22 Oct 2007
The small town of Erné has always been quiet before. We've had lunch there, done a bit of shopping. Invariably it has been pretty empty — to the point of desertion.
Last Saturday, though, it had 5,000 visitors — friendly, well-behaved, good-natured, even festive, but all angry about something. A couple of things, actually. They don't care for the plan by EDF and the French Government to build a new European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) at Cherbourg. France may run on nuclear energy, but these people feel it's time to look at alternatives. And they're even less impressed by other plans to cut a swathe through bocage country with an avenue of monstrous pylons and Très Haute Tension (THT) power lines. Health hazards and environmental despoilation are just two of their worries.
See our photography portfolio for pictures of the manifestation.
It's debatable whether these demonstrations achieve much, other than allowing people to feel that they can make their feelings clear. Maybe that's a good enough reason.
I have to confess, though, that I also find a manif on a sunny weekend can be tremendous fun. Maybe that's why the French have so many of them. You get together with a few thousand like-minded people, do a lot of singing and banging drums (or tin cans) and enjoy a brisk walk. Inevitably it ends in a town square with a beer tent and food vendors.
So, if you're looking for something interesting to do in a quiet French town, pick one with a manifestation. It certainly livens up an otherwise quiet day.