Ohhhh - The Winter!

photo: bistro le petit celestin

If the water in the Seine rises too much, you can
wait it out here.

Dramas In the Alps

Paris:- Sunday, 28. February 1999:- If I am personally negative about 'winter sports' it is because I had to shovel a lot of it when I was a young lad. A pal, living next door, got skis one Christmas and got a broken leg before New Years. I could harmlessly skid around in the golf course across the street, and that was as good as I wanted it to be.

All the same, this past week has been exceptionally terrible in the Alps; in France, Switzerland and in Austria - and I feel sincerely sorry for people who have been risking their lives or losing them just to have some fun.

Mountain professionals are saying there have been few winters like it - with lots of snow; freezing and thawing. It is just bad everywhere.

On account of the seasonal industry that the mountains support, everybody crosses their fingers in hopes that there will be no disaster. This year seems to be exceptional - butphoto: adademie de magie nobody is willing to tell winter sports fans to stay home.

The three mountain trekkers who hid themselves from the elements in an igloo for 10 days, left a press conference in anger when a reporter asked them if they hadn't started out with a warning not to do so.

School holidays mean sking for some; magic for others.

Their survival was an amazing feat of knowledge and self-control. Less has been said about the risks the searchers were taking in trying to find them; in high winds and often in blizzard conditions.

A day after Le Parisien was calling this season a 'drama,' it had been downgraded to 'catastrophe.'

Paris Bourse Goes Big Casino

Television ads have been bombarding - one of my favorite words! - us with offers to buy shares in France Telecom, or like last week, in Air France, which saw its share price jump 13.7 percent from the initial offering price.

Since the newspapers are telling money hoarders - savers - that the basic interest rate on savings may dip below three percent, taking a flutter on the casino at the Bourse has started to seem attractive. Three percent won't even cover France Telecom's rate rises after all.

FT's first offering, in October of 1997, has risen by about 200 percent. Their second, in December of last year, has risen 39 percent so far. Since Air France's launch into the cool skies of rampant capitalism last month, their shares have picked up 15 percent in value.

But selling state enterprises is not all rosy. Thompson CSF, which makes all sorts of electronic stuff - high-tech in other words - is wallowing around with a rise of only 1.6 percentscan: versailles toilet ticket since last June. Insurance biggie, CNP, has risen only 4.3 percent - which is a lot less than the Bourse as a whole.

I thought it would be free. Louis must be hard up.

French savers are very prudent, but the government wants them to give up their savings accounts and their life insurance - to get their money circulating a bit more swiftly, in the hopes they will invest in something that will create jobs.

Doing this is not the primary intention of these semi-ex state concerns, because the government usually maintains a controlling interest - so that the ownership can't transfer to Wall Street or Tokyo.

And it still means, with the all the muscle and all the money available for hoopla, there is very little investment money floating around for small and medium-sized businesses - not to mention tiny start-ups.

This is not to say there are no smaller, less well-known firms on the Bourse because there are. If you aren't out for a fast buck, a number of these are good picks if you are willing to 'buy and hold.'

Semi-Good News for Harassed Drivers

As a safety measure, Paris deputy-mayor Hervé Benessiano, thinks that small motorbikes and scooters should be required to have licenses. He is not the only one; a new regulation is creeping towards enactment, possibly by the end of this year - if the authorities can figure out how to license two million of these things.

The reason for alarm is simple: the number of accidents involving these vehicles has risen 27 percent, and injuries are up by 55 percent. Everyphoto: cafe etoile sud, versailles day in France, two are killed and 20 are injured. A 1998 study showed two-wheelers were involved in half the traffic accidents in Paris.

If I had gone to the Etoile Sud instead, for an extra 3F50 I could of had a café too.

What is being planned are license plates; not necessarily driver's licenses. Below a certain size, and below certain ages, a driver's permit is not necessary.

Paris' police prefect, Philippe Massoni, thinks requiring vehicle plates will make the two-wheeler drivers more responsible - because, with plates, the cowboys will be identifiable.

This overlooks one item. People who do not have driver's licenses have not passed driving tests. Parked scooters are harmless; they can only get into trouble when somebody is driving them on the roads with all the other traffic. A licenseless scooter driver doesn't need to fear losing a license he doesn't have.

Euro Elections

If the French - some of the French, that is - seem a bit distracted these days it is because they are creating new political parties with which to contest the approaching elections for the Euro parliament.

So far, I think I saw that there are now 20 parties in France. In the muddled mainstream, there are six parties which are leftist and seven that have right-wing tendencies. These include groups at the furthest ends of the scale from extreme to moderate.

'Les Verts' are getting strong media play because they have a government minister in their ranks and they also have the - very - active campaigning of Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who is also a leader of the 'Grünen' in Frankfurt - not to mention that Germany's foreign minister is the national leader of the 'Greens' party there.

With all the excitement over the recent German election result, and the new government's decision to ease itself out of relying on nuclear power, Red Danny has had some problems during campaigning.

Workers at France's nuclear reprocessing factory were not amused by the German decision to tear up their contract for treating nuclear junk. When Danny showed up to promote 'Les Verts' and being a charter member of 'Die Grünen,' his welcome was a lot less than frosty.

But since then, he has been getting good turnouts in the centre of France where there is less pollution and more people who want to keep it that way.

Another thing that bothers both the left and the right about Danny, is that he talks a lot of common sense and does it like a common citizen - even if he is good at it. At political meetings, he doesn't sit behind the table on the podium - he sits on the table, at the front of it.

For Serious Party People - But Out of Town

'Out of town' is Grafinger Straße 6, behind the Ostbahnhof in Munich and the name of the place is Kunstpark Ost. Under a roof covering 80,000 square metres, there are 30 clubs and 42 beer joints, and a lot of naked people.

Four years ago Munich was shutting down. Residents got tired of the noise from beer-gardens, from the exhibition centre and the bierfest, from traffic, from the airport; they wanted everybody - raus! - in bed by 22:00. But this is not Munich's style at all.

The one-time Pfanni noodle factory became the 'Kunstpark Ost' as an over- reaction, so it has excessively overreached other well-known German party zones such as the Fabrik in Hamburg and the Hackeschen Höfe in Berlin.

On evenings and weekends, 20,000 people ready to party fill the 'Kunstpark,' and by sheer numbers make widely different unmixable scenes, into one big soup of a party in places like the Bongo Bar - this is true! - and Ultraschall, one of Europe's highest-rated clubs - rated for loudness, I think.

Nobody dares to complain about modest little beer-gardens anymore, but there probably are more than a couple of people living near the Ostbahnhof who are counting the days until the 'Kunstpark's' lease expires, on 31. December 2000. No reservations necessary, come as you are, come soon, and open all night. Prosit!

Finally - the Flood News

As of last Wednesday, the expresswaysphoto: seine at bougival along the Seine through Paris were closed on account of high water in the river. For some reason, the 'normal' level of the river is calculated as 0.82 metres at Suresnes.

The 'flood news' photo is on the Café page. This is the day-after non-flood news photo; taken at Bougival.

When the level hits 3.3 metres, the roadways ny the Seine are closed. Last Tuesday, the level was measured as 3.6 metres. In this century, the highest level was 8.62 metres and this was in 1910. This level would come up to the shoulders of the statue of the Zouave at the Pont de l'Alma.

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