Windmills in the Head

Georges Michel. Windmills at Montmartre
Georges Michel. Windmills at Montmartre
They formed part our historic landscape in all their manifestations and together with water mills fed us and clothed us before we turned to other means to our ends, careless of the balance between pollution and production.
Now that we are reaping the consequences of our lack, first of knowledge and then, unpardonably, of care we are looking back to natural sources of energy: sun, water and wind.

And what do we end up with? These monstrosities.
wind turbines

Flying over Spain white rows of the things mark the line of every hilltop…beautiful Lake Nicaragua is desecrated by them…
Wherever they are placed they are aesthetic crimes.

But we can become accustomed to aesthetic crimes….we quite like old mill buildings once it is not our generation feeding the maw of the looms and we can browse arty crafty boutiques run by crafty arty people before stopping for a sustainable if not sustaining lunch.
In time we will be accustomed to wind turbines too.

But why should we be? They are inefficient, their unpredictable output requiring power plants to be on permanent stand by…..and they are a scam in which the taxpayer is scalped to produce private profit.

As may be plain, I am agin them.

They were making their appearance as I was leaving France…and locally a group of farmers seeking to install these horrors on their land were threatening people living in the lotissement downhill of the proposed site with consequences should they protest. Those wind turbines were going in!
Luckily, the lotissement dwellers took umbrage at the bullying.
Now that the French have discovered commuting, the traditional village power brokers don’t have it all their own way any more…..people moving out to live in the country hold down decent, responsible jobs…they don’t have land in the commune…it’s more difficult to threaten them.’
They banded together and all these years down the line they have finally won. Those wind turbines will not be going in.

The resistance to the installation of wind turbines is growing. Especially after the hike in the price of electricity paid by the consumer in order to subsidise them….fifteen percent on your bill in these days of straightened circumstances tends to get your dander up, after all and if that doesn’t rouse the somnolent dander it is guaranteed to spring to life on learning that the very people on the local council voting for wind turbines to be installed are those owning the land where the said installation will take place and for the which installation they will be handsomely paid.

Decentralisation of power, for which France has so often been congratulated, is nothing more than an enlargement of the trough so that more snouts can find fulfilment at the expense of the taxpayer – that rara avis who has less than the tax efficient three children, hasn’t enough money to be able to hide it in investing in fictitious resorts out in the Dom Toms or in three legged racehourses at Chantilly and is not able to reduce his liability by having several publicly funded posts the income from which is counted separately when arriving at his liability to tax.

Decentralisation of power has meant that people making decisions are very close to the action….and that requires an advanced appreciation of ethics – something not necessarily conferred on maires together with the tricolour sash of office.
Usually their activities are greeted with the Gallic shrug of resignation….
What do you expect? Of course he’s going to feather his nest….

Sometimes it goes wrong.
In February 2010 a violent storm hit the Atlantic coast of France. At La Faute sur Mer, in the Vendee, the sea wall gave way and 29 people – mostly elderly – died, drowned in their houses.
Stones were inevitably turned….it appeared that the maire and his deputy had actively pursued development in an area which was known to be prone to flooding.
That the deputy’s son in law was the estate agent pushing the sales.
That it was stipulated that the houses had to be on one floor only…where flood risk regulations demand two floors so that people have a chance to escape the flood waters even if taken by surprise….

After the usual kerfuffles – it was argued that it was the fault of the purchasers for purchasing where they did but that time honoured chestnut did not wash this time…the case came to court and the maire has been sentenced to be jugged for four years. He is horrified, and is, of course, appealing the judgement.

But that he came to court at all marks a change from the virtual immunity of elected officials from prosecution and it is this which is worrying the lobbying organisation representing the promoters of wind turbine installation in France…France Energie Eolienne….which has written to all the Deputies in the National Assembly to warn them of the terrible consequences if the law which governs the behaviour of elected officials is not changed.

It appears that consumer groups have been advising those who resist the installation of wind turbines on how to bring their maire to book….shock, horror, outrage on the part of FEE.
If this goes on, maires will be too frightened of being taken to court to permit more installations.
Something must be done!

Their answer is to relax the law which governs the actions of elected snouts in troughs….so that maires will not be inhibited from setting up wind turbine installations on the farms of their grandmother’s cousin once removed…or even on their own.
Considering what the snouts have managed to do while the current law is in force relaxing it looks to me like a recipe for rampant corruption…

But there is always hope.

Hope that their action in lobbying to free maires from the fear of prosecution might bring about two desirable objectives.

To take a closer look at what passes for local government in France, a closer look at the magouilles, large and small, which favour the staus quo and those with status.

And to take a much closer look at the wind turbine industry…its efficiency, its value for money.
Never mind the eco publicity on recycled loo paper….follow the loot.

When History Repeats Itself

Parc Monceau Gustave Caillebotte Commons wikipedia.org
Parc Monceau
Gustave Caillebotte
Commons wikipedia.org

Paris has never appealed to me: I regard it as a place to slog through to get to somewhere more interesting and am relieved that I have rarely had to stay there for more than a couple of days.
I must be a provincial at heart – not even that gem of a book ‘Paris des Pas Perdus’ by Alain Rustenholz can enthuse me enough to check out whether or not the Eiffel Tower is painted in three different shades of grey to make it look as if it tapers.
For one thing I would have to pay an entrance fee and for another I much preferred to return home to see my own Eiffel Tower…the metal spire of the village church designed by Eiffel and destined to become the subject of a French rural version of Bleak House as the village, varying departmental architects of Batiments de France and a firm of painters slugged it out in the courts for years to see who was to take the blame for the paint peeling off it and who was to pay for the solution.
I could have told them the answer: they must have used that wonderful French invention – non stick paint.
It would peel from my shutters in under a year, so no wonder it peeled from the steeple in two.

Still, were I to be lumbered with a longer stay in Paris I think I could seek solace in the alleys of the Parc Monceau, still not all that different from its depiction by Caillebotte above.
Quiet today as when he painted it, but not many years before it had been one of the sites where the supporters of the Paris Commune were shot by the troops of the bourgeois French Republic in May 1871….those rounded up had their hands inspected to see if they had been firing weapons and those thus incriminated were sentenced to immediate sentence of death by firing squad by an ad hoc military tribunal.

Pavillon de Chartres Pavillon de Chartres Parc Monceau scholarsresource.com
Pavillon de Chartres
Parc Monceau
scholarsresource.com

This building at one end of the Parc Monceau is one of the few remains of the Wall of the Farmers-General, built in the late eighteenth century to encircle Paris at the behest of the ‘Ferme generale’ – the corporation of private individuals who collected most of the taxes on behalf of the government.

The royal government had long since given up the task of tax collection by that time.
It had hived off the function to the Ferme generale whose members would bid for the chance to collect a particular tax in a particular area….thus the government was guaranteed a certain income, and the members of the Ferme generale were guaranteed a whopping profit as – thanks to their spirit of solidarity – the bidding process was not exactly competitive.
They collected all sorts…taxes on land, taxes on that most basic of commodities, salt….and taxes on everything that entered Paris.
Thus the wall.

After a brief moment of revolutionary madness when the tax on goods entering Paris was briefly abolished before being rapidly reinstated, the wall remained – not to disappear until Paris was torn apart by Baron Haussmann in the 1860s, its narrow insanitary streets being replaced by the wide boulevards we see today and as the wall disappeared so did the tax which gave birth to it.

The wall had long outlasted its progenitors however: prominent members of the Ferme generale having filled the maw of Madame Guillotine the new French state took taxation into its own hands.
No more middlemen.

Well, not until recently, that is.

The previous government of France, that of Sarkozy, signed an agreement with a private company, Ecomouv which enabled that company to organise a system of tax collection on the usage of particular stretches of road by heavy goods vehicles in return for a fixed tariff to be paid to the French state.

Once the system was due to come into force there were protests – notably in Brittany whose hauliers claimed that they were being penalised for being at a distance from Paris, out on their peninsular.
Several of Ecomouv’s installations were destroyed and the Hollande government promptly announced that implementation of the tax would be postponed.

In the meantime, journalists at ‘Marianne’ have uncovered an opinion of one of the civil servants most closely involved with the Ecomouv concept that the infrastructure as set up not only enables the company to monitor heavy goods vehicles – but all vehicles

And not only that…with the technology available road pricing can be put into place.
You’re a rich bugger – your company can pay for your use of a road rendered empty by price fixing and lay it off to tax.
You’re a minister or high civil servant – the public purse can pay.

It all makes me think that the Green lobby has a great deal for which to answer.

Why do we use inefficient wind power when we can use nuclear power?
Because nuclear power produces spent uranium which has to be stored…or used in the military weapons which have made a devastation of Iran.
But if we use thorium we don’t have that problem.
Except that governments don’t see it as a problem. They like having depleted uranium available for military purposes.
Where is the Green lobby here?

What do we propose to do to enable people living in the country to access the services they need?
Public transport? Don’t make me laugh!
Elderly neighbours in France were already limiting their trips to town for shopping before I left.

Carbon exchange credits…what does that do apart from permitting polluters to continue to pollute?

I’ll have time for the Greens when they stop taking ‘planes to conferences; when they take into account the lives of the poor in first world countries and when they disassociate themselves from money raking enterprises.

But I won’t be holding my breath.

Victor…A Word…

john-piper-mosnac-dordogne.jpgOn a wet afternoon in western France a gendarmerie van pulls into the farmyard…its sole occupant gets out shouting

Hoy, Victor! A word!

Hello Jean-Yves! What brings you here? I’m in the barn…just a minute while I shut the doors and we’ll have a drink…

No, don’t shut the doors, Victor….it’s about what you’ve got in that barn that I’ve come about.

On your own, I see.

Yes, I’m trying to do you a good turn….let me see what you’ve got there. Yes, just as I thought!
Victor, you’ll have to get rid of it…put it back where you found it…and quickly.
There’s all hell to pay.
Everyone’s out looking for it and they’ve even taken us off speed traps and breathalysers.

Must be serious then!

Yes, it is!
Apart from you having stolen property in your barn…what the blazes do you want with a bulldozer that size? You haven’t got enough land to make it worthwhile – and how did you get it here from the new bypass anyway?

Ah! Typical!
Us farmers are getting robbed all ways…..diesel syphoned off, animals killed in our own fields, tools stolen, irrigation pipes nicked – even whole crops gone!
Look at that poor guy who had his whole field of garlic nicked….and the forty hectares of grapes that went missing overnight….not to speak of combine harvesters vanishing into thin air!
And where are the Gendarmerie? Breathalysing some poor sod who’s been out drowning his sorrows!

Well it’s not my fault….only a few more years to the pension, thank goodness.
It’s not what I joined for I can tell you…

No, I know Jean-Yves.
When you started there were still bars in your stations – and you were a hell of a lot nicer for it! I reckon that the rot started when they closed down them down.
You turned nasty about then…applying the law to people you knew…
Still, what I mean is that us farmers can have our stuff nicked left, right and centre…but let some big roadworks contractor miss his bulldozer – you’d think he’d got enough, wouldn’t you? – you’re all on red alert!
No wonder we’ll all be voting Le Pen in the elections!

That’s as maybe…but I can tell you that a big firm like Crapule gets a lot more attention in high places than you lot. Might be different if you were cereal boys…in the big league…but you’re not!
The firm thought the ‘dozer had been whipped off to Germany….like a lot of other stuff. You boys are lucky you’re not nearer the frontier.

Clever buggers, the Germans.

What do you mean?

Well, they worked out they didn’t have to have a war to get what they wanted this time….they thought up the E.U.
See, in the war they had to go round requisitioning…this way government – our government – does it for them.
They get cheap veg and flog expensive cars.
Bit like Vichy, really, but more efficient. Very hot on efficiency the Germans…

Come off it Victor! You’re not telling me the Germans are using the E.U. to nick combine harvesters and fields of garlic…

No, but they run the show, don’t they! Remember when Hollande got in and what he was going to say to Merkel?
Turned out to be ‘Jawohl’, didn’t it…
No, the E.U. lets these crooks from Transylvania in and they nick the stuff, take it to Germany and the Germans get it on the cheap…
Clever buggers, like I said.

Never mind all that! You’ll have to get it back there…or dump it somewhere…and sharpish!

Well, we’ve finished with it now anyway, so I’ll get Laurent to run it into Ste. Conasse tonight, dump it round the back where it’s dark. Just make sure you’re not out breathalysing between here and there.

No, all right…but who is ‘we’? You and Laurent?

No! There’s me, of course, and Jean-Antoine and Popaul…here, you’re not taking notes!

No, just interested to know what’s going on. That’s what policing used to be about…
So what the blazes were you three geriatrics up to? Put together you don’t have enough land to make that ‘dozer worthwhile…

That’s where you’re wrong!
It’s the eco tax…you know, the one on lorries that comes in in January. Going to be taxed by the lorry…tollgates going up all over the main roads…
Gerard over at the roads department in Benitierville put us wise! There’s going to be one between us and the abattoir! It’s only down the road…but we’ll have to pay as if we’d been coming from Normandy!

Well you weren’t thinking of using the ‘dozer to knock the tollgate down, were you?

No! We might be old but we’re not stupid!
We had a word with Olivier down at the abattoir and he reckons that we can get in on the back road from St. Ragondin round by les Deux Biscouilles without any problem.

But how are you going to get to St. Ragondin? You’ve still got the main road to deal with.

Ah. that’s why we wanted the bulldozer.
We’ve made a road across our fields to link up with the footpath that brings us out just this side of the village….where the old railway line used to be. A bit of hardcore in bad weather and we’re sorted.
So they can stuff their tollgate…we won’t be paying!
Eco this, eco that….just another word for tax!
It’s bad enough with their blasted windmills…electricity bill up through the roof…but a tax on going a few kilometres is a step too far!

Well, just get rid of it Victor…tonight! You don’t want anyone else knowing you’ve got it…the adjutant is up the wall!

Hang on a minute, how did you know to come round here?

Well, it couldn’t have been the manouches….they were having a face off with our boys with chainsaws at the campsite that night…..so the only other alternative was a totally irresponsible idiot…and that’s when I thought of you!

That evening, at the gendarmerie station, the adjutant answers the ‘phone.

Here, says a voice, I reckon you should know….

Know what?

Well, that windfarm at the back of Ste. Conasse…someone’s driven a bulldozer in there and there’s a hell of a mess….metal all over the place and the gyppos are carting it off by the truckload…….

The illustration is ‘Mosnac, Dordogne’ by John Piper.