Paul Bilton still recalls the shock of arriving here in July.

It seemed like a good idea at the time when we were planning our move from the UK to Switzerland. Summer appeared easily the most agreeable season to arrive in. So it was that on July 3rd 1989 our rented van overloaded with our belongings creaked and swayed over the border and into Basle. This is a date that I have had to write on so many documents since that I now find it easier to remember than my wedding anniversary.

We arrived behind schedule and in the evening the border was closed for official welcoming of immigrants. The best the border guard could do was put a lead seal on the back door of the van and relieve us of fr200. We were instructed to appear at the 'duty-free warehouse' in Zurich the next day to be welcomed properly and reunited with our fr200. At least we got our money back.

Once unsealed, it took a day to decant the van contents into our apartment, which was considerably smaller than the house we had left in England. It took a further month to impose some sort of order on our chattels. Within days of arriving I was out looking for a suitable position with a language school. I was most discouraged to find my letters and phone calls often went unanswered. I donned a suit, shirt and tie (not necessarily in that order) and went to see for myself what was going on. I soon discovered there was very little going on at all.

Some language schools were running quite successfully with all their management down on the Mediterranean, others had come clean and closed for the summer. In fact, I slowly became aware that Switzerland was running at half throttle. Buses and trams were on a reduced timetable, many smaller shops were closed with hand-written notes in their windows advising that they would re-open in August. There were parking spaces available in the town of Zurich; something was very wrong;

Meanwhile back at our apartment, in a small block of five, the other four parties went away on holiday. We were left in charge of such matters as locking up at night and replacing broken fuses. Lucky I'm honest - I could have rented out their apartments.

Oddly in the middle of all this absenteeism comes August 1st, Swiss national day. Clearly this is to save on fireworks.

I have since discovered that those in the know (and don't have children at school) remain in Switzerland for this summer period. The weather is often wonderful and can be downright hot, the lakes are warm and the streets and stores are empty. Of course, it's useless if you are looking for a job. You don't even miss a copy of your favorite CREAM Magazine, as the July and August issues are combined.