When I arrived in Zurich after the visit to my second goddaughter,Gabriella, who had been skiing in the Swiss Alps, the airport was barricaded. We waited in the car park, uncertain of what was going on except that it was obviously a security problem.Ten years ago was just after 9/11, and the world remains on edge.
A muffled explosion, then silence. The security and army moved into the terminal, swept up the rubber mats that were torn and bent like some new piece of modern art. They cordoned off the immediate area, and ushered us past the smell of cordite. This time, with Swiss efficiency, they had blown up someones baggage that had been left unattended.
It made me think about what the Swiss banks do with money that is unattended? After how many years of no claims do they decide to move it into the car park and blow it up under protective rubber mats?
I never liked Switzerland.
Initially I was thrilled to be in a new country. Excited to be walking on pavements recently cleared of snow, the low sun adding no heat to the crisp cold that filled my lungs.I think we used to land in Basel then catch a train to Zurich. We would lug our rectangular brown suitcases with chrome latches and protective corners along Bahnhofstrasse and then branch off over the bridge and into the old town. There was a Swiss traditional restaurant as you entered the small suburb, walking over shiny,wet cobble stones.After dropping our baggage at the small inn with huge duvets and warm central heating, my father treated us to a meal there. I remember having cheese and meat fondues, and always leaving with a burnt tongue. Even the crisp white ice-cream covered in Champagne did not soothe the pain. When we left to go back to the hotel, we had to move aside for a Lamborghini Muira. The low car was so wide, not just because of the narrow streets. But the street amplified the guttural sound of the motor at low revs.
I didn’t like Switzerland because they were too organised. Rumor parallels similar White African fears at the time that had each Swiss man conscripted to the army and each family with a concrete bunker in which to survive an atomic attack. That’s why it looked so organised.There was just no heart in Switzerland.
Here I am ten years later, to discover if there is any heart in Switzerland. The money has long been moved into the Greek banks, where there is unlimited heart and maximum inefficiency!
My father was not impressed by my first personal business card. He said that a business card had to make a statement about me, and this one did not. It did not even have my qualifications on it. As if that made a statement about who I was?
He was less scathing when I went into private practice and worked through some drafts of business cards with him. I gathered that a business card should have your name, address, business details and qualifications on it. While I chose the blue writing to represent the big African sky, for him and all Greeks, it represented the flag of their Patrida – homeland. He was even more impressed when I appended the word ORΘOPAIDIKO below my profession, listed as an Orthopaedic Surgeon. After all, it does come from the Greek. I had a funny call from an old G.P. in Durban who had received a copy of my letter to a colleague when one of his patients came for a second opinion. I thought the G.P. was calling to find out about my incisive opinion; in fact, he threatened to report me to council because I had illegal items on my letterhead. The Medical Council rules only allowed name, address, contact numbers and description of specialty. No pictures or any other proclamations. I tried to explain to him that ORΘOPAIDIKO only translated to what I did in Greek. He was Colonial and did not understand. There were two offshoots from that telephonic discussion: firstly I dismissed the old doctor as uneducated; and secondly, I removed my profession from future business cards, in Greek and English, and looked for a new profession. My anger reflected the anger my forebears felt when they were called “blerrie Greeks” or even “WOPS” mistakenly.
My father liked to think of himself as creative, as do I. His first foray into branding was when he did the sign for his construction company ACC. This was an acronym for Alberton Construction Company. The letters were in a Roman Font lying vertically in the outline of a blue Corinthian column. I remember the billboards outside new developments, and the first time we saw the new logo on a Sunday drive. He must have been very proud.
His second significant foray was when he needed a card that made a statement about himself. His wings had spread, and he had achieved more and needed to encompass the various facets of his life, which did not just include construction. That it had to be in blue was an easy decision. He was Greek. Who he really was had to be encapsulated in a logo. For this he turned to the wife of a friend of his son-in-law. Gina was an lively artist, and he commissioned her to do a pencil sketch of his father’s house in the village. They went through various designs until he chose the one that appears on his card.