, 5th December. How do it know that? By some strange reason I had booked my journey a day before my 20th birthday and arrived at my destination in Switzreland on 6th December.

It was a night train, the longest I had ever travelled by railway A train that arrived at Folkestone with a connection to the channel ferry arriving at Calais. It was all so well organised, because the train in Calais took me further to my destination via France: Basel, Switzereland.

Arriving in Basel, after an uncomfortabe night on the train, was the anticlimax to the journey. There was no-one to meet me at the station in a country that was foreign in all aspects. The station had a few isolated people walking around and Switzerland did not say “Welcome Mrs. Angloswiss”, the opposite was the case. I was standing on an empty windy platform. I must really have been in a hurry to leave England, one of  the mistakes of youth. You cannot wait to go, to go somewhere and start a new life. England was not the solution to your future, you were convinced. But was Switzerland the big opportunity? I had a job, had a work permit in my bag, and only needed to arrive in Zürich where I would be met at the station.

There were no smooth runnings at 5.30 a.m. in Basel for me. I had one small obstacle to cross. The Swiss are not waiting for you, and you must prove that you are in a fit condition to be allowed to stay in Switzerland. I was not fleeing, but of my own free choice. My next appointment was with the Health Police at 8.00 a.m. when the rooms were open and the doctor and medical staff were ready to prove the state of your health. I spent the next hour in the restaurant at the station. I lost count of the coffee I drank and the numerous croissants I ate until I left the station, crossed the road and reported for my examination. There must have been at least 50-100 young people waiting to get their clean bill of Swiss health and we came from everywhere.

No-one was friendly, and no-one really bothered to speak english with you, it was only commands. “Undress”, “stand there” and an x-ray of your chest was made – no TB allowed to be brought to Switzerland.  “Sit down”, “give a finger”, “ouch”, and blood was taken. “OK, you can go”, “But my passport?” “You get that back, report in 2 hours when we have the results”.

I did not bother to ask where to go in the hours until 10.00 am., as it was probably nobody’s business but my own. I visited yet another café and roamed the streets of a Basel unknown to me: streets that had remains of snow looking as grey and worn down as I was.

I reported at 10.00 a.m. to the medical examination center and waited for my result. My passport was returned and I realised it was time to go. There was a dramatic scene with an American girl. They had found something on her lung and she was crying, no entry for TB. However, she was told she could go, but must report to a doctor for a further examination. I left and do not know the outcome.

I returned to the railway station in Basel and caught the next connection to Zürich. I was met at Zürich station and taken to my new home in Zürich. I stayed for two years and moved on to Solothurn for a new job in Switzerland. I met Mr. Swiss, we married, and two kids later and a grandson I am still here after 50 years.

I had relocated my life, my language, my identity and even my nationality. What could possibly go wrong.

Daily Prompt: Going Away

11 thoughts on “Daily Prompt: Going Away

  1. I will never understand why we are supposed to ‘want’ to leave home at that age. I went to school only 200 miles away from my home region. When I graduated, I came right back because I wanted to be there. I did not want to move to Oregon or Australia or Southern California like so many of my colleagues did. I just wanted to go back to the Santa Clara Valley. The problem was that it had changed so much, and had become the second least affordable place in America. I now live only a few miles away, and it is not close enough! Even when I lived at ‘home’ in the Santa Cruz Mountains, I still craved a nice flat garden and drier climate that I remember from only a few miles away. I like where I am now, but will never stop wanting to go home.

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    • Perhaps if I had grown up somewhere a little more rural I would not have left London, although Mr. Swiss tells me it is typical me to do something completely different. London was a town and I always craved for the open spaces, nature and all that stuff. I had learnt French and German at school and had taken Italian at evening classes, and I wanted to speak the languages. I was looking for a job in another country. and it just happened that I found a job in Switzerland advertised in an english newspaper. London has also changed so much, I am not even sure I could live in England today. I was the big exception to leave for another country. All my friends remained where they were. In the meanwhile I have learned Russian as well and I speak fluent Swiss German.

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  2. I didn’t realize you had migrated there. I thought you had gone for work. I guess the migration thing is not all that different anywhere. I did all of that too before going to Israel, only because it was a plane trip, I did it all in the U.S. I was young too, so I didn’t mind so much. Youth gives you a lot of strength to deal with everything 🙂 AND we are still here, are we not?

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    • I wanted to work and live in another country. I never actually planned on migration, just see how it turned out. It migrated into migration I suppose. I have no close family now in England and since dad passed away, no reason to return. I still remember the day when I arrived in Switzerland to stay forever


  3. You did choose something quite different although many British people were migrating to other parts of the Commonwealth then. My family was amongst them leaving not long before you in December 1965. I also remember the date, 23 December, two days before Christmas. Although I was a child and it was not my decision I was excited to be going although somewhat less excited when I found out that we would be going to a regular school and not one “on the radio” as mum had told us children in Australia did. We were moving to a suburb not the Outback.

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    • But still interesting, and not everyone went to Tasmania. I am not sure, but it was probably the time when the whole emigration to Australia was quite cheap with the travel fees. I had a schoolfriend that emigrated in the fifties, we were both about 10 years old. For a while we had contact, but lost touch. I found her again on Facebook of all places when we were 65 years old. There is also an advantage to social media sites.

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      • Yes it was cheap to come to Australia in the fifties and early sixties. Australia wanted to increase the population rapidly and subsidised travel for eligible families, the “ten pound Poms”. We came under a different scheme sponsored by relatives who had emigrated the year before Our destination was Adelaide, South Australia where I grew up, got married and lived until fifteen years ago when David and I did our own relocation in search of a better climate.

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