Home > Autobiography, General > Susannah and me – Part 2

Susannah and me – Part 2

I arrived in Zurich late in the evening. I could not stretch to paying for another hotel so it was a case of sitting out the night at the station. Zimbabwe is not the best place to shop for Alpine winter clothing, so it was somewhat inevitable that I would be inadequately dressed to endure the city’s temperatures with any degree of comfort. But I made it through the night without freezing to death or being mugged. I am not sure if they have muggers in Switzerland. I rather imagine that they have been banned.

As soon as was reasonable the next morning, I took a chance and made a call to my godmother who allegedly lived in Geneva, and whom I had not seen or heard of since my christening many ages ago. I had been given a number for her, some years earlier, by my much older cousin a close friend of hers. I had tested it once without luck so I did not hold out much hope for it working on this occasion. By some stroke of fortune, the number was correct and my godmother herself answered the phone. Her apparent delight at hearing from me made the disappointment of the past few days much more bearable. She insisted that I get on a train and come and stay with her and her family at the other end of the country, in a small town outside Geneva.

Jenny greeted me with a great deal of genuine warmth and enthusiasm. She had often stayed with my family in England during her early twenties and thus it was that she had been given the singular honour of being asked to be my godmother. She was Canadian by birth and was married to a doctor who worked for the International Red Cross. She was blond, slim and elegant with a warm and cheerful character. She and her husband could not have been kinder or more considerate. She fed and entertained me and introduced me to various interesting and unusual people of whom Switzerland seems to have many – emphasis on the unusual. She told me of some of the strange customs that existed in her adopted country. The Swiss never entertain at home, only in restaurants. They report on each other’s activities and behaviour. Should you place your rubbish in a pink bin liner, say, as opposed to a black or grey one, the authorities would undoubtedly be informed. The one custom that peeved her most, understandably so, concerned the use of the nuclear shelter. Every village and community had one of its own. Neither she nor her husband was a natural Swiss citizen, so in the event of a nuclear attack, she would not be allowed into the village shelter. Her husband, however, would be welcomed in, since he was a doctor. Her two daughters would be allowed in as they had been born in Switzerland. She alone would be left to face the ensuing devastation. It sounded to me that a nuclear winter would have been a lot warmer than a Swiss summer if that was the attitude of the natives.

She gave me a guided tour of Geneva and drove me around the country side, even taking me to Gstaad. There I was able to visit the hotel I was supposed to have worked in and confront the manager who was expected to have given me the job. That the woman existed meant, I suppose, that there had been an element of good intention on the part of my erstwhile friend Moira, (she became erstwhile pretty damn quickly following my first day in Switzerland, I can tell you) but that is as much as I was prepared to concede. Incidentally, I never saw her again, Moira that is. By the time I returned to Zimbabwe, she had gone to live in New Zealand!

Eventually, after a few happy days, Jenny took me to the airport and put me on a plane to Heathrow with messages of greeting for those members of my family whom she used to know.

I arrived in London in time to enjoy many of the festivities leading up to Christmas. My youngest sister had just become engaged and there was a party to celebrate the occasion at the house of my older sister with whom I would be staying. It was just the occasion I needed to welcome me back to England.

  1. January 19, 2011 at 10:50 am

    Part 3 tomorrow.

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