Today I received one of those official envelopes from the British Government. My first thought was that they had not forgotten their faithful citizen living in Switzerland and it contained my Christmas card sending the best of the season’s greetings. This was a mistake and the title of the communication was “Life Certificate”. Are the British now issuing certificates to prove that we are alive was my first thought. Are they concerned for my welfare living in a foreign country with so much trouble in the world?
I read further and it seems that the British Pension Service require proof that I am still alive. I was touched by their consideration and thoughts, that they were actually concerned about me, just one of the British subjects that happened to marry a foreigner and become almost a foreigner herself. I soon realised that this was not the case, and before paying further pension money they want to be sure that I am still able to get it. I understood perfectly. Of course they did not want to transfer funds to a corpse, to someone that had been watching the daisies grow from the other side. Even my company pension fund in Switzerland writes to me annually to see if I am still amongst the living, just to be sure.
I read further in this letter and discovered the it is not just a matter of signing on the dotted line to say “I confirm I am still alive” or “I am not dead yet”, no, I must give an attached form to an official person to fill out and confirm that I am who I am and still able to breathe. I even had a choice:
a bank/building society official or accountant was on the top of the list, which we don’t really have in Switzerland in that sense of the word. It could also be a barrister or solicitor, doctor dentist, physiotherapist, pharmacist, government official or local mayor, magistrate, justice of the peace, member of the local police force, minister of religion and at the bottom of the list, when nothing else works, a care home or nursing home manager. I can really understand the last entry on the list. If all the others fail, it means you no longer have far to go and they can already prepare the cancellation of my pension.
Luckily a visit to the doctor is foreseen tomorrow and she will oblige with completely the attached form. My doctor also has to see either my passport, national identity card, driving licence or other (which I can specify - perhaps my blood donor permit). The doctor must then stamp the form and I can send it off to the British Pension Service somewhere in Newcastle in the North of England.
I must say, I am quite impressed. I now have a Life certificate, something I have always wanted and they do not expect me to need a death certificate within the next 8 weeks which is the deadline for replying to this letter.