Tidying Up Lake Geneva

The new floating Olympic Musuem on Lake Geneva at Ouchy

I like to think I am not the type of person that would rubbish (bag, criticise) any individual or place and especially my host country of almost two years. But I would have to say that I have observed and thought over time that Lake Geneva has more stones lying haphazardly along its shores than there are cigarette butts on the train tracks at Lausanne Gare (railway station), if that were at all possible.

Switzerland prides itself on the cleanliness of its environment. The people here fully understand the implications of the chaos and disorder created by an untidy and random life. A leaf falls from a tree in Autumn and before it hits the ground there is someone there to catch it and put it in the correct container at a recycling station. A citizen throws a lunch wrapper onto the pavement and within seconds a paid commune worker picks it up with a high tec mobile vacuum cleaner. A foreigner accidentally drops a bus ticket at a pedestrian crossing and he is deported before nightfall. A dog walker fails to pick up his doggie's doo in the appropriately coloured 'Bravo' bag and an observant local will take his photo and text it to the Gendarmarie and the offender and his/her owner/dog walker will be arrested within seconds of the offence or be profiled in a wanted poster on the commune billboard.

This dude was checking his scooter for chewing gum on the tyres
Now the millions of cigarette butts that smokers flick onto the rail tracks  everyday here in Switzerland as their train approaches is another matter. When I first observed this disgusting habit (not the smoking which is gross enough, but the littering of what is described as one of the most pristine environments on the planet with a non-biodegradable piece of rubbish), I would jump down onto the tracks and pick up the butt before the train came in, then jump back up on to the platform and hold up the offending object in front of the face of the person who had moments before sucked its deadly contents into their lungs. But no-one took a bit of notice. They pretended I was invisible.  Imagine if the Swiss government took the same stance as Singapore on fining individuals caught dropping cigarette butts. The Swiss Franc would double in value overnight, the environment would heal and the cigarette companies based here would go broke which would help make the world a better place to live in.

But back to the lake. In the last week Jo and I have been enjoying the spring sunshine in the afternoon and walking the shores of Lake Geneva. It is indeed a very beautiful and special part of the world. We have noticed the local signs that winter is completely gone. The level of the lake has dropped. The swans are building their nests. The magnolia trees are blooming. One of the old ferries has been permanently parked below the Olympic Museum.

And then yesterday we came across a new and completely unexpected phenomenon. Overnight standing stones had suddenly appeared 'Stonehenge' like, along the shoreline between Pully and Lutry. These towering symbolic giants, reminiscent of those constructed by ancient cultures throughout the world, shimmered into the distant sunset. What were they trying to tell us? Who or what had done this? Many locals were standing around in groups quite perplexed, trying to work out what was happening to this usually seasonally, predictable environment.

With my little bit of knowledge of the French language I heard one gentleman say that he had 'seen some asylum seekers down here earlier in the day and that maybe that they had done it'. Then a lady said that 'if that were the case then it was a good thing that they were doing and that they should be applauded because she had never seen this part of the shoreline looking so tidy'.

So after taking a few photos of these free standing tributes to a bygone era Jo and I pressed on towards Lutry. And as usual I am so glad that we made the effort to go the extra mile because we were instantly rewarded and enlightened. On the little bay east of the Lutry boat harbour, we caught the creator of the standing stones red-handed as he placed the final piece on his latest creation. I clapped and he turned and took a bow. I gave him the thumbs up and he began work on his next masterpiece.

Note his creations disappearing into the horizon

Kata - (No relation to Bob)

Later when I interviewed this man now only 'known as the artist' (he would not give me his name or a close up photo) about his creative process and the ultimate purpose of the objects, all I could glean from his rantings was something about 'TED' ... and 'Tidying Up Art' ... so if anyone out there can translate anything from that bit of information, please kindly let me know.


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