Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Fuel Shortages

Posted by Rosie

France is currently suffering a spate of increasingly frequent and far-reaching strikes due to the Government's proposal to increase the retirement age from 60 to 62 and the age when anyone can claim their full state pension to 67. The boys' teachers have been on strike several times but up until recently that has been the only effect from the strikes that we have felt. However, that has all changed over the last few days as striking workers have blockaded fuel refineries thus restricting the delivery of diesel and petrol to the pumps. Panic buying has meant 50% more fuel has been sold over the last few days than normal and by the weekend supplies were rapidly dwindling.

By chance, Simon had filled the car early last week but the ranger was the complete opposite, empty with only enough to get us to a petrol station, not home again if the pumps were dry. When I went to collect the boys off the rugby bus on Saturday, I put a jerry can in the boot. I visited 2 petrol stations in Condé; one had no diesel anyway and the other was not allowing jerry cans to be filled. However, a local village pump wasn't dry and yesterday Simon filled up with 20€ worth. To be honest normally we wouldn't have bothered but Simon is planning a trip to the UK with the boys over half term and I didn't want to be left here with no fuel.

Now we are on fuel rationing. Today I combined essential animal food shopping (and I got double my normal amount) with food shopping, a delivery to a friend and helping said friend slaughter and pluck some poultry. I had been walking the boys back from the bus stop in the evening but that plan has been scuppered by the fact the bus now has no fuel and I'll have to drive them to school. It's 12km there and back, twice a day which is just possible for them on foot/bike but the time it would take would not be feasible for either them or me. School is essential until such time as the car levels get very low but we are cancelling non-essential journeys and driving as economically as possible when we do have to go out.

It's at times like these you take on-board just how much you are reliant on the car when living in a rural location. We have no local bus service and the nearest small shop closed 2 years ago. There is a bread van twice a week (for as long as he has fuel) but otherwise most services are a car-drive away. Ironically, just over a week ago, we saw a gentleman in a horse-drawn cart and commented how great that would be. I am sure the fuel situation will resolve itself before we have to work out how to hitch a pony to a cart but it does make you stop and think about how much things have changed in the 100 or so years that the motorcar has been a part of our lives. Now we expect to be able to hop in the car and drive where-ever we want for what-ever reason. Car driving is seen as a right not a privilege and it will take more than a fuel strike to change both that mentality and the necessary infrastructure to make it feasible to use the car considerably less .


  1. Scary isn't it? I remember when we had these blockades a few years ago over fuel prices. Luckily we lived and worked locally but so many people don't these days...

  2. We are the same as you. Today is our last day in the office. We will be working from home tomorrow and Friday. I was hoping to go to the UK on Monday but if there is no petrol we can't go

  3. Look at it this way, Rosie: we might actuallyu develop some good habits vis-à-vis car usage, some of which might even last!

  4. WW - see you Sat!!

    Sue - Good luck getting to the UK. You are a bit further South than us but there was fuel to be had at Vire, Flers and Caen yesterday. Which ferry port would you go from?

    Jon - I think it will take more than a short fuel shortage to change the habits of a lifetime with regard to car use. There was no difference in driving attitudes in the UK after the last crisis there a few years ago ;-(


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