The Swiss are so efficient and so polite, aren’t they? Trains run on time and, when you have to change twice between Zurich airport and Davos, a courteous rail official will happily print you out a mini itinerary, giving not only the times of your connections, but the platforms. Can you imagine the ticket office at Euston being able to tell you what platform you need to transfer to at Birmingham New Street to make your connection?
Then there are the appliances. In the rather fabulous penthouse that I was lucky enough to borrow, I discovered a startlingly efficient tool to scrape the water and calcium deposits off the glass shower wall. I own several lesser versions of these, so it is good to know that a superior model exists, even though the Swiss currency has appreciated so much that I would currently need a mortgage to buy one.
On the streets of Davos, there was a certain amount of impolite talk about who may or may not have snubbed the afternoon tea party given by the British contingent.
This was held at the very café where I had snagged a table for the week. Sir Mick Jagger might have taken his presence elsewhere, but he missed a splendid event. Not for us Brits the standard drinks-and-canapes party at the Hotel Belvedere; instead, we served the best of British fare, accompanied by speeches both entertaining (Boris) and impressive (Dave).
On Thursday morning I called for a cab to collect me at 8.40, emerged on to the pavement at the appointed hour and there was a people carrier waiting. That’s Swiss efficiency for you, I thought, as the driver helped me in with my briefcase. I was a little concerned when he asked me where the others were, but I told him my destination and it matched the one he was expecting, so we set off down the hill. But we both quickly worked out that, in fact, I was not his intended passenger, so he pulled over and I flagged down my own taxi on its way to pick me up. My original driver returned to collect his actual passenger – Chelsea Clinton. Throughout all this kerfuffle, both drivers were helpful and polite. And, no doubt, Swiss.
Later that evening I hosted an all-female dinner to raise awareness of gender issues – this year at Davos, for example, only 17 per cent of the full delegates were female. From there, several of my guests and I went straight to the internet entrepreneur Yuri Milner’s party. After this, I set off along the icy streets in the company of several of my dinner guests, including Jane Martinson, women’s editor of The Guardian, who was busy digging out just why so few women make it to Davos. Our destination was the FT’s party.
It was between these two unmissable events that all my plans unravelled in a quite unforeseen way. Slipping on the ice, I fell and badly broke my right arm. All my imminent commitments – a business trip to New York; giving a talk at the Treasury; hosting a shooting party in Spain – flashed before me. Then the pain kicked in. Fortunately my accident had been witnessed by Victor Pinchuk who added to his extensive list of philanthropic activities by rescuing me from the street and getting his driver to take four women (one screaming in pain) to the hospital.
Of course, the Davos hospital experience was an object lesson in advanced Swiss courtesy and efficiency. Before long a doctor was delicately manoeuvring my broken limb to establish some complicated kind of traction system that she (delegates in Davos may be mostly men but the hospital boasted many women) promised was entirely necessary. Not that I was in any position to argue; I was in agony.
I was impressed by the speed and thoroughness with which the whole unfortunate event was dealt. And I was entirely delighted to be offered a veritable colour chart from which to choose my cast. I’ve gone for purple, which is no doubt the shade of the bruising it conceals.
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