At home with Count Leopold Lippens in Knokke: ‘People are no longer concerned with quality’ – Travel

0
26


Mayor Lippens lost weight during the lockdown. Not because of corona stress or because it was hard to devise a recovery plan for his city, but because he couldn’t eat out for weeks. Restaurants were exchanged for reflection. “I counted my shoes once and found that I have too many. That is precisely the problem of our society. “

The first thing you see when the mayor opens the gate to his driveway is a flower meadow on either side of the driveway to his house. There are poppies, cornflowers, cosmos. Every year a different flower mix grows, because diversity is important for the bees. And the bees, that is what Count Leopold Lippens is concerned with. Anyone who dares to ask why he puts so much effort into biodiversity in his city does not realize how badly bee populations have been in the world in recent years, and how important they are for the survival of humans. ‘We have been working with the BeeOdiversity company in Knokke-Heist since 2014 with the aim of attracting and protecting the bees in our municipality to the maximum,’ says Lippens (Municipal interests). ‘We have flower meadows and hives and honey research allows us to monitor the environment. For example, we see that on the border of Knokke-Heist with Zeebrugge there are more nitrates and heavy metals in the honey. These are very interesting studies to monitor the state of the environment. ‘

The first thing you see when the mayor opens the gate to his driveway is a flower meadow on either side of the driveway to his house. There are poppies, cornflowers, cosmos. Every year a different flower mix grows, because diversity is important for the bees. And the bees, that is what Count Leopold Lippens is concerned with. Whoever dares to ask him why he puts so much effort into the biodiversity in his city does not realize how badly bee populations have been in the world in recent years, and how important they are for the survival of humans. ‘We have been working with the BeeOdiversity company in Knokke-Heist since 2014 with the aim of attracting and protecting the bees in our municipality to the maximum,’ says Lippens (Municipal interests). ‘We have flower meadows and hives and honey research allows us to monitor the environment. For example, we see that on the border of Knokke-Heist with Zeebrugge there are more nitrates and heavy metals in the honey. These are very interesting studies to monitor the state of the environment. ‘ The nestor among the coastal mayors is a nature person. Always been. “I was born in there. When I hear a bird whistle, I know which bird it is. Most people no longer have that knowledge. When they see a potato field in bloom, they say, “Ten, what beautiful flowers.” They don’t remember what fries look like. ” Lippens tells it calmly. A little rushed, too. This may not be the ideal time for a conversation about how he experienced the lockdown as a civilian father. The summer holidays are in the air and the mayor is very concerned about the hordes of tourists in his city who do not follow the corona measures. Does he think that after weeks of confinement in their kot people have learned to appreciate the beauty of nature again? “I’m not sure about that. People sometimes ask me if I am bored during a drive from the coast to Brussels. I answer no, because when I look out the window on the way, I see two hundred plants, birds and flowers. But most people are limited in knowledge and don’t see what I see. They don’t care. I doubt Covid-19 has changed that. ” Knokke-Heist was the first municipality in our country to go into lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. On March 6, the city council communicated that additional measures were not necessary, but on March 12, sports clubs, youth movements and cultural centers closed their doors, almost 48 hours before the first measures of the federal government took effect. “Corona had surfaced in some of our schools,” says Lippens. “While federal politicians were showing off, I took my responsibility.” Mayor Lippens has been concerned in recent months. First of all, to himself. He is 78 and has undergone heart surgery twice. “I’m a risk patient for the virus, yes. The first three weeks I spent all alone. I never left anyone in my bubble. Normally I have a housekeeper who also cooks for me, but now I did everything myself. My cooking skills are nothing to write home about. I have lost weight, but my dogs have eaten all leftovers and have thickened. I also took time to think about the future of Knokke-Heist, went for a walk with my dogs and counted my shoes, shirts and trousers. I had to conclude that I have too much of everything. ” The mayor has a stack of books next to his bed, with stories in Dutch, French and English. He just read The Cat of the Dalai Lama, from David Michie, a famous Australian meditation coach and author. “It’s about a cat that lives near the Dalai Lama. A beautiful book. Particularly entertaining during the lockdown. I also read the sequel. ” Lippens claims that he has not worked hard in recent months, but at the beginning of June the mayor and his city council presented a comprehensive recovery plan that should quickly make the corona crisis in Knokke-Heist forget. In order to take the social life and economy of the fashionable seaside resort out of its artificial coma, the mayor is willing to invest ten million, possibly double. Initiatives to do so include start-up grants, housing benefits, coupons for all residents and second-stayers, shopping shuttles. But it’s also about creating beauty. The city gets more green and color. Flowers, plants and murals will be put in the right place. “I have not watched TV in recent months, the TV only brought negative messages. I followed the news on my smartphone, ‘says Lippens. ‘I learned how catastrophic the situation there was from acquaintances who went to help in the Italian hospitals. Patients were in the hallway. Doctors had to choose who to help. I know many people who have contracted the virus, some of whom have died, including my good friend Philippe Bodson (businessman and former chairman of the Federation of Belgian Enterprises, ed.). Someone who dies in your area is bad enough, but not being able to grieve the way you want makes it extra difficult. ” The mayor does not want to say much more about this. You don’t have to make a journalistic piece of something very personal like mourning. “Since the coronavirus broke out in January, fifty million people worldwide have died, of which five hundred thousand from Covid-19,” says Lippens. “That is one percent of the total number of deaths, but that one percent took up seventy to eighty percent of our hospitals. I think it would be ideal if our country would build three or four hospitals to provide nothing but corona or pandemic patients in the future, so that the other hospitals can continue to do their work. That was not the case now. ” In the 41 years that he has been mayor of Knokke-Heist, he has seen a number of bad things. ‘My darkest memory was when I woke up to the dramatic news of the Herald of Free Enterprise capsized in Zeebrugge in 1987, with more than one hundred ninety-one dead. That did not happen in Knokke-Heist, but it still sticks. But a disaster that happens all over the world at the same time? No, I had never experienced that. I was born in 1941, during the war, but in recent months we have also lived in a war structure. Everything was closed, people were locked up. It was not easy. ” The mayor believes, or hopes, that it will be back to basics after the storm. “Corona paralyzed the world in three months. I do not believe that we will fly to Barcelona again with Ryanair for eight euros. We had too much of everything. People lived from consumption to consumption and never had enough, were never satisfied. They were also no longer willing or used to be limited in their freedoms. Corona has placed many restrictions on us, the question now is whether we can resume life with limited freedoms. It is much easier to introduce a strict lockdown than to give people a degree of freedom again. But if we don’t all stick to the new rules of contact, there will be a flare-up that will cost us dearly. ” The first tropical summer weather in June already caused a surprise and nuisance in Knokke-Heist. Emergency services struggled with day-trippers who did not follow the new guidelines. Lippens also immediately pointed out to NMBS its responsibility. “Trains arrived with six hundred people in them, while the new distance rules should only allow room for three hundred travelers. If SNCB does not enforce this more strictly this summer, we will take legal action against them. ‘ If the world really becomes post-corona back to basics, the mayor wants quality in his city to take precedence over quantity. ‘Before Corona, people were too concerned with quantity. I am fortunate to live on the coast in a clean, safe community, where you have a quality of life that you hardly find anywhere else. We have 1800 shops here, nearly 300 restaurants, a hundred art galleries, all sports options. You can shop, cycle or walk in the hinterland here. The museums in Bruges and Damme are nearby, as is Zeeland. There is the Zwin. It is beautiful here. If it were up to me, I would optimize all those assets and get rid of the big events in the city. Even after corona. Such as the Night of the Zoute, or the International Fireworks Festival. These are events that attract a huge number of people who spend half a day in Knokke-Heist, but we may not need them. I would like to invest in more hotels. Tourists who come here to enjoy the quality of life should be able to stay here. We hope to build about five hundred new hotel rooms in the coming years. ‘ Or does he think that the pandemic has also resulted in better quality politicians? “The way in which politics is done in our country is to jump through the windows,” says Lippens. “I don’t understand how our politics work. We have 55 ministers. More than three hundred thousand civil servants. But finding skilled politicians is one of the major challenges for our country. We live in a formidable country, but our politicians are very low-key. Very arrogant too, they think they have the wisdom in their hands and like to come on TV with their ideas. Sophie Wilmès (MR) has done well in recent months. She was concerned with the content of her work, not her image. Ditto for Pieter De Crem (CD&V) and the governor of West Flanders, Carl Decaluwé (CD&V). But everyone else? If I had the power in this country where we have not had a government for so long, I would lock them all up and say, “You have four hours to form a government or you will not be fed for three weeks.” I would like to see what happens next. It could be interesting. ”

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here