Help, I Need Somebody

photo: aux amateurs, boulogne
November sun heats Boulogne bistro until
Beaujolais Nouveau Day.

Down, But Mostly Out In Paris

Paris:- Sunday, 22. November 1998:- A homeless man aged 36, who was sleeping outside on a porch, a few steps from the entry to the Cochin Hospital, died Friday morning of exposure.

Overnight, the temperature in Paris had fallen to minus four. The man was found, still alive at 9:30 Friday morning, by a friend. Worried about his condition, the buddy alerted the emergency section of the hospital, only a few steps away.

A minute later, a hospital employee passed and seeing the man in distress on the porch, called the emergency services. This employee later indignantly told Le Parisien that she was told hospital personal were not permitted to leave the hospital grounds to 'look for ill people in the street.'

Another passerby called the Pompiers. Finally the hospital sent out an emergency doctor and a stretcher-bearer, who arrived after the emergency crew from the Pompiers.

By then, the homeless man was dead.

A Little Bit of Shelter

Supposedly, to get a bed for a night all one has to do is dial '115.' Libération tried it during the week and the result was not reassuring.

There are about 40 emergency housing centres in Paris; run by different aid groups. But the semi-official 'Samu-sociale' has the monopoly on cruising the capital to pick up the homeless, and it runs the toll-free '115' number.

According to the paper, seven work the phones on the dayshift and three take care of them at night. If therescan: le republique issue1 are more than three calls at once, the automatic answer- machine tells the fourth caller to ring later.

In a test, during the daytime, only eight percent of calls made connections to live people. The homeless are aware of this; aware of the fact that a non-connection can mean sleeping outside.

Paris' new daily paper, La République, appeared on Tuesday, 17. November.

Since the maximum stay allowed in any centre is only three days, on leaving, some homeless head straight to telephone booths to try and secure their next bed.

TV-news showed a Samu crew cruising around Paris one evening. They had a regular route and some of the homeless were familiar customers to them. They picked up those they could; and gave what they had to those who preferred to stay where they were.

The Abbé-Pierre Foundation says that there are 15,000 available emergency beds for the homeless in France, and the number of homeless is 100,000. The managers of the Samu-social in Paris say their efforts directed 157,333 people towards their services last year.

In addition to emergency shelter, there are supposed to be a third of a million places available to people in difficulty. These have the aim of setting the temporarily unlucky back on their feet - but their efficiency beyond mere housing is in doubt.

In any case, there are those who decline the offer. These are the young, the mentally disturbed and the hard-core outsiders - or people who do not want to part with their dogs.

Cold Weather Is Here

Late in the week a cold front - blamed on Greenland, and sometimes on Sweden - moved into the Paris area. This sent overnight lows down to minus two to six, with daytime highs from zero to plus two. These temperatures are expected to continue into next week.

The situation in eastern France was more dramatic, with snow, black-ice and freezing fog causing chaos to highway transport, and general misery. Temperatures dumped to minus 26 in Switzerland and even northern Italy was hit with lows of minus 20. Temperatures in Paris are about five degrees below normal.

Le Pen Loses Appeal In Versailles

Convicted of an assault during election campaigning in 1997, Front National leader Jean-Marie Le Pen heard the judgement confirmed by the Appeals Court in Versailles on Tuesday, but the penalty was reduced.

If he does not take his case the final step to the Court of Cassation, he will be liable for a three months' suspended jail term, and a 5000 franc fine; which was reduced from 20,000 francs. In addition, he is ineligible to hold political office for a year.

The conviction, as it stands, will make Le Pen ineligible to re-run for next year's round of the European elections. The affairs of his party are in some disarray, and one commentator said something like the Front National was one party in France which seldom missed when shooting itself in a foot.

The State Closes Cigarette Factories

Last week it was announced that the French government intended to close three state-owned cigarette plants, all located in small towns.

Since then, the citizens of these towns have mobilized and on Thursday they marched in Paris. Their numbers were not great, but they got their photo in Le Parisien and on TV-news.

Especially in Morlaix, there is a very long tradition of working with tobacco products; and the Ministry of Economics and Finance was talking about 'other solutions.'

This story was in Le Parisien a lot during the week and on Tuesday space in the paper was also devoted to a story about how consumption cannabis has become 'common' among adolescents.

A study says half of the 15 to 19 age group have consumed something illegal, and in 98 percent of the cases, it was pot. It is not believed in France that weed smoking leads directly to heroin addiction - which is not rising - but all the same, the penalties for possession are heavy.

Researchers do think pot smokers drink too much, take too many tranquilizers and smoke too many cigarettes as well.

While we are on demos, I may as well mention that the police has their protest march in Paris on Wednesday. According to the organizers, 20,000 police personnel marched; only 5,600 according to the prefecture's head-counters. The police around France are upset about the planned closure of many local police stations.

I Didn't Forget Beaujolais Nouveau

I don't know about your supermarket, but on the third Thursday in November mine has a wine and cheese party. The occasion, of course, is so I won't forget it is Beaujolais Nouveau Day.

This is not some 400-year-old tradition; it only dates to 30 years ago. Apparently, the young wine was consumed on this dateposter: beaujolais nouveau before then, but it was only this recently that somebody had the bright idea to put it in bottles. Some people say Emile Chandesais thought it up in 1962 and others say it was Georges Duboeuf in 1968.

Wine this young is liable to be nearly undrinkable, so the Beaujolais Nouveau 'tradition' is surrounded by rumors of hanky-panky as well as a lot of 100 percent hype.

Of the 60 million bottles, half go for export and some of it goes to China. Germans take the most, and I have personally seen them drink it like beer. But, aha, Japan raised its order by 400 percent this year!

Somehow, Le Parisien got invited to a 'premiere' at Aux Negociants on the north side of Montmartre. Officially the new wine is on sale starting at midnight on Thursday - but to feature it in Thursday's editions, they must have started a bit early the night before.

The verdict: both at my supermarket and at Aux Negociants - the year's Beaujolais Nouveau is good plonk. One thoughtful taster said, "All things considered, it doesn't smell like English bon-bons. Not bad at all"

Serious Wine Futures Jump, Seriously

The 138th auction of new wine of the Hospices de Beaune saw eager buyers willing to push the 1998 prices to their highest levels since the record levels scored in 1985 and 1989.

The average for a barrel holding 228 litres of wine was 42,806 francs; for, as one expert said, a year without a good outlook and of very mixed quality - especially in comparison with the years of 1995, '96 and '97. All the same, prices rose 12 percent at the sales last Sunday.

For the first time, more bottles of bourgogne rouge were sold to foreign buyers than French dealers. Foreign sales were up by 25 percent, and Japanese buyers doubled their purchases over last year. This puts them in second place after Britain, and ahead of the United States and Germany.

Paris Gets Another New International Airport

Ireland's Ryanair has been having a nigh-flying success running inexpensive scheduled flights between Ireland and a local airport at Beauvais in the Oise; which can be reached by shuttle-bus from Porte Maillot in one hour and 15 minutes.

The regular round-trip fare of about 700 francs is aboutphoto: bhv facelift a half to a third of the Aer Lingus-Air France fares, but usually have the condition of including a weekend in Ireland. Ryanair is running a Boeing 737-200 at 85 percent capacity on this route, with three daily flights

The BHV department store getting a facelift - and it might get Christmas windows too.

Newcomer to the Paris-Offshore routes is Debonair, which intends to make Cormeilles-sur-Vexin - which is also in the Val-d'Oise - its French landing point. Its flight is called 'Pontoise-Luton' and it takes passengers to north London. The promo price for a round trip is currently 607 francs and the condition required is staying two nights there.

Although these airports are not served by métro or RER lines, once at them check-in is fast. Passengers get their boarding passes, get on the planes and take off. I don't know whether either airport has a duty-free shop.

Weekend in Tahiti

The big tour operator Nouvelles Frontières has taken a leaf from an American book and now offers trips on its Web site. These can include ten days in Tahiti, with round-trip and hotel, for 1380 francs instead of the catalogue price of 5,890.

Every Tuesday afternoon Nouvelles Frontières puts up an online auction of unsold tickets, to go to the highest bidder, and the bidding is done online. Needless to say, Nouvelles Frontières urgently needs to add line capacity to its site.

Some German operators are putting up Friday afternoon offers - for an evening in the nightclubs of Mallorca. They have absolutely rock-bottom prices because all they offer is the round trip; you don't need a hotel room for all-night dancing and if you conk out early you can sleep in the airport.

'Winter' Sports News

On Thursday night the leaders of the 6th Route du Rhum sailboat race from France to Guadaloupe were almost neck to neck, with Laurent Bourgnon 436 sea miles from Pointe-à-Pitre and Alain Gautier only 27 miles behind. And Marc Guillemot is on Gautier's heels.

The sailboat race was captured by second-time winner Laurent Bourgnon on Friday, after setting a new record of 12 days, eight hours and 41 minutes - knocking a whopping two days off his winning 1994 time.

This race was won with a trimaran; the single-hulled sailboats are not expected to arrive for another two weeks. This is terrific for residents of Pointe-à-Pitre because they have a big party planned for each arrival, no matter how long they take.

Fresh Snow

Snow has been recently reported in the Alps - a month earlier than usual - so I guess Winter Sports can be said to be officially taking place wherever there is enough white stuff to cover the granite and mud.

All the more reason to visit the winter sports Web site to see what's new this year for your entertainment in higher altitudes. 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, none of which are remotely close to Paris' own Montmartre and other nearby hills.

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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