A couple of weeks ago Mr. Waffle got stuck behind a group of fishermen protesting about the price of oil. It took him an hour and a half to get into work. When he got in, he sent me this email:
From: Mr. Waffle
Sent: 04 June 2008 10:56
To: His loving spouse
Subject: FW: Demonstration, Wednesday 4 June, rue de la x – avoid the area
Note the useful timing of this message.
From: The Secretary who sneers at everyone
Sent: Wednesday, June 04, 2008 9:39 AM
Subject: Demonstration, Wednesday 4 June, rue de la x – avoid the area
Demonstration, Wednesday 4 June, rue de la X
The Belgian police have warned us of a potentially large demonstration by fishermen tomorrow morning. They are expected to gather around 10am. Major delays and traffic disruption are anticipated. Staff are advised to avoid the area unless absolutely necessary.
This isn’t strictly relevant as it wasn’t really a blockade but last weekend we went to this must-see before you leave Belgium attraction and it was almost impossible to get in. “Fortress mini-Europe” said my witty husband. Jon Bon Jovi was playing nearby and all the car parking places appeared to have been reserved for him and his fans in tents. You had to admire their perseverance as they sat there at 9.30 in the morning. One assumes that Jon was still in bed. And not in a tent either.
Then, this Wednesday, Brussels was fenced in by tractors. There were half a dozen blocking traffic on my way into work. There were hardly any cars in the city and it was very pleasant for me on my bicycle. I spoke to one of the farmers and he told me that he was up at 4.00 this morning to drive his tractor to Brussels. The Belgian police wouldn’t let them drive on the motorway so it was a long old trek. I assume that he has to drive back as well [though perhaps he could strike a deal with the hauliers who were blocking traffic on the city’s main traffic artery]. I asked, with what I hope was endearing faux naïveté (note to self, does this work, if you’re nearly 40?), what they were protesting about and he said the price of fuel. I pointed out, very bravely I thought, after all he had been up since well before dawn, that food prices have soared recently which was surely compensating him for this loss but he was having none of it. I am not entirely sure what he and his colleagues are hoping to achieve. Though I gather that the Commission has folded and given something to the fishermen (I suppose that having rampaging fishermen outside your door focuses the mind of the average fonctionnaire), so, who knows, maybe they’ll get something too? Though, as the Princess pointed out to me, they were inconveniencing everyone and what did they expect her to do for them?
Finally, today and yesterday traffic was held up to allow the 27 European heads of state and government and their courtiers and acolytes to whiz in from the airport with their police motorcycle outriders.
There will be much less of this in Dublin. I understand that there traffic never moves regardless of whether there is a demonstration or not.
So they drove their tractors to Brussels to protest the high price of fuel?! I guess they haven’t yet invented irony in Belgium.