On Monday night, Mrs Fitzjames Horse was out of town. She put some diesel in the car. She used a filling station that we may only have used a few times ever.
If you are reading this in Norn Iron, you will know what this Blog post is about.
If you are reading it in United States, you might wonder what the point is.
On Tuesday morning the car was difficult to start. The engine was noisy and before it kicked into action, a plume of smoke came thru the exhaust. She had the same problem, when she commenced her journey home.
When she did arrive home, I phoned our car dealer. And was told it sounded…like we expected…”dirty petrol”. It COULD be bad but at this stage no need for expensive analysis. As the tank was only half full, the advice was to top up the tank with good stuff. And this would dilute the bad stuff.
I dont know if there is any scientific basis to this advice but today Friday….it seems to have worked. Touch Wood.
But talking to people, including relatives over the past few days….there are a lot of anecdotes out there.
People told us that we should not use “Filling Station A” ….use “Filling Station B”. And then we are told that “B” is worse than “A”. During the week we were told a lot of contradictory information about a lot of filling stations.
Of course, it is entirely understandable that the most legitimate filling station will on occasions get a dodgy shipment of Petrol. Or that careless storage can contaminate petrol.
But of course Norn Iron has specific problems.
The Tax taken from petrol/diesel sales does not tally with miles driven. There is an alternative market in petrol/diesel and some of it sold in seemingly legitimate outlets.
Some Filling Station owners have either got desperate or greedy.
Customs conduct occasional raids on forecourts and well-publicised raids on illegal fuel plants.
It is generally believed that their “actions” are a small percentage of the “intelligence” that they have amassed.And that quiet and confidential settlements have been reached with a lot of people.
It is also assumed that (former?) paramilitaries are heavily involved and …as always…the Peace Process is more important than dealing with this problem.
Indeed there are many in Norn Iron who dont see this as a problem. Rather it is an opportunity to save a few pounds. To a family like ourselves, knowing little or nothing about cars…it is a problem. To people who know about cars or just keep their ear to the ground, it is completely different.
Of course, it is not just about fuel laundering. Or fuel smuggling. Or money laundering. Or soft or hard drugs.
Every smoker knows an alternative supplier for cigarettes, heavily taxed. Or indeed alcohol, heavily taxed.
Ice Cream vans playing a jingle at 11pm are a give-away. And of course, cigarettes made in and smuggled from Vietnam and China are not subject to quality control.
In any place that has a border, there is a problem with smuggling.
In any place that has a problem with legitimacy of government, there is a problem with “social banditry”.
Welcome to Norn Iron.