Once upon a time I was young and lovely, well young, and already had my grey hair, so I must had been climbing slowly towards 60. I was still a working woman and as a Brit English was always a useful language. I was working as an export clerk in a Swiss machine tool company, dealing directly with companies all over the world. I could speak a few languages: Italian, French, German, Russian (just the basics but could get through if necessary) and of could my second daily language of Swiss German dialect. One day we had a visit from English business men. I knew them quite well, and as it was that time of the year when we had our Christmas celebrations in the company, their visit coincided with the company party.
First of all our big boss held a talk about company progress full of facts and figures and afterwards we were fed and generally had a good time. However, with two english people as guests who had no idea of a foreign language, it was decided that they should have a simultaneous translator and as I was the only Brit that could speak both German and English the choice fell on my boss, who passed it onto me (who could also speak perfect english, but had other thing to do).
It was all organised with headphones that I could do the necessary and so I was ready to go. The room gradually filled up and the director took his position on the stage. The two Brits, the guests, arrived at their table. and I gave a test through the microphone “Can you hear me?” They both moved there heads is a “no” gesture, and then began to laugh – English black humour, only the Brits understand it.
I asked my boss in advance in the office, if I could have some notes from the director to prepare myself. He said he would have a look and came back to say there were no notes and it seems no-one had an idea what he was going to say. “Great” I thought and so he began to speak and I did my simultaneous translation.
Of course I was always a few words behind what he said as I did not what he was going to say. It was all statistics and how good we were and that the future is bright. After an hour of having a dual lingual brain the director was finished. I always imagined a job with the United Nations as simultaneous translator would be great, I had now changed my mind. I really had no training for this and had no idea where it was going.
There was one bright moment in the evening. We make suggestions during the year in our company, ideas that we might have to improve working life. I was always suggesting something. When they organised the ground next to our company building – it was a new building they could make a park with flowers, trees and perhaps even a pond. That was turned down, so my next bright idea was to make allotments for the workers of the company to plant their own vegetable in their own place – also a no go. And so all these suggestions from everyone, the good and the bad, were all put into a bag and three prizes were offered to those chosen. Yes, I did it, I got the first prize, 1,000 Swiss Francs. I was sure it was the one for the park and the pond with the ducks.