When I was at university in Japan, I used to teach English for a little extra money. Well, I say a little, this was the eighties towards the end of the Bubble Economy and Japan was swimming in money. There were only seven or eight Brits in the city so we cleaned up, getting fifty to a hundred quid an hour just for speaking English.For a hundred quid an hour, I’ll put up with quite a lot.
One of the students I had was learning English so she could write to the fairies in Switzerland. I never questioned this; she wanted to learn English so she could converse with mythical creatures in a country that has a number of languages, none of which are English, but that was ok with me.
To get initial contact with them, she decided to go through the Swiss embassy in Tokyo and wrote to them asking for an address. The Swiss wrote back a very polite letter explaining that the fairies moved around a lot and, in any case, were too small for human letters.
She was undeterred, and asked if they were able to supply a phone number she could possibly contact them on. Again the Swiss replied, saying that the fairies didn’t like to use phones as they were too small to hold them. This was the eighties, remember, even a mobile phone back then would probably house a whole family of fairies.
Our heroine persisted. Was there any chance the Swiss knew which area of the country the fairies were liable to be in? She’d just head off to Switzerland and see. She’d seen the Japanese cartoon version of Heidi and knew it was just a couple of villages on a mountain, how hard could it be? The Swiss again responded saying the fairies just went wherever they wanted.
By this time, the obvious avoidance of the Swiss was becoming plain to my student. She could see they were just trying not to answer her question. So she asked again, did the Swiss not keep track of the fairies at all? Surely their army or police force monitored them somehow?
And I could see her point there; to an ordered country like Japan, the idea of just letting a horde of flying magical beings traverse the countryside willy-nilly without even tracking them was absurd. And Switzerland is famously ordered too, with an army that has nothing much else to do and pocket knives full of odd implements that nobody can see a use for. Those little magnifying glasses on the Swiss army knives are perfect for spotting fairy footprints.
The Swiss gave in at this point and admitted that, yes, their army did indeed track the fairies. In fact, they’d just tracked them to the Italian border, and if she would like to contact the Italian embassy, they’d be happy to supply the address…