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Not Much Bad News is Good News

Paris:- Saturday, 15. June 1996:- The weather is magnificent. It is perfect. It is around 25 degrees (just under 80 F.) and there is a bit of wind and the sky is really clear. It has been like this for a couple of days, and - 'high' of the Azores oblige - it will continue. At least I hope it will until I finish writing this.

All of the issues that I have recently been mentioning in this column in Metropole are more or less continuing - 'Silly Europe Week' grinds on - transport strike threat is over - but with this weather I say, forget it! No 'bad' news this week. Come to Paris and go outside in light dress; don't watch TV and don't read the papers. Nothing important is going on except being here.

There is a lot of local news as usual, but I never report this because if it concerned the readers of this column, they would buy their own newspapers. I only mention this in case you are wondering if Paris has fallen into a stupor - it hasn't - but I don't think you are concerned with political stuff and court cases and local crime and the President's activities and local scandal, and I wonder whether anybody cares about any of this, with the sort of weather we have.

There are the usual thousands of sports events, village fetes, pedestrian demonstrations for bike lanes and clean air and articles about visiting France's 600 'moulins' this weekend, which are having 'open house' tomorrow. Football's 'Euro '96' is still going on but I am not following it again because it seems to involve hundreds of teams playing thousands of play-offs - and since I have little time to watch television I do not know if any of my favorite programs other than the TV-news itself, are getting bumped from the schedule in order to show the matches.

What it is, is the end of the real year. The students will begin the exams for the Bac on Monday so they are not rioting. All lesser grades are practicing for their 'Fêtes d'Ecole' which will happen on the next two weekends. Today's Le Parisian, in the Yvelines section, is promoting a weekend visit to local sewage-treatment plants. This must be for the losers, because Le Parisian sent 2,000 readers to Disneyland-Paris on Friday evening.

Untraditional 24 Hours at Le Mans

While I am writing this the 64th Edition of the endurance road-race at Le Mans is starting; at 15:00 precisely. What it untraditional about this year's race is that it is not raining cats and dogs; and I am not sure it is in the rulebook that the race can be run in sunshine.

Something less than a million people go down there and camp out for the weekend and I am sure they will miss the mud and the damp. The drivers, meanwhile, will not be trying to steer at 300 kph through rooster-tails of spray as is usual, and I notice that some of the racing cars have no roofs.

France's Henri Pescarolo is taking part for the 30th time - at age 53 - and after victories in 1972, '73, '74 and '84. There are three drivers per car and they take turns because the race lasts for 24 hours exactly and involves all sorts of cars in different classes - from 'prototypes' to production racers to hopped-up street machines.

The whole weekend is sort of a 'Woodstock' for wheel nuts and there is a considerable amount of animation and beer drinking and some fans do not see many wheels but I am sure there will be stars tonight and they may see these.

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Sunday Update

Without the rain, the winners rolled an extra 750 kilometres more than last year; over 4,000 in all. The German-led Joest Team in a Porsche-motored 'prototype' came across the line first at 15:00 on Sunday, ahead of the factory GT1 Porsches.

Of the 48 starters, 23 abandoned. Because of the heat and there were many problems with tires shredding themselves to pieces and at least two cars lost entire front wheels. One particularly unlucky Ferrari F40 spun out twice and finally caught fire while refueling, which was a ominous sign, but no one was hurt.

Demo City

I wasn't going to mention them, but since there are quite a number and there soon will be none, here is a partial list of this weekend's demonstrations:

- Saturday, 14:00, at St. Lazare: anti-vivisectionalists of France.

- Saturday, 15:00, at Bastille: demonstration of the MRAP; march from Bastille to place de la Nation.

- Sunday, 8:00, at pedestrian tour of Buttes-Chaumont by the Sport and Gymnastic Federation of Workers. (I don't recall what the MRAP is, but it's a fair walk they're talking about.)

- Sunday, 8:00, on the right bank of the Seine, from the underground of the Tuleries to the underground at Henri IV; on the left bank from Quai Anatole-France to Quai Branly: by Operation Bicycles-Pedestrians.

- Sunday, 10:00, in the streets of the 5th arrondissement and at 14:00 on the Quais of Valmy and Jemmapes (in the 10th), and from Loire and the Marne (19th): Operation Strolling and Relaxation.

- Sunday, 10:00, on the Pont d'Iena, starting point of the 10th International Triathlon of Paris.

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