Their Waterloo Could Be
Our Fontenoy

photo: bistro le saint severin
In rare fall sunlight, the tidy bistro Saint-Severin.

Strikes End - Inconclusively As Usual

Paris:- Sunday, 8. November 1998:- It has finally occurred to Florent Longueppé - almost four years after the Eurostar's first Paris-London run through the channel tunnel - that the destination in Britain is named 'Waterloo.'

'Waterloo' is not a glorious word in French history, so the RPR's Ile-de-France regional deputy has written to Britain's Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to complain about it. He wants its name changed.

If this is not done, Mr. Longueppé, who is elected from the area of the Gare du Nord, has threatened to have it renamed 'Gare du Fontenoy,' in commemoration of another battle in Belgium, which Louis XV's troops won.

In France this battle is also famous for commencing with the command given by the Comte d'Auteroche, addressed to the British commander, Lord Hay. The count said, "Messieurs les Anglais, tirez les premiers."

Apparently the British tabloids have jumped on this with their usual frenzy and total lack of humor. Mr. Longueppé doubts WWIII will result, even if he is a distant, but republican, descendent of William the Conqueror.

Paris' So-Called Weather

The weatherman finally dropped his customary reluctance to say we have been having something remotely approaching the category of extreme weather. If he'd waited a couple of minutes longer, we would be down the drains by now.

The good news is the rain seems to have finally stopped being nearly non-stop. High river levels in northern and eastern France are dropping, and the sun was actually visible in Paris last week.

After a wet September, France has been treated to the wettest October in 50 years. In the Ile-de-France region, 140 toposter: mois de la photo 180 millimetres of rain fell; more than double the average amount of 60 millimetres. The weatherstation at Orly was hit by rain on 26 days in October. In eastern France, the average rainfall for the time of year tripled.

As France has had a series of relatively dry years, the recent rain has served to fill up the ground-water reservoir - to the point where it has overflowed in places.

Although the Seine in Paris surged upwards 30 centimetres last Monday, it was still 80 centimetres short of its flood level - and the roads along the quais remained open to traffic.

The Strike(s) News:

This week the 'strike news' is short. The strikes at the new Bibliothèque Nationale at Tolbiac; the Tour Eiffel; and the limited strikes on some RATP bus lines - are all over. Repeat: over. Finished.

Concerning the BnF, for more complete information, try the Web site of the Bibliothèque François-Mitterrand or the alternate information which may be currently available about the resolution of the strike.

The students had their last demo of the season on Thursday in Paris and in other cities around France. While the numbers of marchers decreased dramatically to about 2600 in Paris, police measures increased indirectly in proportion, to 1800 officers. The 'casseurs' were back as well, and seven of them landed in jail.

In Paris, the police also 'picked up' 600 cars and trucks along the parade route, starting at 19:00 on Wednesday, and moved them elsewhere; mainly to free spots in nearby streets. Restaurant customers are believed to have reported a lot of stolen cars.

Art Squats Multiply In the Third

As Le Parisien puts it, 'le squat artistique du 6. rue Thorigny,' has a new branch office. The occupation, by roofless artists, of the building opposite the Musée Picasso, was reported in Café Metropole issue 3.22 on 1. June of this year.

Two weeks ago the increasing overflow of young artists tookphoto: art squat over a building abandoned for the past seven years, at 6. rue de Pastourelle. With the squat in the rue Turenne, this brings the total to five for the third arrondissement alone; of which three are 'artistic.'

The interior of the 'art squat' across the street from the Musée Picasso. Photo taken last May.

The mayor of the 3rd is getting annoyed, especially with the squat across the street from the Picasso museum, which the artists are calling 'Socapi,' which is verlan for Picasso. The building is dangerous - it is true - and it siphons off visitors to the official museum - this may be true too, as it is a lot cheaper.

On Tuesday, the council of the arrondissement meets to decide whether to vote to ask the police to take action. In other words, this story is to be continued next week.

'Fresh' Fries, Not French Frites

One invention that the French will be proud not to have invented, is the coin-operated 'frites' automat. Two different versions of this 20th century wonder are on show at the current Vending Machine Salon.

You pop your money into the Italian machine and 90 seconds later, out pops a cup with about 20 hot 'french fries' in it. The other, Swiss, machine uses potato gloop instead of real chips, and puts out exactly 37 'frites,' which might be a bit more like thin potato pancakes than real fries.

Not knowing what ethnic Italian chips are like, I can only say I am waiting to see how the expected-soon Belgian machine works out.

Where There's Smoke There's Taxes

A surprise amendment to the government's current Social Security legislation - a deputy's proposal to raise tobacco taxes - has alarmed tobacco product retailers and the tax collectors at Bercy.

The cigarette manufacturers, ever alert to any danger to sales, quickly announced that they would absorb any additional tax. This had the effect of lifting the lid on Pandora's box.

The additional tax would raise the taxes on cigarettes from 76 to 78 percent of their retail price. This would somehow translate into an 11 percent increase for the consumer. The health authorities would welcome this. The tax authorities would not, for two reasons.

If people quit smoking, they take in less money. If people don't quit smoking, but switch to cheaper tobacco products, the tax collector also gets less money.

This happened in 1997 after another over-proportionate tax hike; consumers changed their brands or types, and Bercy's taxmen 'lost' 2.8 billion francs in tax revenues.

If the delicate balance between consumption, taxes and public health were not enough to worry about, there are two other factors to consider.

The state itself owns the monopoly distributor, 'Seita' - which is also a cigarette manufacturer, and there are 35,000 small businesses - the tabacs - which are dependent on sales of tobacco products for their livelihood.

The 'PACs' and the 'Monoparents'

As it promised, the majority in the government came back with its 'PACs' legislation, and this resulted in one session in the National Assembly last week which ran to 04:00 after a conservative legislator used his constitutional right to say his piece non-stop.

The 'PAC' is a legislative package which would fill a lot of legal holes left open by irregular - for France - family situations. Other - mostly northern - European countries have moved ahead further and faster than France, but many conservatives would like to see France remain as it is rather than be socially progressive.

However, no part of the 'PAC' package addresses the problems of what the Secours Catholique - a family aid organization - calls the 'monoparent.' Aid groups in general say half their clients are composed of single-parent families; although these total only 14 percent of the population in France as a whole.

They say that the problem is second only to unemployment as a cause of poverty. Secours Catholique also says a major factor accelerating poverty, is the failure of public services to aid those entitled to benefits; for purely administrative reasons.

Every second family is entitled to some aid - such as the standard family allowance for children - but if this is refused or delayed, it can have catastrophic results. [A poster for Secours Catholique is on this week's Poster page II.]

Dora Maar Sale Results

The first part of the auction of Dora Maar's Picasso collection seemed to be swallowed by Paris without much notice, but for the world's art folk, it was standing-room-only. The total take has been reported as 213 million francs - about 38 million dollars. The painting 'La Femme Qui Pleure' fetched 41 million francs and the pencil sketch 'Dora aux Cheveux Défaits' brought 5.5 million.

Meanwhile, the Musée d'Orsay has just acquired its 'Mona Lisa,' in the form of Manet's 'Berthe Morisot au Bouquette de Violettes.' The painting, done in 1872, was purchased by the state from the descendants of Berthe Morisot for 80 million francs. Last seen in public 15 years ago, the painting is now on view at the Musée d'Orsay.

'Winter' Sports News

Next year, the 89th Tour de France will follow a 'classic' route, by remaining entirely within the country; from 3. July to 25. July 1999.

This year's scandal-plagued 'Tour' really upset sportsfans everywhere, coming as it did after the largely successful World Cup championships. Pro-sports figure, Jean-Claude Killy, is nowphoto: louvre, cote art deco running the bike tour. The new anti-dope measures haven't been fully decided upon yet, but they will be draconian.

Ocean Racing gets off to a big start today with 6th edition of the 'Route du Rhum,' the single-handed non-stop trophy dash from Saint-Malo to Point-à-Pitre on Guadaloupe - over 6,573 kms of Atlantic Ocean in winter.

The passage at the western end of the Louvre, from Rivoli to the Cour Napoléon.

In the 'old' days, the racing ships left shore and nothing much other than crackly radio reports were heard for the duration of the two-week race. These days, the contestants are equipped with mini-TV-cameras and satellite broadcasting, so they'll be on the nightly news; to the eternal joy of their sponsors.

The first edition was run in 1978 and was won by Mike Birch in a final sprint. This year, Mike Birch is again one of the 35 racers, but he's in it for the fun. This 'fun' is running a full-tilt, racing sailboat, mostly standing up 24 hours a day, across a big ocean. Watch for it.

Proper Winter Sports do not seem to have gotten underway yet. I direct you therefore to the winter sports Web site, which is sponsored by Miko ice cream. It contains a lot of useful information in French and English about weather, snow, equipment, accommodations, resorts and facilities as well as about the sponsor's ice cream; all of which are available in France's more vertical areas.

As far as this type of 'sport' is concerned, I have always preferred getting no closer to cold and snow than my letterbox in the entry hall downstairs. Luckily I can get some tropical fruit drinks, complete with warm-looking vacationing polar bears eating ice cream on their labels, just across the street.

Send email concerning the
contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
Metropole Midi © 2014
– unless stated otherwise.
logo, metropole sml midi logo No matter how good it tastes,
there is no such thing
as a free lunch.
Waldo Bini