With one giant step from Maleny to Lausanne on the Lake Geneva shoreline, my view of life was changed forever.
Most of the important lessons that I learned came via my asylum seeker family at EVAM Crissier.
Now, sitting back in the land of plenty, it is time to put into practice what I have learned.
New manuscript - Another Frozen Immigrant - Chapter 1
Another Frozen Immigrant
by Rob Swales
Lake Geneva - Rolle, Xmas 2010
A Swiss woman, who did not wish to be named in print, found the body when she was out walking Devereux, her long-haired Daschund. It was Christmas morning 2009. Apparently Devereux insisted he go for a walk every morning rain, shine or snow. There had been about twenty centimetres of snow the night before in Rolle. Some locals argued that it had been less than ten centimetres but all the same it was enough to freeze some misguided foreigner to death on the steps of an old barn in a back street during the holiday period.
After finding the man and letting Devereux lick his face without a response, Devereux’s owner had continued her walk down Chemin de la Gare, turned right into Grand Rue, right again at Rue du Temple and knocked loudly on the door of the gendarmerie office in Rue du Temple. No-one answered. It was Christmas Day and six degrees celsius below freezing. Add the bee wind chill factor and it was more likely minus twenty. There was a neatly typed memo on the glass pane of the front door giving a mobile phone number for emergency contact only over the holiday period. A statement in parentheses said that this emergency number was also to be used for noise issues residents had with neighbours, day or night during the festive season, including gardening equipment but not snow clearing devices.
Devereux’s owner considered the idea of finishing her puppy’s morning walk before phoning the emergency number. Devereux could become quite irritable if he didn’t have his morning walk before his croissant. Eventually, she reluctantly dialed the after hours mobile number on her new i-phone. The i-phone 3 that she had picked from the Apple shop in New York on a recent holiday. The number took over thirty seconds to answer. The gendarme on call, Officer Muller, explained that he had had very little sleep the night before as he was investigating an alleged skin-head attack on a woman at Allamann railway station. It turned out to be a faked attack. The woman who faked the attack was only wanting more attention from her very absent, businessman husband. She had already had the largest size breast implants fitted that are available under Swiss cosmetic law and still he spent more time looking at his insurance port folio on-line than he did looking at her. According to what Officer Muller told the lady who found the body, the woman had drank two bottles of champagne by herself at a restaurant in Ouchy then in an intoxicated and oblivious state caught a taxi to Ikea at Allamann around midnight. The taxi had left before she realised Ikea was closed. Unable to find her mobile phone, she then staggered over to the railway station to catch a train like a common person and fell down the steps near platform one. Officer Muller was called to the scene by an alighting passenger and when he arrived the woman claimed she had been bashed and robbed of her mobile phone by a skin head.
Needless to say Officer Muller was not too enthusiastic to come out on a very cold Christmas Day. “Are you sure he’s dead?” He asked in a dry Swiss accent.
“He’s frozen.” the woman replied.
“Well I could go back and check but I haven’t finished taking Devereux for his walk yet.”
Within half an hour Officer Muller and the ambulance had arrived at the old farm house on the corner of Chemin de la Gare and Rue de Jardins. The frozen man was most certainly dead. Even the contents of the empty Napoleon Brandy bottle had failed to keep him warm. Officer Muller garnered the idea that the brandy could have been a major contribution to the situation. Death by passing out drunk and then freezing. At least he wouldn’t have felt the sting Muller concluded to himself. He thought of the the buckets of Spider crabs they used to catch in Spain when they went down there on family holidays. To kill them they would throw them in the freezer alive. As they wanted to eat them, out would come a handful of frozen crabs and they would be dropped straight into the boiling pot on the stove. Officer Muller’s favourite crab dish was Basque crab. Thinking about it he could still smell the sofrito sauce. Coincidentally his mother’s Basque crab recipe had brandy in it also.
Devereux’s owner insisted that her dog finish his walk and that she then had to get home to prepare her pet’s Christmas Lunch. Under duress she whispered her name, address and phone number to Officer Muller and had left the scene of the crime before the Federal Criminal Police unit had arrived. This incident was way over Muller’s authority. As a Vaud canton gendarme based in Rolle, he mainly dealt with drunks, noise issues and assault threats by people against their neighbours who had phoned to report issues concerning noise, or untrimmed lawn hedges or lawns with too many weeds in them.
Christmas 2009 at least looked like it might be a memorable one for Officer Muller. He liked working with the tough guys from the FCP. They always had a lot of information about immigrants. This dead man looked like an immigrant. Muller guessed by his wrinkled, tanned and sun-scarred face and white hair. He looked over seventy. But that might have been a by-product of alcohol abuse. He had no identification cards or papers in his pockets which Muller had checked using gloves before the FCP arrived. He did have a lot of cash. He didn’t count it. But it was fat bundle of 1,000 Swiss franc notes. Muller couldn’t help but think how peaceful the man looked. His neatly trimmed moustache and spanish-style beard were enhanced by the ice crystals reaching down to his lips and neck. He looked as good as any ice sculpture Muller had ever seen. He would have looked just at home in a museum exhibition as he did propped up against the door of the old farm house in Chemin de la Gare.
Muller taped off the crime scene on both sides of the Rue and the Chemin. After they had confirmed the woman’s opinion that the man was deceased, the two ambulance drivers amused themselves playing games and texting on their mobile phones in the comparative warmth of their vehicle. The snow was was bright beneath a dull snow filled sky. It might be a suitable day to die on but it wasn’t one where you wanted to be standing around in the cold and then wasting relaxation time filling out paperwork. His google weather forecast had been pretty accurate week. It looked like more snow was on the way. He was careful not to make anymore footprints than necessary in and around the crime scene. A mental note was taken of where the lady and Devereux had scuffed through the snow when they made the discovery of this wayward stranger. Devereux had almost scooped out in inverted tunnel where his oversized baguette belly had scraped and bounced its way along the length of pathway.
While he waited for the criminal police Muller tried to work out how a man with all that money had frozen to death in a back street of Rolle on Christmas day drinking cheap French brandy.
The surrounding trees looked like a landscape of barbecued steel rods lined on the top with the soft serve ice cream you can buy at Movenpicks. Even on a cold day Movenpick’s soft serve tasted good. For a moment the sun came out and the gloom lifted. Muller looked down at the stranger. He was sure he could see a smile on his face. Then he remembered back to the time when he first began to drink. He had often said then that if he died drunk he would die happy but now he wasn’t so sure about that idea. Not to die like this. Alone.