-a ‘what can the history of smoking tell us?’ post.
I was in Adinkerke last week in one of the REALs (for those who don’t know-and you really should if you’re a Brit smoker -REAL are tobacconists who cater to the baccy buying Brits & have several shops just over the French/Belgian border where tobacco is 13+ quid cheaper a pouch than in the UK). I stood waiting to be served and watching my fellow Brits making full use of their , still, legal EU right to buy their own body weight in tobacco, slapping down wads of cash sterling on the counter (protip: use cash sterling at REAL) and doing what I think of as the ‘White Van Man’s 12 Days of Xmas’.
[note for Border Force; the reference to ‘White Van Men’ should not in anyway be taken as indicating those purchasing tobacco were illicit traders-as you damn well know real smugglers don’t shop at REAL]
“3 Kilos of GV, 2 of Cutters, 1 kilos Amber Leaf, and a box of those Cherry Brandy Chocs for the Missus, please” (and those chocs alone are worth the trip btw).
You recall that 80’s Australian beer Ad (https://youtu.be/Z023prwCkgs ) ‘looks like we over did it with the sherry for the shelias’? That was the feeling.
When it came my turn I ordered my couple of kilos of Broutteux, a carton of unfiltered Gauloises & some other ‘Brun’type tobaccos I wanted to try- I’m a tobacco geek if you haven’t already noticed. Which seemed to surpise the young man behind the counter a little. A Brit asking for something that wasn’t Virginia sauced with embalming fluid and anti-freeze?! Then I asked him, because it wasn’t listed on their website, if they sold any of their own local ‘Wervik’ tobaccos. I got that look that only teenagers can do. A Brit asking about tobaccos that even most Belgians outside the region hardly know of?! He scurried off and brought me back 3 50g pouches of the 3 brands they sell (for those who like details; “Coq”,”32″ & “154”).
If I were an even sadder, lonelier, old man than I already am I would email ‘Peter’ -the owner of the REAL chain- and ask him how many kilos of Wervik they sell to Brits but I doubt he concerns himself with such amounts or even knows…when you’re shifting Cutters Choice Of Emphysema and Silver Slut by the trailer load….
Yet Belgium, has a very very long and honourable history of tobacco growing and producing. Especially the area around the border with France- up north in Wervik and down south in the Semois. Most Brits know of the Dutch tobaccos like ‘Samson’ and “Drum’ but how many know that Belgium has produced some of the world’s finest tobaccos? And don’t get me started on the fact that most Brits couldn’t find Luxembourg on the map let alone tell you the, justly famous, tobaccos that state produces. In fact those seriously interested in Brexit would do well to study the customs union between Luxembourg and Belgium around the time Prussia still existed, indeed in many ways the story of tobacco manufacturers is the story of the EU.
I know, all very boring, so let’s get to the bit about the doggies shall we? Awwww….doggies…. cuuuUUUUUte.
Back when France and Belgium became separate countries, the people either side of the border, a border that actually ran through parishes,suddenly found that their Lords & Masters in Paris & Brussels wanted actual real money off them for taking their goods down the road a few metres and thereby crossing the border.
Here a streetview of the how things can look even today
You begin to see the problem? At the time Belgium became a real country and not just the bits stuck onto the arse ends of France and The Netherlands, the entire world was desperate for Belgian lace and governments everywhere slapped levels of duty on it that would wet a tobacco controller’s faux lace knickers and the newly ‘vous are now in France’-ified picard peasants’ desire for ‘their’ tobacco, at a price they could afford, was no less than that of us who are about to be de-EUcitizenised for our own favoured brands at a price that won’t require a 2nd mortgage.
And so the Dogs Of Free Trade came into being. I’ll put up the quotes for anyone sad enough to be interested in the details but basically night for night hundreds of large ,increasingly well trained, dawgs were sent over the border laden with doggy bags of goodness; tobacco and lace. As you can see from the quotes it soon became a major headache for the French customs, to the extent they offered a 3 franc reward for any smuggling dog shot…and this back when a franc was actually worth something. If over 40+K poor little doggies were destroyed in a ten year period, you can imagine how many more got through.
The practice of using smuggling dogs continued into the last century, although probably more romanticised about than actual. There are even photos.
Now here’s a thing,something that will interest the soppy “Man’s Best Friend” brigade: every bomb sniffer dog that’s kept you safe at an event, every police dog that has apprehended a ‘crim’, every drugs dog that has stopped more shit pouring onto our streets to poison our kids with is a direct ,spiritually and often genetically, descendant of those Free Trading dogs! In time those original smuggling dogs became the ‘smarter than an Alsatian’ recognized Belgian breeds we know today. As did the more humane training methods of the breeders of smuggling-dogs when, up to then, ‘humane’ had meant NOT kicking the pooch to death with your wooden sabots. A dog, a wife and a willow tree….
“So tell us, Blocked Dwarf” I hear you cry “tell us, what does this fascinating bit of tobacco related history teach us? What wisdom doth it impart? What lesson for our trouble, turbulent age?”
Dunno, it’s just something I stumbled upon whilst researching Belgian tobacco far too late at night instead of watching PMT.May make cow eyes at the DUP…who have a thing about the border to Ballybumfuck I believe. Infact the DUP have a ‘thing’ about a lot of things, bunch of tangerine coloured cunts they are.
It does kinda explain why those funny European types get so worked up about open borders and also reminds us that when PMT.May says ‘Free Trade’ she is using it in a sense never dreamt of by Adams and Ricardo, in the sense ‘no way will we not put obscene rates of duty on tobacco’.
Having been taught at college to ‘always show your sources’, for the even more terminally sad than myself:
“On the Belgian north eastern and eastern frontier dogs are trained to convey smuggled goods into France They are of a large size and carry from 22 to 26 lbs each of tobacco and colonial produce and sometimes cotton twist and manufactured goods A single dog has been seized conveying goods worth from 20 to nearly 50 These dogs are conducted across the frontier in packs are kept without food many hours then beaten and at night fall their load is fixed upon them when they start for their destination which is usually two or three leagues on the other side of the frontier On their arrival they are well fed From 1820 to 1830 not fewer than 40,278 of the smuggling dogs were destroyed a reward of three francs being offered for each “
Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, Volumes 21-22 C. Knight, 1841
New York Times feature December 2, 1888, “The smuggler trains his dogs one by one and always at night…from puppy hood they are taught to play hide and seek with pieces of tobacco, bags of offee, and rolls of lace.” It explains that throughout each stage of training recruits “were praised and received generous rewards … Once the dogs could reliably find their target in the dead of night, they were fitted with light backpacks…By degrees the weight is increased till the dog is accustomed to carry many pounds. When each dog knows its duties thoroughly it is taught to work in company with others.” Veteran smuggling dogs also supervised missions, keeping its pack quiet and in formation, scouting for uniformed officials, and rerouting the mission to evade them.
History and Description of the Crystal Palace: And the Exhibition of the World’s Industry in 1851- J.Tallis
In the borderland between the Flanders and the North of France, the Belgian Shepherd Dog, especially the Malinois, was used for smuggling tobacco, a very hard job that marked their character. In his novel “La Mai son dans la Dune” Maxence VAN DER MEERSCH, born in Roubaix, tells with an eye for details, the life of the smugglers and that of TOM, a Tervueren who was brought to Belgium and was loaded with 18 kilos of goods. Its death was a violent one, just like that of all the others who performed this kind of work.
-Vanbutsele, “Origins & History Of The Belgian Shepherd Dog” 1998