The Weather Non-News

photo: bistro la tour
If it's raining, don't buy an umbrella. Go inside instead.

Monster, Secret Strike, Tweety, Minitel
Millionaires, and Other Stories

Paris:- Sunday, 15. November 1998:- Proper November weather is here, as it should be, because we are two weeks into the month even if I still think it is October.

The forecast for tomorrow is a slight dump in morning temperatures to about two degrees in Paris. This is normal for this time of year, but at this close to freezing it could easily drop to zero at any time.

Days are very brightly sunny with cloudy periods, which sometimes become rainy. Rain is usually followed by overcast or by sun. There is not much wind, so the changes happen at a leisurely speed - which means you have to dress warmly and carry an umbrella constantly.

All of this is normal November weather. If you have been misinformed about this and arrive with nothing other than Miami shirts, go to the nearest Damart shop you can find and get yourself some thermal underwear; currently at 30 percent off. Wearing it gives your body a warm glow.

Although the weather boffins do not want tophoto: golden november comment about the possibility of the cold snap in eastern Europe reaching France, they hint that they can make general predictions for coming seasons - and then they won't say what they are. They do claim accuracy for past weather though.

Proof of a 'brightly sunny' - period - of a day: 11. November 1998.

You think I'm joking? Here is what they do: they take tomorrow's prediction, for example, and examine its lines on the map. They are compared to the lines of past weather and if they coincide, then the prediction is 'high quality.' If there is too much difference, then the prediction is 'low quality.'

Another boffin once told me that local weathers predictions are accurate to plus-minus 500 kilometres. This sort of pin-pointing could put snow in Cannes for Christmas, after a balmy day had been predicted there.

The coldest recent day in France was on 17. January 1985 when the temperature in Mouthe, in the Doubs, was recorded as minus 41 degrees, centigrade. This is in France's well-known 'Siberia.'

The Secret Strike

Last Thursday's Le Parisien 'La Vie à Paris' centre section had a small note concerning a strike by museum workers at the Orsay, which apparently began on Tuesday.

Success is at the root of this: too many visitors are crowding into the museum to see the Millet-Van Gogh exhibition and the staff want more money for the extra work involved. So far, 200,000 have crowded in to see the show. Maybe I should quit boosting it in Metropole.

Le Dernier Monstre Sacré

Famous cinema actor Jean Marais died last Sunday, aged 84, and France's fairly large world of entertainment went into non-stop homage, followed by mourning at the weekend.

By 'non-stop' homage, I mean France TV simply chucked out their program for Tuesday evening and substituted it with a couple of Marais' films. This puts the TV-guide in second place after the weather people, for accuracy. A small quibble, but I did want very much to see a rip-roaring no-brainer of a film called 'Bad Boys.'

'L'Epervier' was Jean Marais' firstphoto: coal barge in seine film and it came out in 1933. Starting in 1937, Marais began a series of stage collaborations with Jean Cocteau, and their first film together was 'L'Eternal Rétour,' directed by Jean Delannoy in 1943. A year later, Marais went along for the liberation of Strasbourg with the French 2nd Armored Division. In 1945, he was back making movies with Cocteau.

A load of coal for Paris' coming winter arrives on time.

In 1964 he played 'Fantômas' for the first time, together with Louis de Funés; and this was followed by two further movies featuring the same character. Marais first appeared on the little box in 1968, made his last film in 1995 with Bernardo Bertolucci, and last appeared on stage in 'L'Arlésienne' in 1997.

Angry Pig Farmers

I won't say the French like to eat a lot of fat or a lot of pork mainly because I have never been particularly aware of it. There is foie gras of course, but it is not made of pork.

For some weeks now, France's pig farmers have been really annoyed. It costs them about three francs a kilo more to raise hogs than they get by selling them. On this kind of a deal, a farmer can get poor pretty quickly.

In fact, one was reported to be feeding his dog pork roasts because he couldn't afford to buy canned dog food. The government announced an aid package for the farmers of 150 million francs, but this will only cover a week's worth of pork loses.

I have no idea whether this is a lack-of-demand, oversupply situation, but I suspect it has something to do with the usual administrative meddling in the markets - either at a national level or a European level, but most likely both.

Luckily for Parisians, the pig farmers are so busy looking after their animals that they haven't had time to come to the capital to protest; perhaps by dumping a few loads of 'déjections' where they will be impossible to ignore.

The only brightness on the horizon is the possibility of unloading 100,000 tons of pork on the Russians. European over-production is supposed to amount to 800,000 tons annually.

Tweety At Concorde

It slipped my mind last week, but going through the métro station at Concorde has reminded me of its total redecoration in RATP green, with a blue stripe. The big posters are gone and they have been replaced by small photos of mountain scenes, with flowing streams and high pastures.

For line one, this is a vast improvement in decor, and I was amazed to hear in the connecting line 12 station, the sounds of birds chirpping. At first I though it was static, because the birdsong has a rushing water background - and this does not come over the underground station's loudspeakers too clearly.

It all seems to be a promotion for a washing powder, and even includes dozens of small cuckoo-clocks - which, when I looked at one of them, had the correct time. After the soap is gone, I hope the RATP keeps the colors. Much better than the old purple and yellow, with original rivets.

Divorce French Style

France is a modern country so it has modern social items such as divorce, like its neighbors. A poll indicates that the French don't like it much, as it is usually depressing.

Since France is a modern country, it is talking about 'reforming' the divorce procedure. This is, in itself, not all that startling, because France is in the process - almost eternal - of "reforming' just about everything.

The interesting thing about the report is the French invention of a new name for divorce. It is 'démariage.' It has more letters than 'divorce' but seems less heavily freighted with the negative intonations of it. I wonder if it will catch on outside of France.

Trouble In Minitel Paradise

France Telecom's Minitel is a neat idea. They give everyone with a telephone one, and with it telephone subscribers can consult some 25,000-odd online info services.

The Minitel is a neat deal for France Telecom and the approximately 10,000 suppliers of these consultable services, because the two share the extra line rates charged to users; and detailed on their phone bills

These extra rates can run up to 5.57 francs a minute - over a dollar - and have made many 'Minitel Millionaires' as well as France Telecom very happy.

Until now that is. France Telecom has announced that it is raising the basic rate for upscale providers from 252 francs perphoto: village 11 november memorial month to a thousand. This will hurt many local associations who have been financing themselves through Minitel receipts.

The same sunny day on 11. November, but in a deep shadow.

But for the 'Minitel Millionaires' this is a drop in the bucket. I have heard of providers, who have paid the basic 252 franc fee, having services that get tens or hundreds of thousands of calls a month, and after their cut with France Telecom, still need an armored car to take the cash to the bank.

Public services are in on it too. You would think the train timetables would be paid for by train travel ticket sales, but if you look them up with a Minitel, you'll be paying a premium to see a robot throw four items of info on a tiny screen, crammed with ads.

At the standard slow connection rate, moving to the next page's display is painfully - but in the pocketbook, heavy - leisurely.

The Big One

France's Loto organization is a bit heavy with cash too, so when Friday the 13th rolls around, they open up their vaults a bit and run an extra loto just for this day.

Sometimes the pot is 50 million, but last Friday's was a cool 100 million francs - a bit less than 20 million dollars.

One player scooped it up and on Saturday morning was richer by 100,024,920 francs. He or she, let the loto robot pick six random numbers instead of going through the hard work of handwriting six 'X's in each set of 49 numbers. This player did not get any double '44's either.

Some time ago, I saw that this amount would generate about 400,000 francs a month, for life - and well beyond it.

'Winter' Sports News

The 6th Route du Rhum sailboat race from France to Guadaloupe is continuing against strong winds and big seas. A couple of boats have lost their masts and abandoned.

Most of the sailors are taking a northerly route and there are a group of five leaders who a pretty close together, somewhere around 30 degrees west at 40 degrees north; which is due west of Portugal.

A couple of gamblers are much further south, below a straight line from France to the finish line at Point-à-Pitre. Loick Peyron is around 23 degrees west and about 36 degrees north and Francis Joyon was last reported at 15 degrees west, by 26 degrees north.

Proper Winter Sports are taking forever to get underway, so I direct you to the winter sports Webphoto: damart, 30 percent off site to while away the wait. It contains a lot of useful information in French and English about weather, snow, equipment, accommodations, resorts and facilities; all of which are available in France's more vertical areas.

I don't suppose the '30%-off' will last long after the first snowflake, so hurry on down the the nearest Damart shop.

As far as this type of 'sport' is concerned, I have always preferred getting no closer to cold and snow than my car in the underground garage. Luckily I can get to this without going outside. I have also been seriously thinking for years of getting some of Damart's very warm underwear, but I'm afraid that if I do, I will get wangled into delivering flyers from door to door.

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