Image via WikipediaYou know how it is...you come back from your holiday, the hall is full of ominous envelopes and the cat has been sick somewhere it shouldn't.
Well, a few local maires know how you feel. They have returned from their rainy July holidays to find that things have got out of hand in their absence from their communes and that they need to take up the burden of government again in double quick time. It's probably worse in that the sun is now shining, just to reinforce the misery.
One has travelling people problems. The obligatory camping ground designated for their use was clearly held not to be adequate for the twenty two cars and trailers which descended on the area in his absence, so they rammed open the gates of the football ground and installed themselves on the pitch. The state of play will not be improved this season by all the maneovering on sodden ground while the party set up their encampment. The travelling people obviously felt that the football ground was destined for their use....it has electricity - illegally attached to the twenty two trailers to operate the satellite dishes and associated technology which enliven the wandering life of the traveller - and water, hot water, loos and showers. Clearly much more satisfactory than the camping ground.
Now, best not to enquire what the maire's deputies - the adjoints - did about it because whatever it was it did not work. I suspect that they decided to look the other way or to go on holiday themselves, but I do not know.
What alarmed the maire was the magnitude of the electricity and water bill facing the commune as a consquence of the occupation and the likely bill for damage. He knows what they can do on the camping ground, remember and visions of replacement sanitary ware must have been haunting his dreams. He went to interview the chief and received the clear message that the camping ground would not be receiving a visit. The band were very well where they were. The maire went on a tour of his commune and eventually persuaded someone to let them use his field....conveniently far from the village. He returned to the football ground and described the attractions on offer.
'No.' The chief shook his head regretfully. They would like to be accomodating, but they had already reconnoitred the field in question...and it was out of the question. There were snakes. Further, they had taken the precaution of getting permission from the Prefecture to stay where they were for a further week in the absence of appropriate accommodation elsewhere.
I suspect that this maire knows when he is beaten and will be going round the village urging people to check their locks and bolts and nail everything to the ground until the travellers deign to move on. He will probably also be inspecting his slush fund to see how he is going to pay the utility bills and reinstate the loos.
Far down in the south of the department, where the sun has been shining, another maire has returned to a problem. In his case, he went out to take a stroll round the village and found that the pretty stone bridge in the centre no longer had a function. The river running under it had dried up.
This isn't the first time in recent years, in fact it is becoming more likely than not that the river will run dry in summer, and the maire has had enough. He has made an official complaint that someone - 'x' - has made improper use of water.
Now, we all know who 'x' is, or, rather, are. X is all the farmers irrigating their crops in the dry weather....the maize, and the sunflowers so beloved of the people advertising their holiday homes in rural France. For some reason which escapes me, like the rest of the claptrap involved with the Common Agricultural Policy, farmers are encouraged - paid - to grow these crops on ground and in conditions totally unsuited to their culture, which means that they need to irrigate. Which means in turn that the rivers dry up.
In recent years, a certain caution has entered the world of irrigation. While on one hand the European Union is encouraging the practice of growing unsuitable crops, on the other the European Union is about to enforce the cleaning up of rivers, and ensuring their survival. France has already had a delay accorded, but doomsday approaches...2015 is not that far off and at that point, rivers have to be flowing and have to be clean.
Prefectures have been more and more cautious in issuing licences to irrigate, but, considering that they started at 'do as you please', they haven't restricted irrigation to any great extent. We, ordinary people, can be told not to water our gardens and can and will be denounced to the authorities for so doing, businesses operating car washes can be shut down for the duration, but the farmer carries on regardless, spurting water over his profitable crop.
Further, the rivers have to be cleaned up....an end to the delights of raw sewage poured straight into the stream and thus the attempt to inspect every septic tank in France.....another lost war in my view. An end too, to the nitrates leaching from farmland into the watercourses. This in particular causes much sucking of teeth, as it means asking farmers to change their habits, and it draws attention to the damage they are doing not only to the countryside in which they operate but also to the water needed by the towns for their populations.
The air is changing slowly in France....people are beginning to question the privileged position of the farmers and growers in a way which would have been unthinkable even a few years' ago. The only people who ever attacked the farmers were the ecologists, while everyone else stood by, disapproving of these wild extremists. Now that it is beginning to dawn on people that their water supply is in danger, there is more vocal support for the need of reform. Especially if the European Union impose fines on France - yet again - for its failure to provide ample and clean water in the beds of its rivers.
So, if you're just off on holiday, rather than returning, make the most of your sunflowers....you won't be seeing so many in the future.