Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

An Unfortunate and Lengthy Adventure in Misdiagnosis

Lake Geneva

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This weekend we went to Geneva. A little background: Geneva is in Switzerland, just over the other side of the Alps, and only 40 minutes from here. Think Heidi, Saint Bernards with barrels of brandy attached to their collars, flowering meadows of lush green grass, goats, Swiss chalets and snowy Alps. Well, that’s the stereotype anyway! We stayed at the imperialistic Hotel President Wilson (5*), “convenient for the UN building” apparently – the human rights convention is right next door, and the main UN building is just a short drive down the road.

The hotel overlooks Lake Geneva. The opposite bank is wooded, with parks and widely spaced houses. Geneva town centre feels very small yet widely spaced, and from the air the houses look spread out, groups of half a dozen with a couple of fields in between and some patches of woodland. There’s something civilised about this – the distinction between town and countryside not being so great. Something that Marx advocated in The Communist Manifesto, but is rarely repeated by modern Marxists today. From the air we could see lots of square buildings, three storeys high with shutters on the windows and quirky symmetrical folded out roofs (I am sorry, I cannot explain in words!). We even saw some log cabins on the edge of the lake.

We could learn a lesson from the Swiss

The cleanliness of the lake astonished me, the water was very clear for a long way down and the bottom was coated in healthy green pond weed. Swans and ducks clustered at the shoreline and herons posed on the grassy banks. There were many small boats moored around the edge of the lake, a water-skier, tourist boats, a ferry, but very little sign of rubbish or pollution. This was confirmed when, aghast, we watched a hawk swoop out of the air and catch a fish in the water. Not just one hawk – we must have counted a dozen in the air over the lake at the same time. I didn’t think hawks came in flocks! The lake must be a veritable cornucopia of fish. Perch was on the menu at every restaurant, we think from the lake. It is a most telling sign of a clean, healthy ecosystem in which the predators at the top of the food chain are numerous. In England, we would be lucky to see even one hawk.

The Swiss speak French and German and are influenced by both cultures. I believe their cuisine lies somewhere in between the two, and they are very fond of their dairy produce like the French (think Heidi). Choucroute was on the menu at several restaurants. The hotel we stayed at was completely obsessed with low-fat foods, but I think this is probably because it was designed to cater for Americans.

There is something fertile about France, and Switzerland too. You rarely see a young mother in England, unless she is a chav, looking scruffy and screaming at her kids. Middle class mothers are much older in England, and most of them have wrinkles before they give birth. In Nice and in Geneva too, there are young, well-to-do mothers everywhere, and shops to cater for a fashionable pregnancy rather than a frumpy English one.

One thing that did strike me was the sheer quantity of naughty children around. I think there were a lot of tourists, certainly Americans and Germans. The population wasn’t as slender as the population of Nice. In Nice children are remarkably well behaved, precocious, and passive. They follow their parents quietly and stop to look at the views, if they’re sat at a brasserie they don’t complain about it – a drink or a bit of bread is enough to keep them quiet.

By contrast, the children in Geneva were running around causing riots, yelling, whining and screaming. Unfortunately our boat tour of the lake was somewhat claustrophobic, due to the presence of one such child – a naughty little boy who couldn’t sit still and ran up and down the deck being violent and loud and seeking attention from everyone. The family spoke French but were somewhat stocky and large, so could have been French or Swiss. The child was clearly overloaded on additives and short of nutrients – perhaps the parents thought he was merely boisterous: I think he had ADHD.

On the tour of the lake we passed the house where Byron and the Shelleys stayed during that fateful period when a nineteen year old Mary Shelley got high on laudanum and various other substances began to write Frankenstein. There are several large mansions on the lake shores – Rothschild, Manoir Colgate, and a few historic palaces now owned by unspecified Arabian princes.

There is a little mermaid – The Little Mermaid of Lake Léman, or, The Siren, a bronze statue by Natacha de Senger, who was set on a rock there in 1966. Of course there are mermaids in Lake Geneva! What was I saying about biodiversity and good ecosystems? There’s also a mermaid in Copenhagen, but, strangely, she has legs. Must be the PCBs.


Written by alienrobotgirl

1 June, 2004 at 10:57 pm

Posted in My History

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