Brussels Diary: Rainy gems from a European inbox edition

There's a message asking to nominate anyone eligible for the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen, awarded for making a valuable contribution to European unity. I think we should nominate Farage

In Brussels, it never rains but it pours for the Swann
Alexandra Swann
On 1 September 2012 12:06

Is there any better way to start a day than by going for a run before 8 am? Possibly, but with the new term starting officially on Monday I am on a bit of a health kick. Gone are caffeine, nicotine and all but the odd glass of red wine and in their place is even more rocket, an absurd amount of exercise and getting up before 7 am regardless of the day.

However, I should probably admit that part of the reason for this morning's ungodly excursion was that I returned to Brussels yesterday to a flat devoid of electricity, and the gym has hot showers. The lights are out and they show no sign of returning regardless of how many times I hopefully flick around switches in the fuse box.

I am just thankful that I have never used my freezer. It appears that in the mad and heady rush to a new country, new job, new flat and living entirely on my own for the first time I sort of forgot to register with an electricity company and four months down the line they have switched it all off.

It is in the dual spirit of hope and positivity that I am writing today. My tale -- which in addition to a lack of electricity includes an absence of iPhone/iPad chargers, a rain-drenched dash across the cobbled, distinctly un-heel friendly, streets of Brussels, an inbox and pile of post collectively larger than Greece's debt and the fact that very few of my friends have returned to this fair city yet -- could be a tale of woe, but I don't do woe very well so I have picked out a few positives of this week and amusing gems from the inbox to share on a grey and wet day in Belgium.

So, good things this week; London Met has had its international student license revoked by UKBA -- the first time, perhaps, that UKBA have got something right. This is likely to be a positive move for national security but, even better, it has the added brilliance of angering Unison who have rather amusingly labelled this turn of events a "crisis".

The London Paralympics have gone off to a cracking start with Team GB currently in third place with 15 medals. There has been the utterly brilliant spat between Sam Bowman of the Adam Smith Institute and Peter Hitchens; I remain Team Sam, but Hitchens' prolonged ad hominem attack of a response was definitely worthy of a few giggles.

Earlier this month -- but I only saw the article this week -- it was reported that Lib Dem membership is down by around a quarter, apparently leaving Clegg's party-faithful fewer in numbers than the British Psychologists Society or the population of Corby while, as Christian May suggests this week, the young Conservatives who are now joining UKIP are the ones with ideas and enthusiasm, not the careerists sitting on ineffective committees for the sake of meaningless titles. 

My personal favourite story of the week, however, has to be that Indonesia is considering kicking out Greenpeace. The "Consumers Alliance Greenpeace Monitoring Project", a group I imagine to be run by individuals similar to the solid chaps heading up the Trade Union Reform Campaign, has apparently spent two years reporting on Greenpeace's efforts to kill jobs in developing countries while simultaneously acting with "disdain for the rule of law and local customs". 

It is definitely a sign of progress that Indonesia is realising that the Green movement, with Greenpeace -- whose often dubious activities are well documented -- a leading and malignant actor, is inherently anti-development which, for obvious reasons, undermines the efforts of "developing" countries: there is no such thing as Green jobs, only Green unemployment (to steal a quote from Roger).

Now a couple of Eurocrat gems from the inbox; in a manner reminiscent of NUS elections and CF election campaigns, certain MEPs are currently sending around mass emails begging for support of their nomination for the MEP Awards 2012. Of course, no one from UKIP is involved and I would be surprised if any Tory MEPs are either -- to their credit -- but one has to laugh that fresh from a six week paid holiday there are Members of this "Parliament" whose first concern is an in-house popularity contest.

Worryingly, there is an event coming up to discuss the packaging of "unhealthy products" chaired by that well known socialist Glenis Willmott MEP; undoubtedly a warm up to pushing through plain packaging legislation on more than just cigarettes.

There is an email inviting the office to a "wide-ranging, fascinating interview" with Alex Salmond -- snigger -- and finally, Roger received a letter asking him to nominate anyone he considers eligible for the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen, awarded to individuals and institutions that make a valuable contribution to European unity. I think we should nominate Farage.

As far as my own torments have progressed, I have, since starting this article, acquired the various chargers needed to retain contact with the real world and Electrabel have assured me that on Monday I will once again have electricity. 

At first a weekend of darkness seemed rather daunting, but then I realised that it's still light until at least 10 pm, I don't own a TV, my iPad etc are now fully juiced and because I am unable to cook I now have the perfect excuse to spend the entire weekend living off salads, sushi and white chocolate magnums! Best of all, next week I will once again be wonderfully busy.

Life is rather brilliant, if you choose to see the brilliance.

Alexandra Swann works in the European Parliament and tweets @AlexandraLSwann

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