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 electric cars in use, but this number may increase as the number of watt-pumps becomes more widespread.

The Future of 'RU 486' is Assured

At first I thought this was in reference to a Russian model of the 486 WinTel PC, but it turns out that it concerns the so-called 'abortion pill,' developed in France. Until now manufactured by Hoechst subsidiary Roussel-Uclaf - the parent company has given the green light to give away the license to whoever wants it, and will cease manufacture of the pill.

The companies have been plagued in the US and France by anti-abortion groups, and it looked like continued marketing of it was going to be a headache for them.

The original developer of the molecule that is the secret of RU 486, is quite happy with this turn of events. For one thing, while it was under control of the pill giants, no further research was done on it - and this can now continue from where it left off.

The other thing is that a small company has bought up the existing two year's worth of stocks from Hoechst and is busy putting them into new boxes, for sale to the public. This new company has no great number of stockholders and should not, in principle, be subject to financial pressure from groups of objectors.

Getting Ready for the World-Cup

Paris did this on Thursday by having a strike of newspaper distributor employees. Journalists must have taken the day off too, because there is not much news - fit for Metropole - in Friday's editions.

However, I was on the job and 50 percent alert. On the way back from taking my family to Roissy, I noticed the new stadium - 'Le Stade de France' - being built for the football games next year. Since it is about as big as Texas, I don't know how I missed seeing on the way to the airport - only 50 percent alert!

Friday's Le Parisien, therefore, features it in a full-color double-page spread, and a darn good thing too - because I would have forgotten that I'd seen it while all my colleagues were on strike or asleep.

All I can think of to say about it is, if it rains and the rain falls straight down, the players will get wet. The spectators will stay dry. If bullfights are ever held in it, there will be far more 'Sombre' seats than 'Sol.'

And Now the Sports News for Unserious Fans

The traditional Paris-Roubaix bicycle race takes place tomorrow. This race is unusual for several reasons. It usually rains on the day Paris-Roubaix paving stones of the race and I do not think it will tomorrow - Sunday Update! It didn't.

Would you trade this for forty miles of barbed-wire?

The other reason the race is unusual, is that a large part of it is run over very rough cobblestone roads - 50 kilometres of them. The last reason the race is unusual, is that it starts from Compiègne, not Paris, and goes to Roubaix, and not the other way around.

This year's race - the 95th edition - will cover 266 kilometres and the average speed will be about 45 km per hour. Lack of wet, slippery, greasy cobblestones will no doubt dampen the true bike racing fans' joy, but will allow a greater number of ordinary fans to see their favorite racers for a change.

24 Hour Motorcycle Race, at Le Mans?

This may be totally erroneous despite the TV-Sports news photo. I saw this on TV tonight before tomorrow's race, Moto: 24 Hours at Le Mans? but on checking the paper I find no mention of any motorcycle races, except in Malaysia.

The 'big cubes' may be racing somewhere, nearer you than here.

Sunday Update! - Somebody won this race on some sort of motorcycle, somewhere. No matter where you are on this little planet of ours, you can be sure that somebody, somewhere, is winning some sort of sporting competition, probably at this very moment. But I never know the score.

Also on Saturday, I received an eMail from a reader in Malaysia, and if such a race did take place there and the score is known, they should send it to me as quickly as possible, because there may be other Metropole readers who do not care for my cavalier treatment of SportsNews - and I may be able to buy them off with a true score.


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