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Europe diary: How to holiday
27 July 2006

In the last instalment of his diary for a few weeks, BBC Europe editor Mark Mardell contrasts the EU's summer holiday with the same period in Westminster, and shines a light on some silly season news stories.

The diary will return on 7 September.

ONE GLORIOUS BLANK

Brussels does the holiday season properly. At Westminster most of the main players go away but there is a pretence that there is still vital work to be done and that Whitehall is doing something more meaningful than merely ticking over.

Atomium
A skeleton staff will keep Brussels' wheels oiled
Eager young press officers mount stunts on the lawns outside Parliament. Dutiful junior journalists troop along, knowing that the item won't make the news and wouldn't merit their attention on a normal day. The press play the rather silly game of "Who's in charge?" ignoring the fact that even if Blair is by a swimming pool he is still in charge and has rather more powerful equipment with him than a mere mobile phone.

The press is mainly motivated by a sense of mischief: hoping to find another on-duty minister playing some effete ball game or shooting his or her mouth off in an undignified way. But part of it is a genuine, rather childish worry that without the big figures at the helm everything will collapse.

Not so in Brussels. Here too there will be a skeleton staff keeping the wheels oiled, but there's no sense of business as usual. The efficient Finnish presidency has provided us with a list of important meetings right up until the end of December but August is one glorious blank. Of course it's not just Brussels - most of the continent packs up and goes away for August.

SOMETHING DIFFERENT

The British and Americans can get very sniffy about this habit. One of the angriest e-mails I have had in response to this diary was when I was writing about the social model and an American wrote something like: "Europeans are just going to have to get used to having just two weeks holiday a year, like it or not." But why?

Paris plage
Summer should be relished
I'm very lucky in that I do a job I love, and always have. My family would certainly say that I put work first, too much of the time. But even I relish the prospect of a good break without having to bother about anything more challenging than what to have for dinner.

Whether you get off by being buried in the sand by a four-year-old or making a tour of French churches you need to do something different every so often. Summer is a special time, I think, and should be relished. The blanket idea that all people should work more and have less time off for the good of their souls strikes me as peculiarly pointless.

LIMITS OF WARFARE

One person who won't be getting much of a holiday is the European Union's High Representative on Foreign Affairs, Javier Solana, who has been busy holding meetings all over the Middle East. This thin, slightly stooped man with salt and pepper stubble is looking a little tired at the moment but bursting with nervous and intellectual energy.

Javier Solana
Nervous energy: Mr Solana is weary of leaders who expect quick fixes
At a recent meeting, he worked the room in an understated way, shaking hands, making eye contact with everyone. He loves to talk. At this lunch he didn't even bother to make a pretence of toying with his salad. Instead, he quietly made his case, sweeping in theory alongside hard facts.

For journalists who want to know "How many?" and "When?" his answers can be long and discursive. But this is a man of vast experience whose ideas have developed over the years.

Your e-mails last week revealed quite a range of views about the EU's role in this crisis, but Mr Solana has no doubt that the European Union has spent enough money on reconstructing parts of the world only for them to blow up again in the next wave of violence.

He believes the EU provides a balanced voice, which Israel is reluctantly coming to heed and indeed need. He seems weary of leaders who expect quick fixes and think that they can leap out of bed, focus on a problem, and go to sleep that night having ticked a certain box, believing that the fruits of diplomacy take decades to ripen.

And he despairs of those who expect conventional warfare to succeed against unconventional forces, who see destroying the enemy as an adequate response in the 21st Century. I'm not sure he's correct about this. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Afghanistan, surely military might did significantly weaken and to an extent neutralise al-Qaeda, that most unconventional of enemies?

SEASONAL STORIES

Lech Kaczynski
Not a potato: President Lech Kaczynski
One of the joys of this job is sifting through a great pile of information about what is going on within the nations of the European Union, and those that come within its orbit. Much of what I pick up is nuance, interpretation of a big running story. But sometimes stories leap out that will never reach your screen or newspaper. So, in honour of the coming silly season, here are a few recent ones:

Slovenian police smash mussel-smuggling ring: Slovenian police have bust a 12-strong gang accused of smuggling around £20,000 (29,000 euros) of a protected rock-eating shellfish from Croatia.

The plight of the Pirese - Europe's most hated people: An opinion poll taken in Hungary showed that Pirese refugees are more hated than any other group. Even those who admitted to disliking Arabs, Chinese and Romanians, said the Pirese were worse. The group who are statistically most likely to have the strongest feelings are elderly, far-left women from northern Hungary. It's widely believed the Pirese mix their beer with blood, have the evil eye and are hideously ugly. And of course they don't exist. They were made up by a research institute to test the level of xenophobia in Hungary. High apparently.

No Asbos for Estonia: While nearly every British city seems to proudly declare that public drinking is an offence which will be punished with heavy fines, Estonia has come up with a draft law legalising public drinking which is evidently tolerated, but against the law at the moment. Oh, and public nudity is also going to get the green light.

President Potato: The new Polish president cancelled a visit to Germany after a German paper called him a "young potato". His officials called on the German government to force the paper to apologise. When they didn't do so he cancelled a planned trip, blaming gastric problems.

Tourist war: Romania has issued a warning to its citizens that travelling to neighbouring Bulgaria, a rival tourist destination, is as dangerous as going to Iran. Officials warn that it can lead to conjunctivitis, having your passport stolen, and having to pay bribes on the border. Furious Bulgaria has dismissed this as nonsense. And put up a similar warning on its foreign office website.

To spare you any more such stories the diary will be on a Brussels-style break in August: see you all again in September.

Please use the postform below to comment on any of the issues raised in the diary.


A propos of the Slovene mussel-smuggling ring smashers, I should like to stress that this is a Good Thing. The brown-coloured mussels concerned burrow into the rock as they grow, and the only way to get them out, is to smash the rock with chisels or dynamite. You can imagine the destruction of the habitat just off the coast. Which is why these mussels may not be eaten in Italy or Slovenia. Let's hope Croatia puts a stop to it too.
Lucian@comoy.com, Trieste, Italy

Regarding the effectiveness of conventional warfare against unconventional forces... With due respect, Afghanistan is quite a different thing from Hezbollah and Hamas. In action and policy certainly they are quite similar. However, Hezbollah and Hamas are not truly "stateless" forces. They each have representatives that hold recognized government positions in Lebanon and Palestine respectively. Which means that their non-state military forces do enjoy a certain amount of public support from citizens of a "true" state. One might go so far as to call them "pseudo-state" or "sub-state" forces.

Arguably a military without the full official support of the government is not "valid", and deserves no such recognition from the international community, unless possibly it is a revolutionary force in response to a repressive regime. These are not. They are forces in favor of oppressive undemocratic regimes, and they are not restricting themselves to lashing out against local government.

So they must still be dealt with. One response might be to similarly treat any democracy which tolerates such non-state military forces as itself invalid.

I think what is needed is a united international front, a "global stance" of the UN toward these situations.
Chris, La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA

The challenge of working for an American company in Switzerland is that I get a European-style holiday allowance but not enough time to take it, and I can enviously watch my friends at European companies enjoying life a little more. But at least I can enjoy the office air-con and avoid the current heatwave.
Simon, Morges, Switzerland

I'm an Indian woman working in corporate American enslavement as a scientist with a bunch of regressive, conservative, boring men who don't even take the measly 2 weeks holiday that they're given! I usually take a total of 5 weeks off annually, with most of it unpaid. Because even thought it's unpaid, I'd rather have that impromptu weekend in Paris, a week in London on a whim, or a few days of canoeing and hiking in western Canada, than drag my feet to office when I'm mentally far from it. Anyone who says Americans - within or without their "heartland" - are not workaholics, hasn't woken up yet.
Payal, Philadelphia, USA

The vacation thoughts have been interesting. I have always wondered how some Europeans can take a large amount of vacation without being laid off. I also wondered where they get the money to go on a vacation for that long. A month at a beach in August in North Carolina would cost about $5-6k just for lodging. Most companies here in the US have very lean staffing and one person on a long vacation can be a problem. (Maternity leaves can be a killer if the person is in a key position.) If the company figures that you can go away for four weeks without a problem, then why can't they do without out you altogether? It isn't a matter of living to work, it is a matter of continuing to work. Do companies in the EU have such large staffs that they can substitute other workers to take over for a month, or does the entire company shut down for August?
Roger, Raleigh, NC USA

Here's to Mark and his well-deserved holidays! We Yanks have a silly season, and the current one has lasted about six years so far... and hasn't exactly been a vacation. Political comments aside, I tend to find agreement with Mr. Davies of Paris. Perhaps the unemployment situation would not be as bad if there were not as many holidays, and not to mention the productivity issue... We do tend to work too much over here, and all too often I see other Americans work harder on their "vacations" then they do at the workplace. That is not a productive way to relax: I would rather spend 4 weeks at the beach or the mountains, but not at the same time as everyone else. To each their own. I am a teacher, who in the past worked in the corporate world with only 2 weeks off, so I know the frustration. I currently have about 12 weeks off each year all told - not bad, hey?
Brendan, Tucson, US

Do the Americans work harder just because they work longer..? Doesn't necessarily equate. Breaks enable you to go back to work with increased motivation. The more breaks, the more often the spurts of focused work. John Davies - go work in America yourself if you hate the work ethic here so much.
Abi, Berlin, Germany

Enjoyable diary, as ever - although the Europe/US 'social model' debate is wearing thin. Social entitlements have always varied between different job sectors, employers, and so on, both within and between countries.The conflict, as ever, is between employers and the employed, not countries and cultures. And, yes please, more of the bizarre stories from around Europe in future editions!!!
Stephen W., Cumbria, UK

I think most of our grousing about European holidays is related to the fact that we can't go to Europe in August. We would love to be there anytime (I was just there in June), but everything shuts down in August and we can't imagine why. Yes, we work a bit too much over here, but in some cases, the work really pays off. I worked for a company that was a sweatshop in the late 80s/early 90s. We worked every day of the week and usually put in 12- to 14-hour days. It was a difficult time, but as a single person, I didn't mind so much. There was a lot of camaraderie, everyone worked hard, the stock took off and I retired at age 40. Now every day is a holiday! I have since married, have a family and get to spend time with them when they aren't in school. Nope, I don't regret one ounce of energy spent at the sweatshop.
Donna, Texas, USA

As much as two weeks? That would be great!! Ask ANYONE who owns his/her own small business in the USA how much time they get to take off. And they certainly aren't workaholics - just trying to stay afloat. It must be nice to work about 5 days a month, get paid for the rest anyway and let someone else worry about it.
Jack Durrett II, Oklahoma City, OK USA

And how envious are we here in Prague with a measly 5 weeks - compared to our colleagues in France, who enjoy 10 weeks paid leave per year.
Jon, Prague, CZ

Javier Solana is probably the best EU politician, I am suprised he is not asked to get into the Spanish election to govern his country. Good politicians today are in the shade, because media target the first line until they destroy their reputation. Then we cherish them in history books after their death, kind of like a good painter.
hans , Edmonton, Canada

People in the Netherlands have so many weeks vacation that it is becoming quite a problem for them how to take them up. I saw a comment recently from someone or other: "In the old days we had to go to church. Now we have to go on holiday!" J. P. WARD
j. p. ward, vlaardingen/ netherlands

Just to say that I am on imposed holiday because ALL my doctors are on strike; all the private clinics are or will be on strike soon.
elizabeth peters, Le Gua France

Please, PLEASE send some of that holiday to the US! I guarantee you that if you asked the average working class people of this country, 95% of them would have no problem with the idea of a month-long vacation in August, and certainly wouldn't suggest that Europeans change their ways. Don't listen to those silly comments from big-corporation executives.
DJS, Finger Lakes, NY, USA

OK, OK, Not all Americans are neurotic work-a-holics that don't know how to relax and have a good time. I envy the European custom of extended holiday, although I luckily have a job where I can accrue up to 4 weeks of vacation. There are plenty of us over here that would give up our SUV's (not that I own one) for extra time off, unfortunately, we don't own the businesses! Even if we did all get a 5 weeks vacation time, can you imagine if we all took it at the same time?! We would all be spending those 5 weeks on the roads trying to get to our destination.
Melina, New York, USA

Two weeks holiday? You have seen nothing yet. I worked until the age of 65, but the last 15 years I was entitled to 20 working days plus 1 day for every year over 50, which finally worked ot to 35 working days.I never took all of it!
Constant Woerlee, Brussels, Belgium

I speak as one of the skeletons that will keep the Commission going during the summer! This is not, incidentally, by choice - I've already had most of my holiday entitlement this year, so I'm on "permanence" during August. I work in DG Comm and there is always a number of staff members, spokesmen and women included, who work through the summer to answer questions as and when they arrise I don't actually mind working here in August - the streets are quieter day and night and the whole atmosphere is so much more relaxed. Next year, however, I intend to plan my holidays better so that I can at least have a couple of days off to enjoy the peace and quiet of a fonctionaire-free city!
Michelle Gill, Brussels, Belgium

My US colleagues are astounded by the practices here in Spain. We all get 30 days (six weeks) paid holiday, plus another 10 or so (paid) for national, regional and local holidays and another half-day for 'feria'. As if that wasn't generous enough, we are entitled by law to 14 months salary for the 10 1/2 or so months we work. And you wonder why Spain´s immigrant population is growing so rapidly. Workers are voting with their feet.
Nigel Myall, Casares, Spain

Americans may have a two week vacation but may not have a job when they return from their brief vacation; chances are that their jobs have been outsourced, The point is that Europeans have more job security and joie de vivre than unhappy and fearful Americans. The USA is fast becoming an old and jealous country. While Americans would like to think that there is no country like America, they do not want to admit that other parts of the world are now surpassing the USA economically and politically. Oh, to be in Brussels in summertime and go for a long walk in the Bois de la Cambre, that is life!
Ralph Heymann, Davis CA

As an ex-pat who went from 42 days annual leave to a paltry 7 days here. Let me just say, we poor yanks (yes, I traded in the EU passport as well) could take a lesson from the Europeans. Not just on holidays but Health & Safety at work and Consumer Protection - that's just for starters.
Nick, Kill Devil Hills, USA

I imagine the American who commented about getting two weeks holiday was just jealous. I know *I* am - I would love to get just 3 weeks. 4 would be fabulous.
Amy Bai, Bowdoin, Maine, USA

As for Americants loving work so much, I don't think it's as widespread as you all think it is! I hate work. If I could have a month off every year I certainly would, but then I would probably be tempted to not go back to work after that month was over! And growing up in a society that values 9-5 Monday-Friday 50 weeks of the year, I think by the end I might find myself completely bored. But then, that might just be a good thing. I would also like to add that the Pirese are and extremely misunderstood people, and that were it not for their extreme ugliness, they would be quite likeable. It's just not any fun waking up next to someone that ugly.
Trista Barrow, Richmond, VA, USA

It is perhaps prudent to explain that not all Americans have two weeks' holiday. That is the level of vacation time (with some public holidays added) you get when you begin your career. I have, after 15 years with one and the same employer, four weeks, 20 days, holiday. With the 7 personal days we receive in lieue of religious etc. holidays, I have 5.5 weeks, not ounting the Bank Holidays - three, I believe, this year. In the beginning of one's career one is too busy working on one's career to take vacation, anyway ;-) and we do, of course, have an ability the average Brit doesn't have - we can retire and move South, as many Britons do, but in our South they speak both Spanish and English. Well, mostly.
Menno Aartsen, Washington, D.C.

As an American with a job, it amazes me just how little Americans actually work when the get to the office. Perhaps if the organized their time better (skip most of the meetings that management wants for "team building"), 8 weeks off would be feasible. And to Menno Aartsen, just where in the southern US do they speak English? Living in New York, I miss the sound of it.
Jeff Myhre, New York, USA

It hurts me to see comments suggesting that Americans are work-a-holic, SUV-buying scallywags. The problem is that tourists, in the event they can actually get in to our country, only go to Washington, New York, or Boston. Go to Minnesota, or upstate New York, or Wyoming and see what America is actually like. There are beautiful landscapes and sceneries without the facade of a disgusting skyscraper and a stock broker who works from 3am until midnight. Most of us aren't like that!!
Zach, Bethesda, Maryland, USA

That American who voiced his opinion about vacations is what we call a "work-aholic". He does not represent the vast majority of Americans envy your five weeks freedom from work. However, most of us get our one or two weeks off with pay. Yup, and some of us get three whole weeks off with pay. If Americans asked for five weeks the corporate world here would certainly faint dead away at such an audacious idea. As for the concern of something huge happening during your August break - what could happen when there's no one doing anything but enjoying life? UFOs? I think the whole world would be better if everyone took a month off.
Deirdre Le Blanc, Van Nuys, Ca USA

Nice to see the picture of the atomium on the report - it was in the process of being cleaned when I was last there and looked a bit clatty. I have to work through the summer, but I really value the holidays I get. I'd hate to live in a culture where we'd all have to work constantly!
Alison, Glasgow

What would happen to the British economy if industry followed parliament's lead and took most of the summer off?
William McWilliams, Uyo,Nigeria

The American comment is disappointing to me. Everyone I know in the corporate world here in NYC is envious of the European holidays. I have 3 weeks vacation a year, plus holidays and it is not enough to visit family, visit friends, and go on trips to see the world just for yourself. I usually have to sacrifice 2 of the 3 options a year and end up rotating. I disagree with that American. That is a ridiculous statement to make.
Anthea, NYC, USA

Not all Americans think the two week break is all that good. The problem is this; Americans think only with thier pocket book and coporations know this. If given the choice between a 2% raise or an extra week off work, the typical American will take the raise - even though the value of the week off is far greater in many ways. This is fueled by the media pounding into our heads how much happier we will be in our 10,000 sq foot house with the giant SUV and all the latest gadgets at our fingertips. But how can you enjoy all this if you don't have the free time? Oops! I got to stop thinking! Americans aren't supposed to do that.
Cindy, Ferndale, Michigan USA

I only wish that Europeans could spread their vacationing habits to the rest of the world... Here in Japan I get 10 days off all year, including sick days, and even then realistically I cannot use them. I would kill for just the American 2 weeks.
Blake, Osaka, Japan

If all of Brussels is on holiday, who is it at the Directorate-General for Competition that is creating all the work for the lawyers out here?
Jeff, Brussels, Belgium

I'm an American working in Germany and find the idea of summer holidays refreshing...although I get no paid vacation (such is the lot of English teachers here - freelance till you die, which means expensive private health insurance too). Still the idea of "Feierabend" is something we don't even have in English - roughly translated, "work's over, time to relax/party/not think about it" - and one reason why I left the USA. Americans work themselves into the ground to afford purchasing unnecessary goods on credit. This is the model for the rest of the world, this is "globalization" - but at least the average German sees it with a more critical eye than the average US citizen. Up with holidays, the more the better. As the writer says, they keep us sane.
Anne, Bremen, Germany

Don't let any American get you down about your vacation time. Most of them are far more envious of the extended time than concerned about how your work ethics are. I am a professional in my field and I enjoy 4 weeks of vacation. We have a very open policy about leave as well; I can take up to 6 weeks, but the extra is unpaid. It all depends on where you work. If you work for one of the corporate giants, it is very likely that you will only get your 2 weeks. The bottom line is that everyone works hard for whatever time off they get and everyone has the right to enjoy that time however they choose. Enjoy your time off Mark.
Thomas, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Want an African's perspective? I witnessed the European summer holiday season in Spain last year.It reminded me of Mombasa during the 3 days between chrismas eve and boxing day.Only difference is that it lasts a month in Europe.
Radido Mkok, Mombasa, Kenya

I wish Brussels did keep going in the summer. While you're enjoying the season elsewhere, think of those of us twiddling our thumbs in the office as the majority of the emails arriving in our inbox are Out of Office replies!
Chris, Brussels

Though I've never quite understood why the whole of Europe wants to go on holiday at exactly the same time, I find the US attitude to having more than the occasional 15 minutes off work slightly mystifying. Work to live, not live to work.
Paul, St Ives Cambs

The American comment about holidas was amusing. I'm quite happy to get paid less and have my 5 weeks holiday than be a slave in the US on 2 weeks. My free time is far more valuable than the cash to buy a big fridge, TV or SUV. Just back from 2 weeks in Sorrento, planing a week in Majorca for October and glad to have European holidays.
Richard Hennessy, United Kingdom

Given that the Americans love working so much, maybe they would like to have no annual leave and give me the difference so that I can take 6 weeks off?
Ben Simkins, Vevey, Switzerland

You should have started your holiday last week mate.
Nigel Clarke, Morley Australia 6062

I wish I could write so fluently and concisely. As for the Americans, I have never been more surprised than to go there and discover how different we are, apparently. I personally believe (hope?) that we will increasngly depart the American way and rekindle a closer relationship, economic and social, with our European friends.
nick miles, Uffculme, Devon

Loved your comments. American's views on 24/7 working has surely been overtaken by productivity stats! I always worked better with 'oddballs' during my varied exteriences at different careers, Academia seems to be discovering the obvious at least fifty years late in my limited experience. (Times 2 article 27/07/06) I would enjoy your take on the subject. Have a very relaxing break.
Eddie Davies, Poole, Dorset, UK

Long live the month-long European holiday! Life is about more than just work. If it¿s a choice between a longer holiday and working more then I believe those two added weeks ¿lost¿ work and salaries are more than compensated by the opportunity to spend more time with those we love, travelling and having simply having fun.
Maurice Verhaagen, The Hague, Netherlands

Aaahhh, the silly season. And here in Russia it's no different. Everyone packs up for the holidays and heads off to their 'dacha', or country house, with more and more Russians having not only the financial means, but the enthusiasm to visit elsewhere in the EU and beyond. Russian people certainly know how to have a good time, when given the opportunity, as traditional folk groups, and cultural associations get the costumes out of storage, dust them down, and embark on colourful excursions in the streets.
Alex, studying in Moscow

Mark Mardell seems to have forfotten that the original purpose of summer holidays was not leisure but hard work. They were instituted at the beginning of universal primary education in order to induce farmers to let their children go to school with the assurance that they would be free to take part in harvesting the crops in July and August
john s, brussels

I'm a teacher, I get 13 weeks paid holiday a year... maybe I should stay out of this discussion!
Andy Richardson, Manchester, UK

Given a little opportunity(not many recreational places,not much money, time & other opprtunities), we Ethiopians know well how to spend our holidays if found the chance.
chewaka, Addis Ababa , Ethiopia

In principle it's nice to have long holidays, but I can't help thinking that Europeans are just a teensy bit childish in this regard. As an Englishman living in France, I'm constantly hearing complaints about American (and by extension Anglo Saxon) world domination and hyperpuissance, complaints which are mirrored all over Europe. But the reason that America is so dominant over Europe is quite simple - Americans work a lot harder than we do. If Europeans really are so fed up with American domination, are they prepared to *do* something about it (i.e. work harder) to reduce the gap, rather than just complaining? No? I didn't think so. They'd rather spend some more time on the beach. It's also worth remembering that, from the middle of the 20th century, European countries have progressively run down their military spending, partly based on starry-eyed sixth- form pacifist claptrap, but principally on the basis that America would bail them out in a crisis. Hence all that spare cash to lavish on "social programs" and long holidays. So before snotty Europeans get on their high horse about about how much more "humane" they are because of their countries' social welfare systems and their endless time off, they should remember that that whole culture has been indirectly financed to a considerable degree by American taxpayers and their oh-so-vulgar work ethic.
John Davies, Paris, France

Interesting that Poland got upset with a German paper for using potatoes. The Economist has been calling some Polish political parties potato throwers for years.
richard, Edinburgh, UK

I assure you that there are a group of people here who have the evil eye and are hideously ugly - although I have not actually witnessed the beer and blood thing. They are called tourists and the Hungarians love them - or at least their money.
Paul D, New Milton, UK. - currently in Budapest

Skeleton staffing is one thing, but what do they do when something huge happens during the August break? Who will answer urgent questions in the absence of the responsible Commissioner and his/her deputy and their deputies ad infinitum?
Alan David Pena, Brussels , Belgium

Golly gosh! I feel sure the Newspaper could have used another adjective had they really wanted to hurt feelings.. By the way, Kartoffel Kopf isn't so bad. Seeing as the word potato was used to describe the Polish President and all, would that make him a Potato Head?
Gina Rogers, Vienna, Austria

Hope we shall soon see TV reports of nude MP's in the Estonian parliament to show to the world (among other things)the righteousness of their cause. If I remember well , some of them (of both sexes) would provide quite a sight.
simon.p.g, belgium

Mussel rustling is widespread her in Birmingham as well although not many people know it. Tons of the shellfish are nurtured in the canal and are harvested in the dead of night by the illegal pirese imigrants to be smuggled home in white vans fetching as much as 1 euro each on the mussel market. It must be stopped from undermining our fragile economy as the police deny all knowledge of what is going on. Do you think they are in the pay of the Pirese?
Des Adams, Redditch, England

As the president of the Pirese Peoples Party I resent the allegation that the Pirese people don't really exist. I would also like to point out that blood & beer are full of essential nutrients which are essential for good skin and clear, evil, vision.
Proudly Pirese Person., Hungary

Many thanks. I enjoyed the article. A brief respite from the depressing news of a mad world getting madder
Mohamed Zehni, Malta

No, no, no, many more of those [silly season] stories please!
Adrian Skilley, Cardiff, United Kindom

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