Annual Severe Drought
Strikes France, Again

This week's Bistro

Bernard Tapie Gets Job
in Order to Get Out of Jail

Paris:- Saturday, 12. April 1997:- Monday started off with the nearly annual dire prediction of 'Drought Menaces France,' with the sub-heading, 'It Could be as Bad as 1976.'

As the week wore on, my flippancy wore off as firefighters, especially in the south and southwest battled huge forest fires. The fires are earlier than usual this year, and it is partly because the rains have been less.

Although there is and was a lot of snow in the Alps, the runoff has been orderly, with little flooding. Less rain means less water everywhere throughout the country. For farmers the situation, if it is not acute now, soon will be, because the watertable is universally low. In Essonne, close to Paris, The drought weekend sprinkling has been restricted, and keepers of golfing greens are worried about their grass.

Fires raged in southern France on Saturday.

However, this story seems to be an annual one, and if we are having dry weather now I think the chance of it getting wetter before summer, or during summer itself, is better than fifty-fifty. The hot dry summer in 1976, which is a recent European reference, started in May and folded before the end of August. But while it lasted, it was very hot.

Bernard Tapie is Getting Restless in Jail

Although our favorite businessman and all-round Mr. Motor is serving hard time he is getting out fairly often in order to go to court and lose appeals on other convictions. According to Monday's Le Parisien, he is also carrying on the political fight against the Front National from behind bars.

While right-wing majority politicians trade sneers with each other, Mr. Tapie is planning, upon release, to go around being a candidate wherever the FN is running, so he can spoil their chances for majorities. There is no need to say the man has moxie, so I won't.

At the end of the week, I was quite surprised to hear that Mr. Tapie has gotten himself a salaried job, and this will apparently permit him to work outside while sleeping in the clink at nights.

This measure was opposed by the prosecutor at Aix-en- Provence on Thursday, but Tapie's attorneys went to a higher court the following day, and obtained his partial release. This is in addition to the weekend releases he has already been granted.

So, who would hire this soon-to-be-ex-convict? Why none other than the navel architect who transformed Alain Colas' four-masted 'Club Mediterranée' into Bernard Tapie's four-masted 'Phocéa' for a measly 68 million francs. Mr. Tapie has a six-month contract to sell expensive boats.

The irony is, Mr. Tapie still faces court decisions concerning fiscal frauds surrounding the 'Phocéa,' which has been seized, and for which auctioneers are looking for a buyer. I'm pretty sure Mr. Tapie couldn't afford it even at its knock-down price, but I can't think of anybody else more suited to sell it. For a sizeable commission of course.

Juice Up Your Car on the Champs-Elysées

When I took the photo on Friday I didn't know there was a report in Tuesday's papers about EDF's - the electricity supplier - plans to install rapid electric-car pumps around the city. I have noticed the sign before, just at the entrance to the George V parking - but I took the photo yesterday, because the sky was blue, and because the Champs was bedecked with flags.

Apparently there are 149 other kilowatt stations around the city, but they only deliver 16 amps; taking an hour to load six or seven kilometres-worth of juice. The new pumps are Tank up with watts 160 amp jobs, and they can do the trick in 15 minutes, pumping in enough watts for about 40 kilometres-worth of driving.

Don't just park your car on the Champs-Elysées, plug it in too.

Most of the cars and light trucks using electricity for power, belong to the city or the EDF itself. There are an estimated 50 private electriccars in use, but this number may increase as the number of watt-pumps becomes more widespread.

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