This week’s EESC plenary session took place in the European Commission’s Charlemagne building. When meetings are in session a set of vast blinds close so that there is only artificial light in the meeting room. At lunchtime on Wednesday, 14th July, it was bright and sunny. The afternoon’s session started at two-thirty and ended at close to nine. When the shutters came back up, bright sunshine flooded into the room and we blinked like troglodytes. However, as I walked back home it became clear that something pretty violent had occurred. Though the pavements were dry, gravel had been washed into piles in the middle of the street and sizeable tree branches had fallen on cars. The next day’s newspapers spoke about a mini-tornado and others about a mini-hurricane, but I think it was closer to what we would call a ‘cloudburst’ and the Italians a ‘nubifragio‘. Video footage here gives an idea. I, who had seen strictly nothing inside the hermetically sealed and artificially-lit meeting room, received three chilling eye-witness accounts. The first came from my better half, who had been walking in the Ardennes with her sister. She told of how the sky went suddenly dark and how they ran for shelter in a village. More chilling yet, N° 1 sprog was in a yacht in the middle of a lake, at summer camp. She told of how the monitors sought desperately to get 80 students and twenty yachts off the lake, to get the sails down, the boats secured and the children under shelter in a few minutes. They succeeded, although one yacht got blown away and battered. N° 2 sprog, meanwhile, was in the middle of a Belgian forest and a map-reading exercise (or ‘getting lost exercise’, as he put it), and had to navigate his way back to camp over a series of fallen trees. For me, the experience was a sort of microcosmic version of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five