Firemen Take Silent Action

photo: bistro les vignes du pantheon

A bistro in the 5th, near the Panthéon.

Paris' Green Belt Gets Fatter

Paris:- Sunday, 7. February 1999:- It's been another great week living in the centre of the funky western world. Locally, there has been the usual amount of murder and mayhem, suicides and assassinations, politics and rant and a lot of other dismal news that is not fit to publish here. You have the same stuff at home; so here you'll find as usual, that 'bad' news is not news.

However, something unusual happened, and it requires just a bit of background. Kids in certain neighborhoods, have taken up the 'sport' of setting cars on fire. Over this weekend, they torched a tour bus, which is a first.

On some weekends, around France maybe between 20 and 50 cars are cooked up. Nobody has any answer to the question about why this has become fashionable behavior. The law and order people have their usual remedies, but they hesitate to go so far as actually exercising 'repression.'

About a week ago, one car that had been set alight, exploded violently - on account of its GPL fuel tank. The explosion seriously injured firemen who were at the scene.

In France, the one class of worker I've never seen 'on strike' is fireman - but this is no longer a novelty. All the firemen in Lyon and many from the Rhône-Alps region, 4,000 of them, marched in silent protest on Thursday to the scene of the explosion.

The police did, in fact, track down the seven kids who torched the car; and they are in jail, facing up to 15 years of detention. On the evening of the march by the firemen, two more cars were set ablaze in the same neighborhood.

Paris' Green Belt

Since the creation in 1985 of the 'Green Space Agency,' the Paris region has slowly seen a vast green belt come intophoto: quai stairs, batobus existence. This 'belt' starts 10 km from Paris' centre, and extends out to 30 kms; making a circle with a diametre of 60 kms.

This area contains 300,000 hectares and five million people, who live in 410 communities. The 'green' part covers 160,000 hectares. Of this, the agency only controls about 20,000 hectares, but it watches over the whole and acts where it can to keep green space from being chewed up by bulldozers.

The outer edges of the circle are still largely agricultural and the agency works to keep these areas this way; even getting farmers to lease land that would otherwise be vacant. And bit by bit, the agency acquires more green space before the developers.

The Demographics of France

At the beginning of this year, France was estimated to have 59 million inhabitants. With off-shore territories and dependencies, France is estimated to have a total population of 61.3 million.

Off and on through time, the French have worried about being too few. This was acute after World War One, but it had happened before too.

Since 1997, the population is thought to have had a net increase of 240,000. With French women now having 1.75 babies, they are third position in the European Community, after the Irish and the Danes, who have nearly two on average.

First-time moms are starting later, at age 29.6; and this is attributed to longer studies and the difficulty of finding stable jobs. It means, of course, that many moms are 30 or over, when they have to start looking after babies for the first time. This could translate into lack of career advancement, due in part to the amount of time necessary for child care.

The immigration bugbear turns out to be largely mythical, with only 40,000 more foreigners moving in than left France in 1998; down from an influx of 80,000 in 1990.

Finally, life expectancy in France is stable at 74.6 years for men and 82.2 for women. This took a beating in 1998 when a particularly severe form of flu caused an extra 9,500 deaths more than in 1997.

The Prisoner of the Elevator

A 75 year-old lady in Paris, who was getting a bit old for her narrow and steep stairs, had an elevator installed in her home in the 11th arrondissement five years ago.

Last Sunday afternoon she rode to the cellar in it with the intention of getting water for washingphoto: stairs, ils st louis her floor. With two pails of water, she got back in the elevator and pushed the 'up' button.

The elevator went up and stopped before it got anywhere. The old lady phoned the elevator service people, but nobody came. She phoned until the batteries supplying the phone died. She emptied one pail so she could sit on it in the 80 by 80 cm space.

She didn't get hungry or thirsty and to keep warm she did exercises in the tiny space. On Wednesday evening, a neighbor wondered where she was and came by. The neighbor called the firemen when she found out where her friend was.

The elevator service company got the calls, but couldn't figure out who was calling or where they lived. The old lady says she gave them her address; but has no intention of bothering anybody about it.

The old lady said the last day was tough and to keep from hallucinating, she did a lot of knitting in her head.

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