A week-long binge in England would have consequences. Fried to the tonsils, youths would without doubt overdo things; policemen would be biffed left, right and centre; ASBOs would be liberally dished out like toilet paper. Biffing policemen, I might add, should be done sparingly, if at all – viz. in emergencies, such as interfering with drinking.
In law-abiding Switzerland, however, amidst a non-stop, 160-hour party, I couldn’t see a single policeman. What do you mean, probably too pissed? Well, there might have been one, but he could have been an accountant in fancy dress – you can’t tell during Fasnacht. And even if he were an actual copper, he certainly wouldn’t have been the sort of chap to come over all heavy-handed with a truncheon, bend at the knees and say ‘Evening, All.’
Now, you remember the racket being made by trombone players in Part One? Well, the noise pollution was now ramping up nicely, threatening an avalanche. As Winnie-the-Pooh, Wonder Woman, four Muppets and a pirate filed into the bar, a Gugga band stepped off a bus.
Twelve trombonists, twelve trumpeters, a couple of hefty guys with sousaphones, and a handful of percussionists began assembling their instruments. Jeepers, what a wall of sound – and all at one dynamic: an edgy fortissimo, in a tone worthy of trombonist Gary Valente. Ein, zwei, drei, and “BLF”, as we used to say at The Royal College of Music. (That’s “Blow Like Fuck” to those unfamiliar with the intricacies of brass technique at prestigious musical academies.)
Indoors, outdoors, it doesn’t matter. Fifteen minutes of undiluted razzing the bollocks out of the brass, and then the Gugga players hop back on the bus for more of the same in another village. As Swiss Jules said in Part One, you either love or hate it.
Swiss Jules, incidentally, always an arbiter of style, was getting rather carried away by now. Apple schnapps foisted upon him, he was at this point underneath a girl dressed as a Moroccan henna woman, having a poppy drawn on his neck in what looked worryingly like permanent marker.
‘Barn, look at that guy,’ he said, pointing over my shoulder as the last smudges merged with his ear. ‘That’s a bit politically incorrect.’ I turned to see a shortish fellow in cut-off sleeves, with child-sized hands stuck directly onto each shoulder.
‘Great costume. Can you open my beer for me?’ called Jules, failing to realise until far too late that here was a genuine thalidomide victim, the only other person in the whole town that hadn’t actually come in fancy dress.
Digging Yourself A Hole
You know when you don’t so much put your foot in it as throw in all thirteen stone? Then you’re left, neck reddening, wishing the ground would envelop you and spirit you away before you can say anything to make matters worse? Well, Julian’s face was a picture. It’s at times like this when I think of our school trombone teacher, Peter Mitchell, who had sized him up even in his teens.
‘Julian,’ he said once in a trombone lesson, ‘You really are a festering wart on the arse of humanity.’..