Thursday, 1 August 2013

WordPress Daily Prompt: A House Divided

Pick a divisive issue currently in the news. Write a two-part post in which you take on two personas and approach the topic from both sides. Bonus points for a creative format (roundtable discussion, debate transcript, etc.). 

Photographers, artists, poets: show us DIVIDED.


This is not my hand, but a colleague. My nails are far too short and unmanicured, due to housework and garden work. It would not be worth the effort.

I do read newspapers, but only really the obituaries – strange:  as you get older, the more people you know that appear in this column.

Now to a happier theme: today is Switzerland’s birthday. Actually I was glad for this prompt, as I can combine the daily prompt theme with the Happy Birthday Switzerland theme. Currently in the news in Switzerland are the plans showing how the birthday will be celebrated by all faithful Swiss citizens and as I live in a divided house, it is ideal.

The house is not really divided. We do not have a line in the middle of our rooms, one side marked Swiss and the other marked British. We move quite freely and do not have to show our passports at home. It is quite a thing having your foot in two countries. I even have two passports. I have a British passport (to be exact an EU passport) and a Swiss passport and Mr. Swiss has only a Swiss passport. If we had decided to live in Great Britain they might have let him have a British passport as well, but we never bothered. There are many things we agree about: we pay too much income tax, we have the same opinion about Christoph Blocher (a Swiss politician) and we both like Rösti and Cheese fondue.

We live the topic from both sides every day. Mr. Swiss was quite pleased that I cooked something more or less Swiss for lunch on 1st August – a rösti (fried potato Swiss style) combined with peproncini which might not sound so Swiss, but part of our land known as Ticino used to belong to Italy, and they still eat Italian and speak the language. I fried an egg with it: a Swiss egg.

I pay my income tax in Switzerland, have a Swiss medical insurance and speak the language most of the day, so am I Swiss or still British. A little bit British, they pay me my pension once a month automatically although just a drop on a hot stone as I only paid in for two years when I left the country after 20 years old. However, every little helps.The Swiss government pay the main part.

So how did this Swiss thing begin? Being a fully qualified member of this little country somewhere in the middle of Europe with a population of around eight million (if you deduct the foreigners, we Swiss are even less), their history is part of my daily life.

In the year 1291 (or something like that), three Swiss guys met for a drink in the middle of a field as their wives had thrown them out due to bad behaviour. They had been drinking all evening and so they had a few strange ideas. William Tell was not one of the guys. He was still a kid practising shooting apples off the heads of the local cows. Gessler was also not there as he was an Austrian. He was also too young and was practicing how to put his hat on a pole for everyone to worship. You do not know the story of William Tell? See link .

So yes, these three blokes decided to turn a collection of little states into a country. Men do get strange ideas sitting in a field drinking apple wine. The three blokes each came from a different state: Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden and all spoke the same language basically: Swiss German. That was a night to remember. They rolled home completely drunk but word got around and as everyone found a free beer (or applewine) was always worth a try, everyone joined this new country and they called the little collection of states Helvetia. With time other states joined, some speaking French, one speaking Romansch (a mountain language in the East that no-one really understands except for the Romansch people) and eventually in 1803 Ticino joined, the bit on the edge bordering Italy. It was originally Italian, but somehow they decided to become Swiss. We Swiss are very happy about this. You can spend such wonderful holidays in Lugano and Locarno without having to cross the border.

Somewhere on the way the name changed to Switzerland. So that is the history of Switzerland in a few words, according to Angloswiss. Mr. Swiss finds not a very patriotic version and there is a lot more to it. You see we are united, but in spite of the marriage certificate (just a piece of paper) we are sometimes divided in our ideas about being Swiss.

The main thing is I let him be Swiss, he lets me be Angloswiss and the kids find having two nationalities at home is cool.

What to the Swiss do on such a memoriable day. In the evening we light fires on the mountains. A local politician might turn up and tell us all to be brave Swiss and vote for them at the next election (at least that is what they want). A yodelling group will probably arrive to enhance the celebrations with their music. Nearly everyone will be letting off fireworks (except for family Angloswiss – our cats are not so keen on that) and the children will be parading around town and around the lakes armed with lanterns showing Swiss subjects on the paper. I looks quite sweet. In the family circle, most will be grilling, b-b-queing, infecting the fresh Swiss air with the smell of meat and smoke.

I will be at home with Mr. Swiss, trying to calm three felines who usually hide under the beds until it is all finished.

and here is something really Swiss for a finishing touch.

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  1. Happy Swiss Day, Pat and Mr Swiss!!

    I think if I ever moved to the US to live with Joanne, I would easily drop into being American. When on vacation with Joanne, I find I almost naturally switch to American know... 'gas' instead of 'petrol' .....'buck' (dollar) instead of 'quid' (pound), etc without even noticing....ok, not quite the same as a full different language, but different enough :-))

    1. To your reply Mitch, I must quote from the character Professor Higgins (My Fair Lady).
      "In America, they haven't spoken English in years."

  2. Happy Swiss Day, Pat and Mr. Swiss! I enjoyed reading today's blog about Switzerland. How can three ethnic groups unite in one nation? I just read that Belgium is facing conflict between the French speaking Wallonians and the Dutch speaking Flemish. We may idolize your nation's neutrality because when we people want not to be involved with other peoples' conflicts, the saying here is "I'm Switzerland."
    I don't know anyone who has dual citizenship. I do have a cousin who is considering gaining Italian citizenship.

    1. We just had a visit from my youngest son. He works for the Swiss government and was a diplomat for a few years in Brussels. He speaks German as his mother tongue (Swiss German). He speaks French most of the time in the office as the most are French speaking. He speaks english, me being english and needs it in his work. I speak Swiss German with him and he learnt Italian as a third language at school. This is a general thing in Switzerland. You have to know at least two of the country's languages if you want to get anywhere. I also speak French and Italian. It is just a way of life in Switzerland I suppose.