On Sunday more than three weeks ago, I got to experience both good and bad surprises for my birthday.
Firstly, I do not know whether it was attributable to the weather (which had been rather miserable and below average temperatures for May) but I got up too late for a long run … inasmuch as Sunday 18 May was an important ballot day here in Switzerland both at the cantonal level as well as at the federal level and I had to go to the voting station (I am a little old fashioned in that I do not vote using the stamped addressed envelope that comes with the voting package) no later than 11 am — wait, I did not get out of bed that late … by a ‘long run’, I simply meant that I had been thinking of doing a 2-hour run. 😉
Among the issues to be decided by the Swiss people on my birthday were the initiative for the setting of a monthly minimum wage for the whole of Switzerland at 4,000 Swiss francs (or CHF22 per hour for a 42-hour week), a referendum against the purchase of 22 fighter jets from a Swedish manufacturer, an initiative to ban convicted paedophiles from working with children (and this for life) and, for the last issue to be voted on at the federal level, the question of whether the Swiss people would approve or reject the federal decree of 19 September 2013 on primary medical care (that called for making working conditions more attractive for GPs – generalist doctors).
At the cantonal level, there were various issues which voters were asked to decide upon. For instance, here in the canton of Vaud, there was a vote on an initiative to protect the UNESCO-listed region of Lavaux and, in the canton of Berne, there was a vote on the proposed immediate shutting down of Switzerland’s oldest nuclear plant (that of Mühleberg) — both initiatives were unfortunately (if I dare say so) turned down by voters in their respective cantons (although of course the vote on the Mühleberg nuclear plant should have been a federal one given that if anything goes wrong voters and residents of many other Swiss cantons will be affected too).
As I had opened the voting package only on the very morning of the vote, I was a little surprised when I realised that there we were being asked to vote on five topics, two of which I was unaware of as my mind had been focused on the headline votes (i.e. on the fighter jets and the minimum wage of 4,000). Although the voting package included the standard booklet describing the issues at stake together with the voting recommendations of the government, those of the various parties as well as of the groups responsible for the initiatives, I had to spend some time scouring the Internet to try to find out whether there were any implications for the healthcare-related vote (because I did not know much about this topic) other than those mentioned in the official booklet so as to be able to take an ‘informed’ decision (because I did not know much about this topic).
This delayed us a little for the next part of the day, a visit to my parents, so that we caught the train from Lausanne to Geneva only at 12:12. Once in Geneva we had a nice surprise, which even delayed us further by a few minutes: we got to see the second main hall of Geneva railway station after its recent makeover.
Although I am really not a fan of contemporary architecture (especially the Swiss version), I must admit that I quite liked the revamp. I suppose that the building was listed, so that the architects were not allowed to alter the outside, but I nevertheless felt that they had made good use of the space freed up by the removal of what must have been office space – to me, the inside felt ‘roomier’ as well as ‘cosier’ thanks to the addition of several shopping amenities.
I had thought that, once across the border, we would find a taxi without too much trouble … but we walked and walked for a very long time without seeing any – the only ones we saw were from Geneva (and they seemed to be manned by ‘locals’)! We walked and we walked in the hot sun* until we reached the railway station, but no taxi was to be found there either! I was really flabbergasted: no taxis waiting outside of the railway station of a small city of 33,237 inhabitants (census of 2011), how incredible or how telling of that city’s deficiencies in terms of its public transport policy …
So I had no other option but to call for a ride … However, this was somehow fortunate as we got a ride further up in the Voirons to see a new complex being built on the upper part of the mountain. Although my parents were rather enthusiastic about it, I found it pretty ugly.
No, let me not mince my words and be honest: to me, it is an eyesore that does not fit in at all with the mountain architecture of the area (even less so with the farm building just next to it). So much so that there is no way I am going to provide any free publicity for this set of boxes heaped on top of one another — hence my use of the eraser on this picture. 😉
I was treated to a nice meal by mum and we stayed at their place for a couple of hours until it was time to go. We were kindly given a lift to Chêne-Bourg (before that we passed through the Genevese countryside as the sun was about to set – unfortunately, the car moved when I took this shot), from where we took the tram and then the train back home.
Once home I was able to give myself a treat: I purchased some books over the Internet. I have been reading a lot of books on environmental issues of late and, as most of them are library books, I thought I would purchase some to help keep the book industry afloat 😉 Here are two out of the two scores I must have bought.
So I was able to enjoy both good and bad surprises on my birthday. I was surprised in a positive way by the vote on the Gripen as I had expected the Swiss people to do what they had been told and accept the purchase of the Swedish fighter jets. Although I had mixed feelings about the minimum wage vote (but I still voted in favour of it), I had not expected it to be rejected by such a wide margin (roughly by two thirds of voters). The refusal to decommission the nuclear plant was also a little bit of a downer given that I feel that Mühleberg is a national issue (as opposed to being merely cantonal) given the hazards brought about by an ageing nuclear plant. However, I can still take solace in the fact that I had some very nice weather on 18 May.
* I was also lucky in that for my birthday the weather was particularly good compared with the rest of the month of May (monthly bulletin available here).
Links [mostly to Swissinfo as the articles are either in English or have been translated into English]
- Federal vote of the 18th of May 2014, Swiss Confederation
- Minimum wage and fighter jets make noise, swissinfo.ch, 18 May 2014 [overview of the results]
- And if voters are not always right?, by Stefania Summermatter, swissinfo.ch, 18 May 2014
- Voters back paedophile ban on working with children, Clare O’Dea, swissinfo.ch, 18 May 2014
- Future of rural doctors hinges on funding, Veronica DeVore, swissinfo.ch, 6 May 2014
On the nuclear plant vote (Berne)
- Mühleberg nuclear plant given stay of execution, swissinfo.ch and agencies, 18 May 2014
- Public votes for continued Mühleberg operation, World Nuclear News, 19 May 2014
- Mühleberg-Initiative deutlich verworfen, BernerZeitung, 18 May 2014
On the Lavaux vote (Vaud)
- Battle for future of UNESCO wine region, Simon Bradley in the Lavaux region, swissinfo.ch, 2 May 2014
On the vote on minimum wages
- How to live on less than CHF4,000 a month, RTS TTC, swissinfo.ch, 18 April 2014
- Fight over benefits and living on little money, by Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch, 28 February 2014
- ‘Minimum wages are not always bad for the economy’, by Patrick Belser [‘opinion piece’], swissinfo.ch, 24 April 2014
- ‘Minimum wages threaten the labour market’, by Beat Kappeler [‘opinion piece’], swissinfo.ch, 24 April 2014
- Minimum wage grilled by catering industry, swissinfo.ch and agencies, 23 April 2014
- Anti-crisis tool: the minimum wage makes a comeback, Samuel Jaberg, swissinfo.ch, 18 April 2014
- Minimum wage fails to seduce Swiss, by Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch, 11 April 2014
- «Les entreprises savent réagir au salaire minimum», by Samuel Bendahan [‘opinion piece’], swissinfo.ch, 8 April 2014
- Most EU benefit seekers are ‘working poor’, swissinfo.ch and agencies, 4 April 2014
- Swiss voters may impose a minimum wage on industry, Sonia Fenazzi, swissinfo.ch, 25 March 2014
On the vote on the Swedish fighter jets (Gripen)
- Alternative to the Gripen: new drones from Israel?, swissinfo.ch, 1 June 2014
- Wings of air force clipped in nationwide ballot, Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch, 18 May 2014Gripen debate comes down to costs versus security, Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch. 18 May 2014 (12:24)
- Fighter jet purchase remains up in the air, Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch, 7 May 2014
- Fighting over military jets in changing times, Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch, 5 May 2014
- Are Gripen trade promises just an illusion?, Daniele Mariani, swissinfo.ch, 17 April 2014
- Should new jets or neighbours defend Swiss skies? , Olivier Pauchard, swissinfo.ch, 9 April 2014
- Swiss-Swedish plane deal fires up vote campaign, Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch, 28 March 2014
- Fighter jets await green light from voters, Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch, 13 March 2014