This identity card is a curiosity, a rarity. It was issued by the British Government for me and Identity Cards, as far as I know, were perhaps only issued in Great Britain during the war. I discovered this when sorting some stuff and really do not know why I have it. I know I visited the Soviet Union, as Russia was then known, in 1964, but then I was 18 years old and the card states “under sixteen years”. Perhaps mum was worried that someone might steal me and so she organised an identity card. I know I was given a collective identity card for my school trip to Russia. We all had one, but had to return it after the journey. At that time only the chosen few travellers bothered with a passport.
So who am I really. I am British, I am Swiss, but I am in the middle somewhere. Is an identity what you have, or what you feel? There are some days where I feel British, especially when I miss my lemon curd, beans on toast, or even Cadbury’s Milk flakes – all english food. On the other hand what is life without Zürich sliced veal in a cream sauce, or potatoes grated and fried on each side to resemble a potato flan, known as Rösti in Switzerland. We all have our own little quirks of identity.
I am a Londoner, and proud of it? Am no longer so sure. I used to be proud of it, but then I only knew Switzerland from photos, yodelling and cows. Of couse, I would not forget to mention the Swiss chocolate, although to be quite honest, I only really like the dark, almost black, chocolate. Swiss chocolate usually gives people a melt-in-your-mouth vision of something that came from the Swiss gods. Actually we do not have gods, just one lady called Helvetia. I don’t really know what she did, but she is engraved on our money. I suppose she is the Swiss Britannia, although I believe that Britannia did win a few battles, leading her men to victory and Helvetia just sort of sat and posed for her engraving. Anyhow it is probably as genuine as the British George killing a dragon. There were no dragons and George had probably drunk too much ale to know what really happend. He might have rescued a damsel in distress, but I have a feeling the real distress for the damsel was after he rescued her.
Anyhow, back to my identity. Now we have a 70 year old golden oldie that speaks fluent Swiss German with her husband, neighbours and actually all day long.
“Mr. Swiss, do you notice that I am english?”
“Oh yes (with a laugh), you still say ……. and ……. (telling me the grammatical mistakes that are embellished in my knowledge of the swiss language) but you speak it very well really.”
which is part of a conversation I had with my husband yesterday to establish a basis for this epic blog I am writing.
The only real english people I am able to talk with are those that might call me on the telephone. English is not really english, but what country does not have its quirks of dialect and so I switch from my Swiss German to cockney english when on the phone. Is it really not surprising when now and again I get the languages mixed up and speak Swiss with my english colleagues. It is then that suddenly a deathly silence arrives on the phone and I might realise why.
I am sorry to say I cannot identify my financial state of affairs with the Swiss system. No, I do not have a numbered bank account. Forget it, I do not have enough money to want to stash it away in an anonymous place. That is only for the rich and beautiful and I am neither, although I don’t look too bad for a 70 year old.
Delving into my ancestry I discovered that part of them were Huguenots escaping from the evil French and emigrating to London, many thanks to Mr. Camroux the first to arrive in London, who made the decision. Unfortunately not all of them escaped and were doomed to life on the galleys as prisoners, if they survived.
As I did not find any other foreign signs in the family, I imagine the rest were all sturdy anglosaxons with blond hair and blue eyes fighting against the evil Vikings. I believe the Vikings had red hair, so they probably did not mix with my tribe, but you never know.
I now come to the conclusion, not wanting to write an book on the subject, that I have one leg in England and the other in Switzerland, which is a rather large step to take. I have a Swiss Identity Card and would also have a British Passport, if I had bothered to renew it last year – costs too much money and not worth the trouble.
My children are Swiss as Mr. Swiss, I am the only foreign body in the family.
I identify myself with the Swiss, no, with the British, oh forget it. Born in England, left at the age of 20 and spent the last 50 years in Switzerland – work it out yourself.