Saturday 13 October 2007


In 1992 I found myself living in Germany and the civil servants were striking. I didn't know exactly what that meant to me personally. Until the very fabric of daily life began to break down. The first place I felt the impact was our lack of post (mail). But hey, I didn't care - at first. I received no bills - wahoo! And then I received no letters from home. OK, that wasn't so good.

Then the tram drivers weren't driving. But I had a boyfriend with a car so he could drop me off at the office. But with the trams off the traffic on the roads was horrendous and what should have been a 15 minute journey turned into an hour. It was faster to walk which I would have done if not for the relentless rain of Dusseldorf.

Then catastrophe. The rubbish wasn't being picked up. We were very careful about our household waste and tried to seriously limit ourselves. But then we went into the Altstadt to do our shopping in the town centre market (where you go to buy all fresh fruit and veg) for the week). There was a heap of rubbish off to the side.

It smelled bad. Very bad. And the rats had moved in. They thought they had hit pay dirt! Literally.

The strikes lasted for 2 weeks. It was bedlam. And I have always been amazed at how quickly the fabric of civilised society started to break down.

The Royal Mail (the company owned by the government who delivers the post) is trying to modernise under the intense of competition of email and private courier companies. The postal workers (eg post men) want to secure their pensions.

To me it appears to be a breakdown of communication: you won't have a job or a pension because the company will go bankrupt if we don't make these changes.

The postal workers have gone on strike. Last month we had 2 days of official industrial action (strike). During that time, loads of mail went missing and was never delivered. Small business who rely on regular cash flow were paralyzed and in many cases went bust.

This week we've had a further 2 days of official action and 2 days of unofficial. Over the last 7 days, we've received 5 pieces of post. Normally, we receive twice that every day.

I kept telling myself at least it was just the postal workers. Not to worry.

Then on the way to work I heard the most extraordinary news story. Over the last few months the theft of metal has increased dramatically. What is metal theft?

Apparently, unsavoury, dishonest and greedy individuals steel everything from road signs to manhole covers to bus station frameworks to copper piping in hospices to aluminum flower holders at gravesides. Everything is melted down and sold to satisfy the demand for metal at an increasing price.

Oh, why do I feel like the very fabric of society is breaking down around me?

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