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Saving the Big News for Last

Paris in blossom (24k) Paris:- Friday, 19. April 1996:- It is certainly trying hard to be spring. If Sunday is the first day of the week, then that was the beginning of spring this year. Blossoms are popping out like popcorn, and Sunday painters were clogging up the public gangways.

Spring lasted until Tuesday, when it turned into un-spring simply because I had decided to do a two-day, two-part feature on it - and we can't have tidy things, or the next thing you know we'll be feeling lucky and start betting the horses as well as the loto.

All the Ile-de-France kids are on their 'Easter' holidays since Thursday, and starting from today, we should be having pretty clear skies and temperatures in the low 20's, for this weekend at least. With school hols starting in the middle of the week - all part of some logical plan; rest assured - this weekend will see a normal good weather weekend traffic jam in the Paris region, rather than one of the usual holiday jumbo-monsters.

Lots of Loto

My TV guide magazine, Télé-Loisirs, has done me a great favor by publishing a dossier listing the odds of all of France's lotteries, big and little. The odds range from 3.8 to one, for a 10 franc investment on a 'Solitaire' ticket, to 5,110 to one on the 'Loto Sportif.'

The odds on the big 'Loto - 6 out of 49' itself, are 57 to one against getting three numbers right - for two francs put on the minimum of two 'grilles.' The odds against getting the six correct numbers, chosen on TV by the ping-pong-ball machine in four drawings a week, are 13,983,816 to one.

In the twenty years since this Loto was introduced, there have been many millionaires created nearly every week, and the absolute record was recently set with a Saturday two-draw ticket costing 32 francs - with the numbers chosen not by the punter, but by the loto machine computer itself. The lucky bank employee picked up a cheque for exactly 69,378,690 francs just before Christmas. Tax free.

Since this loto was introduced, the loto company has come up with a slew of others, usually bought in the Tabacs, for five to 20 francs, and are usually the type where you scratch the ticket to see if you win, from 10 to 25 francs - paid on the spot, and up to two million, on the 'Tac O Tac.' Some of the other names are Morpion, Black Jack, Millionnaire, Bingo and Goal.

Apropos of chance, in 1995, the three licensed types of gambling, Loto, race betting and gambling casinos, had a turnover of 120 billion francs. Fully half of the French are playing regularly, and they are spending about two percent of household income on games of chance.

Drink the Water?

Yesterday I was reassured to read in Le Parisien that our tap water is safe to drink. It is not true that too much calcium is bad for you - for your washing machine it is another story; it is not true that a distinct taste of chlorine will do you harm; just let brown water run awhile until it is clear and then it is okay to drink; you can safely let babies drink tap water, and it is true that not all tap water tastes the same. But is not quite clear why tap water costs from less than four francs a cubic metre, up to 40.

Despite all these positive qualities, the average person in this country drinks 80 to 90 litres of bottled water per year, and makes France the number one consumer in Europe - although in third place for production. Restaurants are starting to have selections of water and the suggested serving temperature for fizzy water is seven degrees, and 10 for flat water. The Bon Marché's Grand Epicerie has 25 kinds of water in stock, and the wine dealer Nicolas, who used to keep 15 varieties on view, now has them in the storeroom.

And Finally, the Big News

On Thursday night, after 25 years of effort, Paris' football team, Paris-St. Germain, known locally as PSG, won over Spain's La Coruña club, one to zero, to go on to the European Cup Winner's Cup finals - against Austria's Rapid Vienna in Brussels on 8. May - which is the holiday Victory in Europe Day.

This singular event made the front page of every Paris newspaper today, and one could turn the old phrase around and say, 'Today There was Joy in Mudville!' This happened in the same week that the Bordeaux club gained an entry to the final for the European UEFA Cup; so there are many happy football hearts in France this weekend.

Le Parisien devoted a full six pages to the victory, which includes a dismal history of the Paris club. I say dismal, because despite the numbers of fans in the Paris region and vast resources one can imagine being available - the Paris club has had what can only be termed as a lackluster history - as far from say, that of Milan, Juventus or Real Madrid - as Schwabing SV.

At this moment France could really use a victory in a contest of this sort; it would be a great morale-booster for millions of kids here - because football is a sport that anyone can play, almost anywhere and anytime, with a minimum of equipment - unlike golf or tennis or sailing - all of which are out of the reach of most ordinary citizens. So I say, 'Go Paris-St. Germain!'

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