Monday 4 February 2008

39 Years ago

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39 years ago this building was well known but most people in our town, at least the ones that got married there. It was then our local registry office and it was here on this day that I said Yes. Well actually I said "Ja", luckily at the right moment. I understood more or less what was going on but was not so versatile in the German language as today. In Switzerland it is only the registry office wedding that is recognised by the state. Of course, you can have your church wedding, but if you do you have to have both. I settled for the registry office one and that was complicated enough.

When we decided to get married it was not really all that easy as we decided to have a quiet thing in Switzerland, just me and Mr. Swiss and 2 witnesses (also law in Switzerland), but because I was a British citizen at the time there were a few things I had to do. I remember one of them was to have my birth certificate translated into German. I think that was one hundred francs. Then I had to go to the embassy/consulate responsible for Solothurn. That was the consulate in Basel. I had to swear an oath in front of the assistant consular general - righthand in the air and say the words on the paper - that I was who I was on my birth certificate, was not already married etc. etc. I cannot remember the actual words, but felt like a criminal in court. Another hundred francs (I think). I brought all my documents to the town hall and they all had to be not older than three months. Unfortunately the only birth certificate I had was issued at my birth in 1946. However, being very humane, they told me they would accept it on the condition that I supplied a newer one after the marriage.

Eventually we did get married on 4th February. It was snowing a bit and I remember going to a local restaurant with the witnesses for a drink before the marriage, A couple Mr. Swiss knew that I had met about twice before the wedding. The wedding was conducted by the registrar. I remember his pin stripe trousers - I think he would have fitted in better on Threadneedle street in London than in a registry office. I even remember his name, although he has now long been pensioned off. When I became Mrs. Swiss I was congratulated and given a book about how to be a brave Swiss citizen, as I didn't only get Mr. Swiss, but also the nationality. At that time it was law, although men had to wait a few years. longer. Women got it straight away. Today, there are equal laws for men and women and both have to wait a few years before they become Swiss.

I sort of forgot about the new birth certificate, but the state didn't and I was reminded in a letter they were still waiting for my new birth certificate. All I knew at the time that Somerset House was then the centre for the issue of such documents in London, so I wrote to them enclosing a copy of my original birth certificate. It worked and a couple of weeks later, for the price of about fifty francs, I got a new certificate. As in the meanwhile my old certificate was deposited at the offices, I gave my new one and forgot about the old one, which meant I had none. About ten years later I needed the certificate to apply for a British passport. I was surprised, I phone the registry offices and had to wait about two minutes and she told me on the phone she has it and would send it. I received it the next day (Swiss efficiency).

So 39 years and two children later (I also had two stepchildren) I am still here.

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