Tales from the Frontier - No. 2

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold. – Lord Byron

You know who’ll rule the world if a dystopian nightmare ever becomes reality? The Swiss.

The Swiss? What have they got to offer besides numbered bank accounts, insurance and Roger Federer?

A multi-functional Army knife, comically dressed Papal guards and holey cheese.

True, but quality tools, primary-coloured stripey uniforms, and smelly Emmental aren’t the things that will count in a devastated world.

Right! Prompt, efficient snaffling up of available resources will be the prime directive.

So what can bankers, insurance-sellers, chocolate munchers and cuckoo clock makers bring to the survival table?

I’ll tell you. The majority of the Swiss population have border-town shopping experience in Germany.

And nipping into Merkel-land to fill a Lidl carrier bag with bratwurst, Black Forest gateau, Bitburger lager and pumpernickel helps in what way?

You obviously haven’t been on the frontier front line. The hordes of Genghis Khan galloping over the Steppes on hairy ponies have nothing on our neighbours when it comes to marauding. The Swiss pour over the mountains in SUVs the size of two garden sheds. The roads across the border are as clogged as the Honiton by-pass during bank holidays in the 1960s.

Picture the scene. From every canton come columns of mechanised soldier ants pillaging the frontier supermarkets. The Women’s Institute Special Shopping Forces could do no better job of clearing Marktkauf, Lidl and Aldi shelves. The tills hum to frantic beepings of barcode readers. High denomination sheaves of colourful Franken notes are thrust at sweating checkout personnel while till receipts the length of loo rolls are offered in return. Empty trolleys once filled beyond their acceptable weight limit, wheels akimbo, lie abandoned resembling a modern retreat from Moscow. Departing vehicles are packed like Japanese underground carriages at rush hour. Parking attendants shoulder doors closed compressing drivers and purchases into the bulging compartments. It’s not a pretty sight.

Not just the Swiss, surely? What about the French? They’re as close aren’t they?

True. A bridge not far enough. Two actually. A footbridge and road bridge across the Rhine. The French have more style but less money than the world’s bankers. Added to which an ageing 2CV or Peugot 306 can’t carry the provisions that a mobile Alpine chalet with a Zurich numberplate can. Anyway, the French think they have better wine, tastier cheese, and prefer vegetables that don’t look as if the trip from Spain was too much for them. The French come to fulfil their Manifest Destiny – to shrug, be a nuisance and get in the way. The really ancient ones’ memories are a bit dodgy so they aren’t sure whether Alsace is in Germany or France this year since they didn’t have to cross a border.

The Swiss do have border posts don’t they?

In name only. All the Customs boys do is stamp forms so that the neutrals can get the VAT back from their pillaging. Better than smuggling because it’s legal. The Swiss are only intent on ‘filling their boots’, or any other container for that matter. The Urban Dictionary defines the expression ‘fill your boots’ as: ‘an invitation to partake with gusto’ and you rarely see so much gusto in one place.

So if the North Koreans, Israelis, Iranians or Trump cause a holocaust, the Swiss will be okay?

Yup. they’ll have the experience to expertly hoover up all the remaining resources and head back to the mountains.

But only the ones who live on the frontier, surely?

Well, that’s the beauty of the country – nowhere is more than 45 miles from a frontier as the vulture flies, so all the Swiss should have some border shopping experience. On Doomsday they’ll be singing their national song stolen from the Bee Gees, ‘We win again’ as they unload their trucks.