Gerry's Diary 20: The fair, fireworks, warm flats and the betting shop (November 7, 2008)
Hi, this is Gerry and this is my Diary for 7th November, 2008. Do you know that this is my 20th Diary? We started in January. We had a short break in the summer, and now this is Diary number 20. Incredible! I'd like to say a special hello to all the new listeners. When I read your comments on the website I can see that there are lots of new people. Thank you very much for listening and I hope you enjoy my little stories.
On this show, I have lots of things to tell you. We've just had the annual  fair  in our little town and I'd like to tell you about that. We've also had Halloween and Bonfire  Night. Then there's still a shop in our town that I didn't have time to tell you about on our tour last time, so I'll do that today.
It's really autumn here now and, as usual, I have a few words to say about the weather. What do you think Welsh people here think about the weather in Switzerland? My nostalgia moment is about warm Swiss flats, by the way.
And finally, a couple of stories about people you meet but you can't remember who they are.
Our town here in Wales is like the town that I lived in in Switzerland. Why? Well in both towns there's a fair every autumn. In the old days, the fair in our town in Wales was when people came here to buy and sell horses. And when the farmers came to town, other people came to sell them other things. My mother remembers not so long ago, that there was a boxing ring, where the young farmers could try fighting a professional boxer. And there was a striptease show in a tent, and all the old farmers queued up outside to go in. Now, there are no more horses, no more boxing, no more striptease, and the fair is more for children and young people. Lots of different rides  where the boys can show off  and the girls can scream. The fair fills the town - the streets and car parks are all full of stalls  and rides. In some ways it's like the fair in Switzerland - loud music, flashing lights and so on. So what's different? Well, the food is different. Here the stalls sell hot dogs, and hamburgers, and chips. Not so much sweet stuff. And there are no tents where people sit, like they do in Switzerland. Here people stand and walk, but of course they can always go into the pub to sit down. And here we have three luxury gypsy  caravans with gypsy ladies who can tell your fortune. They can tell you about your future. On their caravans you can read how these women learnt from their mothers, their grandmothers, their great-grandmothers. And there are lists of all the TV stars and singers who have been their clients.
The schoolchildren had a free day, the traffic problems were terrible, some local people didn't like the noise, but the people at the fair had a great time. And most important, the weather was good. A day without rain! We had a terrible storm the day before the fair and another terrible storm the day after. But in between we had a day of sunshine.
We have a new carpet in one of the bedrooms in our house and the man who came to fit the carpet asked where I lived before and I said. "Switzerland". "Oh," he said, "very cold, yeah?" And that's what a lot of people here think. Switzerland is a very cold country. Why do they think this? Well, I suppose it's because they know about the mountains and they've seen the pictures of all the snow. And when it snows here - and that doesn't happen often - it's really cold, and not very nice. It's usually windy, you see. People here can't imagine that you can sit outside in a café in Crans-Montana or Wengen and enjoy the sun in the middle of winter.
And what do the Swiss think about British weather? Well, of course they think it always rains. In Zurich when I was there you had days when it rained and rained and rained. The rain falling straight down from a grey sky. And people said to me: "Just like Britain, right? Do you feel homesick?" But for me, it didn't feel like Britain. It often rains here, but it's a different kind of rain. And the snow here is a different kind of snow from Switzerland.
But that brings me to my nostalgia moment for this show. I miss warm Swiss flats. In Britain, houses aren't as warm as Swiss houses. Why? Well, it's partly because British houses are not built in the same way so they're more difficult to heat. But it's also because people here don't feel the cold in the same way. Compared with Switzerland, people here wear less clothes when they go out but they wear more clothes when they're in the house. I realise that I'm wearing different clothes now from Switzerland. I wear more thick woollen sweaters. I wear them inside and outside. But I have to say that I miss those warm Swiss flats, where you can wear just a t-shirt in the middle of winter.
It's gone cold here in Wales now. We had the fair, then it was Halloween. I was in the local town on Halloween night. It's a university town, and all the young people were dressed up  and going from pub to pub. It was very noisy and very wild. And after Halloween we had Bonfire Night. That's November 5th. On this day, the British have big fires in the garden with fireworks. On November 5th 1605 a group of Roman Catholics tried to blow up the Protestant King James I and his parliament, but they were found out before they could do anything. One of the terrorist gang (as we would say today) was a man called Guy Fawkes. And the British remember this day as Guy Fawkes Day with fireworks. It's also my daughter's birthday on November 5th and when she was little she thought all the fireworks were for her birthday.
When we did the tour of our little town, I now realise that I forgot a couple of shops. One of these that you certainly don't find in Swiss towns is the betting shop. What's that? Well, it's a shop where you can bet , try and win some money but usually lose it by guessing what horse is going to win the big race of the day. In Britain, there's horse-racing every day. Every day in one or more places there are horse races, and you can go to a betting shop and 'place some money on the horses', as we say. You can bet which horse will win, which horse will come second or third. There are lots of possibilities. But these days you can bet on lots of other things. Football, for example. You can bet on who's going to score the first goal, when the first goal will be scored - after 10 minutes, before half-time, etc. etc. British betting shops will also take bets on politics. You can get a bet at the moment on who the new American president is going to have as his Secretary of State, or who's going to win the next British election. And you can also bet on the stock exchange. You can bet if the index  is going to go up or go down in the next five minutes, hour or day, for example. You can also bet online but a lot of people still like to go to the betting shop.
"I never forget a face". That's my saying of the day. People say it all the time. "I forget names, but I never forget a face." Well, that's often true, but sometimes it's also difficult to remember a face. My mother met her chiropodist this week in the supermarket. (A chiropodist is a person who looks after your feet.) But it was difficult for my mother to recognize her. Usually my mother sees her in a different place, wearing different clothes, and that reminded me of a story from Switzerland. I was in a small jazz club and I met a woman I knew. We were sitting at the same table. Then in the break, the drummer from the jazz band came to our table and said hello to my friend. She looked at him and just didn't recognize him. "Hello," he said again. "Don't you recognize me?" She looked at him again. "No," she said. "But I'm your dentist," he said. My friend was very embarrassed. "I'm sorry," she said. "I've never seen you in black clothes before." And of course, he usually had a mask as well!
Just time for one more little story. I still drive a Swiss car here and after singing in my choir last week I came out and wanted to drive away. A lady in the choir said to me: "Oh, so you're the one with the Czech car!" You see my car has CH on it, that's CH like "ch" in Czech Republic!
Well, that's it from my island for this time. I look forward to talking to you again in two weeks. Don't forget to leave your comments and questions on the website. Before I go, a quick word to Sascha who often writes me a comment. Bad news, Sascha, from the beer industry. The British are drinking less beer. Seven and a half per cent down compared with last summer. Britain needs more tourists like you, Sascha, to come here and drink some beer. And I can tell Hans that my little town is quite close to that village with the very long name. Now, until the next time, this is Gerry saying: Take care!
 annual: happens once a year
 fair: a special event when people ride on special machines, buy special things and have fun
 bonfire: a big fire in the open air
 rides: machines that you can ride on, for example a carousel
 show off: make themselves look good
 stalls: tables and stands where people sell things
 gypsy: the Romany people who often live in caravans and are nomads
 dressed up: here: wearing special costumes or clothes
 bet: risk money by saying what you think will happen (in a horse race, for example)
 index: here: a stock exchange index such as the Dow Jones or the SMI that gives the average rise or fall in value of the shares of a number of companies