Sunday, 22 January 2006

Leaving Switzerland

Olgi is very sad when I tell her of my dilemma, she says she will miss me very, very much if I decide to go. Rosemary too, says she is sad that I may go home, and says that I must visit her home in Dornbirn, which is just over the border in Austria, before I go.

Got a postcard from Eugen - he is holidaying in Pompeii! The friend he is staying with in Holland is a steward on KLM Dutch airlines - so I expect Eugen got a cheap flight ..... ;-)

Whilst sitting outside the Neugasse café, an American boy came to ask if I was ‘the English girl’ lol! We chatted and he told me about his travels. His father is in the American Airforce and they are stationed in Tripoli - he has invited me to visit him there........ I am beginning to get itchy feet myself and I’m now getting quite excited about Jenny’s idea of travelling around the world. So I have written back and told her that I am all for it. The letters flow fast and furious between us as we make plans, so now I know for sure that I must go back to London to work, save and plan.........

As word gets around that I will soon be leaving, life starts to get quite hectic- saying goodbye was never so much fun lol! I will miss everybody, but I feel quite excited about our travelling plans and going back to London. I have decided that I am going to get a 9-5 job and live independently - no more shift work and being tied to the job.........Jenny has two friends, Pat & Dickie, who have a flat in Crouch End and have a spare room to rent - so that’s the accommodation sorted then!

My last month’s wages will have to pay for my plane ticket, which I have booked at the local travel agents. Freidel, Eugen’s sister wants me to go over to see her in Schaffhausen. She met me at the station and I spent a most pleasant day with her family, we drove over to Stein am Rein, which has the most beautifully decorated buildings. Whilst I was waiting at the station for my train back to St Gallen, Friedel said she’d had a long talk with Eugen about me, but he said he just wasn’t ready to settle down yet - well I knew that, and I feel horribly embarrassed that they are talking about me like this, although I understand how much they would like to keep Eugen at home........

Frau Niederer is very sad that I am going home, she doesn’t speak a word of English, but Friedel says that her mother would like to spend the day with me before I go home. There is an Exhibition just on the outskirts of St Gallen, so wehave decided to go there. Frau Niederer is such a cheerful person that not being able to converse very well doesn’t seem to matter, we have a very jolly day together, she sends off a card to Eugen, but puts it from the both of us.........

Frau Geiger and her friend took me out to sample the Swiss delicacy Cheese Fondue, she says we must drink white wine with the fondue as it helps to prevent indigestion. I have never been a great one for drink and barely managed to drink one glass from the bottle that Frau Geiger ordered - but she had no difficulty in finishing off the rest and more, boy could Frau Geiger and her friend put away the ol’ vino!  And she is so funny when she's feeling a bit tipsey lol!

Well as it turned out, I seemed to spend a lot of time at the Travel Agents changing the date of my flight home. Frau Geiger has gone on holiday and Hans-Uli wants me to stay on until she gets back, then Maria went home to Italy as a relative was ill. She was only expected to be a couple of weeks, but it turned out to be a month, consequently, I had to keep going off to the Rathaus to extend my work permit for a little bit longer and to the Travel Agents to change my flight - I ended up staying another two months!

Eventually, I managed to get a definite booking for my flight home - then right at the last minute - Eugen rang to say why didn’t I go by train and stop off in Holland and then catch the boat from The Hague?   So off to the Travel Agents again to change everything!  Luckily, the young man in there was very helpful and didn't seem to mind all the chopping and changing, he agrees that it will be far more interesting to go overland by train as I will be passing through various Countries.  As it happened, doing it this way was much cheaper than flying home, it also seemed like much more fun and I decided to stop off in Paris too, and meet up with my friend Janet, who has been working there as an Au Pair. She is very excited by my plans and is looking forward to us meeting up again - she says she has lots to tell me............

Sunday, 15 January 2006

More of Life at The Importner

By the end of Eugen’s first week away, I'd received a post card from him, it was pretty enough, but I felt extremely miffed when I turned it over and found just a hurried signature - no mention of the weather or how the job hunt was going - just his name! But I felt a little better when Sylvie rang over the weekend to find out if I'd heard anything. It seems that no one else had received a card from him at that point, so at least he’d given me some thought.........

It was a long second week, wondering what he was going to do. I didn’t hear anything more from him until I got a call saying that he’d been back for 3 days and was preparing to leave again. But not for Italy. He had been in touch with an old friend in Holland, and was going to stay with him until he found a job.

Silvie says he’s stupid! But I know how much Eugen wants to travel, and being able to speak German, French and English meant he could work almost anywhere. He would get by in Holland with his English and German and would no doubt be speaking Dutch within a week!

Friedel, Eugen eldest sister, rang to say how sorry she was that Eugen was moving on, it seems that, with both mine and Eugen’s arrival in Switzerland, they had all had high hopes of Eugen settling down....... I’d been afraid that they were thinking that - and more afraid that Eugen would be aware that their thoughts were going in that direction, and that would eventually frighten him away, but I didn’t think it would be just yet. It seems the whole of Eugen’s family had had high hopes of welcoming a third Freda into the family lol!

Instead of spending my days off with Eugen, I would jump on a train and explore all the pretty villages around here. I did feel a little self-conscious when I went into any of the little café’s and gave my order in stumbling German, the Swiss don’t like speaking ‘Hoch Deutch’ and I found it almost impossible to understand the Swiss dialect, but I got by and enjoyed taking photos of all the beautifully painted houses.

Two Irish sisters have come to work in St Gallen, we meet often at the Neugasse for a chat, I can’t say that it makes a nice change to be speaking in English, because I seem to speak in little else lol! Everyone wants to practice their English, so when my German speaking friends are with me, they want to speak in English :-/

Frau Geiger is always asking me to explain the English anomalies. She was puzzled by the word ‘busy’ and askedme to explain it. I did my best, but she made me laugh when she responded with "Oh I see now - right - I go busy!"

I have been kept well informed with what is happening in London, I am in regular correspondence with all my friends. Jenny and I are in almost permanent contact, she says she wants to do something with her life. She has been taking driving lessons and we have hit upon the idea of buying a van and converting it so that we can travel around the world in it. It means that I will have to have some savings, and because I don't earn very much and everything here is so expensive, I am never going to be able to save anything whilst I am working here. Much as I love Switzerland, I have to make a decision as to what I am going to do next - my six month work permit is coming to an end and I have to decide if I am going to pay for another six month permit........





Sunday, 8 January 2006

Life at The Importner

Back to work tomorrow :-(  - so just doing a quick entry, must get an early night tonight. zzzzzzzzzzz

As Wednesday is my day off, I always expected to go and see Eugen, poor lad - I never stopped to think whether or not it was convenient for him. Sometimes he couldn’t see me during the day as he was too busy in their restaurant, but we nearly always managed to meet in the evening and often went out with his sister Sylvie and her hubby, Erwyn, racing around in their sports car. Scares me to think of it now, drinking and driving was the norm - and how we sped around those mountain passes =:-0

On one of these evenings out, Eugen, Sylvie and Erwyn came into the Importner bar for a drink before hand, it was the first time they had been in the hotel and so the first time that anyone had met Eugen, although they had heard all about him! Eugen was looking particularly handsome in a smart suit that I hadn’t seen before - I wished I could afford to buy a nice little black dress to keep my end up - I felt like the poor relation in my cheap summer dress. Still it was nice to see the surprise on Olgi’s face and watch her fussing round him lol!

We had some really fun evenings out with Sylvie and Erwyn, but a couple of months after Eugen’s return to Switzerland, his feet were beginning to itch again, and one of the usual topics of conversation was where he might go to next. Sylvie tried to persuade him to stay a bit longer as she knew how much their parents needed his help, but I knew that Eugen was afraid of being drawn back into the business and his parents coming to rely on him - he knew he had to move on soon.

I had a terrible night, not at the thought of Eugen leaving, I had the most horrendous toothache - it was like nothing I had experienced before - I had to find a dentist, quick! Frau Geiger recommended one and even rang to make me an appointment, but I still had to wait until I’d done my chores! After the dentist had given my mouth a thorough examination, he said I’d probably got an abscess under one of my fillings. He scraped out what was left of the filling, stuffed the cavity with cotton wool and gave me some anti-biotics. I went every day for various treatments until at the end of the week he decided that the abscess had dried up and he gave me a new filling. He also gave me the bill - which almost made the filling fall out again - in shock! I had been used to free dental care in the UK and never gave a thought to how much it was going to cost - it was more than a weeks wages!! I was almost in tears, I hadn’t earned enough by this time to have any savings. The dentist was very kind and went through the bill item by item and ended up knocking it down by about a third, he also gave me a note to take to the tax office where they would pay so much towards the bill.

It’s now August and we are having rather wet weather, but it’s very warm so I enjoy walking in the rain during my repose. I came back from my walk to find that Eugen had rung, he’d left a message to say that he would be picking me up later along with Sylvie and Erwyn. We had a very jolly evening, Eugen was in good spirits. We went to Trichley’s - yet again. It was the only night club in St Gallen - consequently I had been there a couple of times before - each time with a different feller. It was getting a tad embarrassing, as the drummer in the combo recognised me every time and always gave me a cheeky wink.......

I wasn’t smiling at the end of the evening tho’ - the reason for this sudden evening out, was for Eugen to tell me that he was going off to Italy the next day for a 2 week holiday, and he would be looking for work whilst there, so may not be back!

Saturday, 7 January 2006

Updates & Sad News

I am still in contact with many of my friends from the sixties - in particular the ones who worked for Grand Met and lived at Ashley Court.

Bobby, who was a fellow telephonist and still lives in London,  tells me that after many decades (can you believe it!) Ashley Court which has been boarded up, is finally showing signs of occupation.  I would love go around that place again before it is altered beyond recognition - but not sure how to achieve this.   Neil (who I haven't mentioned yet - but another Grand Metite) tells me that he was on TV on Channel 5 facing Tony Blair over the war in Iraq - and gave TB such a tough time that he was invited back on the programme lol! [I love my old mates!  ;-) ]

My friend Bernadette who was the housekeeper at Stratters, has finally retired from hotel work and is thoroughly enjoying her 'freedom'.  We promise on every Christmas card that we really will meet up this year!  We haven't met up for some years now.  Although I did manage to meet up with another old friend the other day - we have been trying to get together for the last 10 years and she only lives about 15 miles away!

Eugen tells me that The Importner has been turned into luxury flats - putting paid to any idea of ever staying there again :-(  Ah well, I've had my chance over the years and have never taken it........

Lastly and most sadly, my dear friend Jenny, of whom I have written often in my reminiscences, because we were such good friends back in the sixties and shared many adventures (still more to come) died on 4th January 2006.  She had been fighting cancer for many years, and was such a strong person that she overcame cancer of the breast, stomach, ovaries and recently had a tumour removed from her colon.  Sadly, it was discovered that the cancer had overtaken her liver.  She went into hospital on December 8th 2005, full of hope that finally she could ditch the colostomy bag and lead a more normal life.  Through out, she continued to work full time - she loved her job and her workmates, so I know she is going to leave a very large whole in their lives.  She was such a fighter - I can't believe she's finally lost the battle.  It's like the end of an era.

A very sad Freda

Tuesday, 3 January 2006

More of Life at The Importner

We have to muck in and do pretty much everything at The Importner. Today I was called in to help in the kitchen - washing up. There’s a big lunch on and I was actually called down from my repose - bloomin’ cheek! It’s hateful work - there are huge greasy pans to wash in extremely hot water and not a rubber glove in sight! At the end of it my hands were bright red and seemed to be twice their size :-(( I came to dread being called into the kitchen.

But the bright spot of the week was when Eugen called to ask if I would be going to Walzenhausen on my day off - what a silly question lol! Couldn’t have Wednesday off this week as there’s another big lunch on - so more kitchen duties........Had lovely day with Eugen on Thursday tho’, he cooked me his special cheese souffle’omelette, made by whisking the egg whites til fluffy then gently folding in the yolks, cooking the bottom of the omelette in a pan then flashing it under the grill to brown the top - superb! Went for a walk in the afternoon, then met his sister Sylvie and her husband in the evening for dinner, we also met a group of English holiday makers so had a very jolly evening. We came back to The Importner in Sylvie & Hubby’s car, Eugen walked me to the side door of the hotel and, to my surprise, kissed me rather passionately! Hmm - very strange.........

A ‘new’ person has suddenly arrived at The Importner. A young lady is working in the bar and she seems to be very much at home here. It transpired that she used to work here about a year ago but has been off travelling. Her name is Olgi and she speaks enough English for us to converse, I like her, but Frau Geiger is a bit cagey around her. Over a period of time, the full story came out. It seems that when Frau Egglie died and Herr Egglie decided to retire, their son Hans-Uli took over the running of the hotel and Frau Geiger who had been ‘maid of all work’ like me, simply decided to take over and made herself ‘The Frau’. As Hans-Uli had to go away to do his National Service (if I remember rightly, young men up to the age of 40 had to do about 6 weeks National Service every two years) no one objected, in all fairness, she served her purpose, but Olgi was not too happy with this situation and went all out to prove to Hans-Uli what she could do. And so began an evening ritual where Olgi would take me down into the linen room to help her clear it out - she wore a very fetching ‘overall’ that barely covered her bum, and did rather a lot of bending over ;-) when Hans-Uli came down to find out what was going on. It was very hard work, all the equipment had to be moved to clean behind, and it was very heavy. We would be there until 11.0pm some evenings, I was paid extra, but it played hell with my social life!

It soon became obvious that Olgi & Hans-Uli were starting or re-newing a close friendship. We were often called to change the sheets in one of the bedrooms during the afternoon or early evening, when normally we would only be tidying up bathrooms and turning down the sheets. It was obvious someone had been having a jolly time and Maria would keep muttering ‘schiffo’ which apparently meant ‘disgusting’ as we made up the bed with fresh sheets. Frau Geiger was feeling distinctly unsettled and seemed to be trying to get me and Maria on ‘her side’. But there was no way she was going to win this particular battle - Olgi was a very attractive, hardworking and clever gal..........

Furthermore - she was planning on consolidating her position by moving into The Importner. One day she asked me to go over to her flat with her, as she was having a clear out. She gave me some nice things, jewellery, trinket boxes, scarves and a lovely pink lace suit. She would have loaded me down with all kinds of stuff, but I had to travel light, so unfortunately I had to say no to some of it.

We have a party of Americans in, the funny thing is that they assume I’m Swiss, and I was complemented on my English lol! The trouble is, the tour leader wants to make use of her knowledge of German and insists on speaking to me in what she thinks is my own language. I’m having difficulty enough learning German and spoken with a Southern Drawl doesn’t exactly help. We are kept very busy chasing round after them - I have never known anyone use up as many toilet rolls as those Americans - goodness knows what they were doing with it all!!!! The Tour Leader seems to be a little frustrated by not being able to make herself understood, and as it couldn’t possibly be her command of German, she thinks I must be Dutch! Of course I could have told her that I was an English girl who didn’t have a full comprehension of German, but by this time I was having too much fun ;-)

Mum & Dad are coming to Lucern for a holiday and I am going to meet them there and stay for a couple of days. I kept waiting for their phone call to let me know that they’d arrived, but it never came, I rang the hotel where they are supposed to be staying but they don’t know what time they’ll be arriving. I hung around all day then came the phone call in the evening asking me to go straight down there as they were on their way, but I got there before them, the Frau in charge wasn’t very helpful, but one of the waitresses looked after me until the package tour that Mum & Dad were on, finally arrived.

The Hotel Pilatus is beautifully situated on the edge of Lake Lucern - it has a truly glorious view of mountains and heavenly blue lakes. After supper we all went down stairs into the cellar which had been turned into a night club, we had a very lively time and finally staggered off to bed in the early hours of the morning. I joined the group on a trip to the Three Passes - wonderful views, glorious sunny day, even though there was plenty of snow on the mountains!

It was mum’s birthday on 4th July, and everyone on the tour was wishing her a happy birthday which pleased her no end. We went shopping and I bought mum a lovely blue enamelled fob watch. Later we went on the cable railway which was very scary - I’ve never had a head for heights and it wasn’t an experience that I look back on with joy, mind you, everyone else was looking a bit green around the gills as well......We had an early tea and the chef sent in a birthday cake for mum. Afterwards Roger, the Tour Guide, ran me to the station to catch my train back to St Gallen. It was an awful journey back, I had to change trains several times for one reason or another. I finally arrived in St Gallen at 12.30am, and was tucked up in bed by 12.50! But it was awfully hard getting out of bed at 6.30am........I was so tired all morning and so much work to do, the Americans are leaving today and what a mess they left behind them - the rooms looked as if they had all had difficulty finding their belongings - the down side of living life on a whistle-stop tour I expect........