Red shoes in the Red Zone

July 23, 2012, No comments

A slice of Swiss life has arrived in central London, right down to the red shoes. They were out in force last Friday night when, in between the very British showers, the House of Switzerland opened its doors to the public. Or more correctly put, opened the Red Zone to the public. A small part of the heart of London is now painted red for the next three weeks. Red cobbles, red streets, red mountains. So maybe it wasn’t too surprising that more than a few ladies chose to wear red shoes to the opening. That made me smile!

It wasn’t a very formal affair. Yes, there were suits and speeches from the Swiss ambassador, the head of Presence Switzerland and the Mayor of Southwark (the host borough), but that was followed by an impromptu boogie on the stage when ‘London Calling’ started playing and the lively, lovely mayor led those sensible Swiss men astray. That made everyone smile.

Since then the sun has come out and the suits have come off, replaced by something very un-Swiss. Most children in Switzerland don’t wear a uniform to school, so it’s probably a bit of a shock to the House of Switzerland staff that they have to wear a school uniform to work every day now. Of course, it’s not really a school uniform (it’s much sportier and smarter than that) but the pale grey blazers and red shields on the shirts just remind me of school. I’ll persuade one of them to pose for a photo so you can see the chic, Swiss-school look.

So in some ways the little square between Southwark cathedral and the Thames has become very Swiss – climbing the Eiger Nordwand to win a bar of chocolate, eating real bratwurst with Thomy mustard, paper-cutters working their magic with the Scherenschnitte. In other ways it is still very British – service with a smile, showers giving way to sunburnt skin, cups of tea in the cathedral refectory. In fact, this could be the best Swiss-British union since James Bond’s parents did the hokey-cokey (his mother was Swiss).

For what’s going on every day at the House, click here for the events schedule or here to see the visitor brochure. If you can’t get there, there are plenty of great photos up on Flickr, or you can subscribe to the House of Switzerland daily newsletter. And don’t forget that I’ll be reporting here regularly from the Red (Shoe) Zone.

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