|Gerry's Diary 9: Connecticut, birthdays and Floosie takes the bus (May 9, 2008)|
Hi, this is Gerry and this is my Diary for May 9th. In this show I'm going to tell you about a holiday that I'm taking in the United States. Then I'm going to talk a bit about birthdays. It's my birthday month this month, but I think that the Swiss celebrate birthdays more than the British. There's another story about our cat, Floosie. She seems to want to go away on holiday, too. My whine of the week is about pre-holiday stress, and the saying of the day is what to say when it's somebody's birthday. So plenty to talk about.
When you hear this Diary, I'm going to be in the United States. My sister lives in a little town called Chester in Connecticut. Connecticut is one of the States of New England on the East coast. It lies north of New York City and south of Boston in Massachusetts. Chester is a charming little town on the Connecticut River, which is one of the big rivers in North America. The houses in New England are mainly built of wood and they are usually painted white. My sister lives in a house like that. And it's old even for us in Europe. It was originally built in 1790. For modern America that is very, very old, of course. The first Europeans arrived in Connecticut in the 1630s. There were both Dutch and English colonies at that time. The name, Connecticut, like the name Massachusetts, came from one of the local Native American  languages.
I'm going to visit my sister with my wife and my mother. Mam's flying from Manchester in England and we are flying from Zurich. We should - we should - all arrive in New York at the same time, and my brother-in-law is coming to fetch us from JFK airport . Let's hope everything goes OK. I can tell you next time about the journey. We're going to the States to celebrate our birthdays. My mother and I have birthdays that are very close . And we thought it would be nice and quiet to go and spend our birthdays at my sister's.
Birthdays in Switzerland are very important days, it seems to me. Friends always want to know when your birthday is, and they put it into their diary  and they remember. They like to wish you a happy birthday on the day. In fact they congratulate you on your birthday. I never really know why you congratulate me. I mean, I haven't done anything. I lived another year. So what? In English we usually say: Many happy returns! This means I hope that you will have many more birthdays, that your birthday will return many times.
Anyway, in Switzerland your friends always remember your birthday and they expect you to celebrate it. At work, you should bring a cake or something. I asked an American friend of mine  about birthdays at work in the States. The problem is that she has been in Switzerland about as long as me, so she can't really say what's normal in the States any more. But she said when she was there, her colleagues often brought her a cake on her birthday. I must ask my sister when I'm there what they do in her office.
And in Switzerland on your birthday you usually invite your friends for a drink or a party. And then there are what they call in German the "round birthdays". We have no word in English for these birthdays: your thirtieth, your fortieth birthday and so on. I guess we could call them "big birthdays" in English, but they really aren't so important in Britain or in the US. I think it's fantastic what people do here for other people's birthdays. They write texts and songs and think of really interesting and funny presents. In Britain, it's somehow different.
Here are some differences between Swiss and British parties that I have noticed. These are my personal ideas. I'm not sure if they are generally true. And I haven't been to any parties for younger people for a long time! Swiss celebrations and parties are probably more organized than British ones. At a British party, you provide drink and food (in that order), music and a place and then you leave it to the people to make a party. Swiss parties start on time. At British parties people come when they like. The invitation probably says something like "from 8 o'clock", so people will come at 9 o'clock or even later. Nobody will come at 8 o'clock exactly. At British parties people stand a lot, the Swiss like to sit. Swiss people like to have desserts at a party. At British parties you don't usually have much sweet stuff  to eat - except if it's a children's party. The British drink more than the Swiss, at least more than the German Swiss. I have friends who lived in the French part of Switzerland, and they said that you had to provide more drink there than in the German part. The German Swiss drink lots and lots of water, though! What do you think? What are your parties like? 
Before I go, here's some more news of Floosie the cat. Perhaps she wants a holiday, too. Let me explain. Our daughter works in Zurich. I think I told you that. And she comes home from work in the evening on the train. At our station there's a bus that takes people through the town and to the next town. Well, my daughter got off the train last week and walked past the bus on the other side of the road. Then she suddenly saw a small cat with all the people who wanted to get on the bus. "That looks like Floosie," she thought. And so she went across the road to check, and sure enough, she just saw Floosie jump onto the bus with all the other people. Our daughter jumped in as well and found Floosie sitting under a seat, looking very interested in the bus and all the people. So our daughter grabbed  her and got off the bus, just before it drove away. She brought Floosie home, but Floosie didn't want to stay. She had a quick little meal and then she wanted to go out again. So perhaps you'll meet Floosie on a bus or a train one of these days. There was another cat from Zug that was in the papers last year. It liked to take the train from Zug. Perhaps Floosie heard about this cat and thought: "Mm, that's sounds fun!"
And my whine of the week? What's got on my nerves this week? Well, I think it has to be getting ready for the holiday. Why do I always have so much work in the week before I go away? You can call it pre-holiday stress. So much to do before you go away. But the good thing is that the holiday is coming and that's the best feeling: when you get on the plane or train, or you get in your car and you leave everything behind. Forget it all for a week or so. That's a great feeling!
And your saying of the day, well, we already had it. Next time an English-speaking friend or colleague has a birthday, say "Happy birthday! And many happy returns!" And I look forward to talking to you again when I return from America. Until then, take care!
 Native American: this is the modern term for the people who lived in North America before the Europeans arrived. This term has replaced the term American (or Red) Indian
 JFK: an abbreviation for John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States. The airport is named after him.
 birthdays that are close: birthdays that are on days that are near to each other in time
 diary: here: the book or the electronic file where you write down your meetings, appointments, etc.
 a friend of mine: one of my friends
 sweet stuff: sweet things
 What are your parties like? : How are your parties?
 grabbed: caught her quickly