I'd Walk a Mile for a Baguette

photo: bistro du dome, bastille

Montparnasse's Le Dôme has a branch at Bastille.

Your Ducks are In Danger, Louis!

Paris:- Sunday, 11. July 1999:- You may be ready to do this, but Madame, Le Parisien's housewife, is grumbling about it. Here it is traditional vacation time in France and the butcher, the baker and the shops downstairs are taking advantage of it.

In Paris, Madame says she can get everything, but it is a little further away. If all of the local shops are closed, she wants to know why they can't post the addresses of their summer substitutes, like pharmacies do for their weekly closing days.

Apparently Monsieur is grumbling too. While Madame is trudging 'all over town' to get daily necessities, her substitute 'finds' do not match the quality found in the closed shop downstairs. In some extreme cases, Madame is even forced to resort to supermarkets, which are mostly open all year-round.

This story is in Le Parisien and it is a real cook-up job. Thephoto: theatre montparnasse fact is, very few Parisians live above their favorite shops and many routinely shop at supermarkets. Not everybody lives next to a street-marché either - so the walking to shop is reality and normal.

Not all of the theatres in the Rue de Gaité are named 'Montparnasse.'

Out in the country, it can be a real problem when the village's only baker takes off for a month of play and frivolity - but in Paris, substitutes for favorite shops are seldom far away. Monsieur could help out a bit too instead of watching summer re-runs - re-runs of last summer's re-runs that is - on TV.

The plus side of shopping in summer, is mostly about the fact that Madame and Monsieur are themselves away on holidays - thus shortening the lines of the cash counters, no matter where they are.

The Angst of the Back-seat Driver

About a third of French lady front-seat car passengers have fear often or quite often, according to a recent study done for the 'Securité Routière' organization. When hubby is driving, Madame is not tranquil.

Lady passengers, 'who are on the edge of a nervous breakdown,' do not necessarily tell their driving husbands. But 29 percent do, while 32 percent only rarely, and 12 percent never do.

'Making the situation worse' is one reason not to bring it up whilephoto: trottoir merde moto the car is in motion. 'Bothering the driver' is another reason for not doing it. But apparently resignation is wrong because in two cases out of three, the driver will take a warning seriously.

The daring young man on the green motorcycle helps to keep Paris sidewalks clean.

The study was done to find out how to get drivers to act a bit more responsibly. Getting the messages of angst from passengers through to drivers might work, psychologists think; but to expect a lot of wisdom from younger ladies who might appreciate speed just as much as the next guy, is too much.

Another expert thinks the average passenger might not be the best source of a co-pilot. Moms fear the risks of driving too and may not want to relieve dad for parts of long hauls; thus setting off a long silence while pop sweats it out behind the wheel, driving to the edge of his competence.

The Prosecutor Hates Jokes

You may remember the story around Halloween time last year about the flying virgins and the waltzing candles at Saint-Hubert church in the village of Delain. After an exorcist was called in by the Archbishop, the cops finally got the mayor to confess to the hanky-panky.

On Thursday the trial judge decided not to follow the prosecutor's demand for four months' suspended sentence and loss of civil rights and the right to vote, and settled on a sentence of 150 hours of community service.

The state prosecutor had also demanded a penalty 'inversely proportional to the impact of the media' on the story. As a 'media person' I do not know if this means I will be partly responsible for the ex-mayor getting community service or not getting a harder time.

According to his lawyer, the ex-mayor 'confesses every day.' An exorcist has been mopping up too. Apparently, it was the ex-mayor's intention to have nothing more than a little - and local - joke on the village's 200 inhabitants.

But he had not reckoned on the 'vampire' press, ever watchful for good 'miracle' stories. 'We' forcedphoto: armada de siecle, le parisien him into elaborating the joke, to amuse the world, is how it goes. I'll admit the press can be a bit seedy at times; but it's just plain bad taste and greed - not outright malice.

It is not our concern that 'France was made to look ridiculous' or that the 'law and justice were mocked.' This is what the prosecutor imagines.

To the prosecutor these opinions are a serious offenses, even if they can't be proven to be facts. Therefore additional charges of theft, insults to public officials and destruction of public property are still being considered.

It seems as if our hapless ex-mayor, 32, didn't realize there are some people in France who think joking is illegal. This in itself is a joke and the authorities seem determined to prove they don't get it.

Madame, La Zingueuse

The Prime Minister's office has run up a flag proposing to change the gender of some French words to suit the gender of the person to whom the word is attached. This comes after a lady cabinet minister objected to being officially known as 'Le Ministre.'

Just to prove that the French language is not stuffy or indifferent to changing winds, the Prime Minister's proposal includes changing 'un docteur' to 'une docteure,' 'un pizzaïol' to 'une pizzaïola,' 'un rabbin' to 'une rabbine' and 'un zingueur' to 'une zingueuse.'

This is fine with me, and will be helpful when I call government ministers on the phone. If I need a zinc roof fixed I may as well call in une zingueuse as un zingueur, but I'm not quite sure what I will get when addressing une pizzaïola. My antique 'Nouveau' Petit Larousse - apparently masculine - just says 'pizza' and lets it go at that.

France Télécom's Revenge

For some time all sorts of XYZ characters have been peddling 'magic' phone cards for making low-priced calls. I've wondered how they can offer these sweet deals, while using national monopoly operator France Télécom's lines.

The answer comes when the Authorité de Régulation des Télécommunications - 'ART' for short - decides to let good old FT whack a 25-centime per minutephoto: la comedie italienne, rue gaite tax on top of what it charges independent operators - who have been buying the interconnection service at wholesale prices, passing on the savings, and thereby undercutting FT's retail rates for its own phone cards.

The independents are howling because now their rates will be close to FT's; which charges a franc a minute for its standard phone card of 50 minutes. France Télécom says it is obliged to maintain the public telephone cabins - where all cards are accepted - and this is why it wants the money.

One of the theatres in the Rue de Gaité is named 'La Comédie Italienne.'

Wail they may, but the independent operators have had a year to wait for the ART's decision and now have another five months in which to continue cleaning up like the 'Minitel Millionaires' they were dreaming of becoming. When the time is up, we will all pay the full load.

'Big Lard" Takes a Fall

In the suburb known as the Cité Balzac, residents didn't call Miloud delicate names. 'Meatball' or 'Big Lard' were two that are printable. Miloud is not very tall, but pushes the needle up to a cool 105 kilos on the scales.

This didn't stop him from wearing men's-sized high-heeled shoes while robbing banks. To make the costume complete, the over-size short bandit often wore a wig, falsies, a dress and slick pumps. He also took the trouble to apply tinted cream to hide unusual skin blotches, in order to look good on the banks' video-security cameras.

Since October of last year, he's starred in about 20 videos and managed to collect 1.7 million francs, armed with waterpistols. In this he was following in the steps of an uncle well-known to the police. After holdups he was said to distribute part of the loot in the streets of Balzac - sort of like "Robin Hood - Fat Man in Tights."

By pure bad luck, at a bank in Oziers-la Ferrière, 'Big Lard' got a spot on his nice dress. The spot was made by a nasty cash drawer full of indelible ink. Forced to flee in high heels, he took a car driver hostage, who has yet to recover his sang-froid after the strange encounter.

After the bungled job, Milous put away the soiled item and went back to his more traditional moustache and wig disguise, leaving only the videos already in police cinemas to testify to his skill at impersonating fat lady bankrobbers.

Today he is far from his under-weight 40-kilo girlfriend - sitting behind Swedish curtain rods with six of his gang. On jobs, he used a rotating team of three of them, so as to pass unnoticed. Supposing one can do so, when disguised as a yellow, 105-kilo canary in high-heeled sneakers. The account in Le Parisien didn't say who snitched on 'Big Lard.'

Your Ducks are In Danger, Louis!

While housewives in Paris are apparently worried about where their next baguette is coming from, four teenagers in Versailles decided to 'hunt for the pot.' What better place than on the old Bourbon property, known locally as the Château de Versailles?

When nabbed by chance by local gendarmes, the quartet of poachers were found to have two rifles and a knife, but no booty; despite having firing several rounds at local ducks without waking up the chateau's security service.

This service combs the park and the chateau just before closing time each day, looking for tourists who may have the intention of staying the night without an invitation.

How the poachers got in, is unknown. This was a first case of this type for the Versailles police.

France - Now the Score

We were counted by the census and the score is 60,082,000 inhabitants in France. This number includes those residing in Corsica, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Martiniqué and Reunion; the Reunion which has 107,000 and I don't know where it is.

Since the last census in 1990 France has gained two million residents, but Paris has lost 36,200 inhabitants. These might not have gone far because the Ile-de-France population rose by a third of a point to 10,960,600 - which is about a million short of the number I usually quote.

The inner suburbs gained slightly, while the greater part of the Ile-de-France area gained almost 270,000. The inner Hauts-de-Seine department picked up 31,600 new residents and alone almost accounts for Paris' loss, except that those leaving Paris might have chosen the less expensive departments to the north-east and south-east.

Or Parisians move even further away - to Lille in the north, to Rennes in Brittany, Orléans, Nantes, Angers, Stasbourg in Alsace, Lyon, Toulouse, Aix or way down-south to Montpellier.

Of these, the top increase was scored by Nantes, which jumped 9.67 percent. The big Lyon suburb of Villeurbanne had the smallest of the 'big' increases with a growth of 4.38 percent; all the others were between this and the number for Nantes.

Generally, the population increases were in the Ile-de-France and west along the Seine valley to the coast. The whole west coast of France below Brittany showed substantial increases, especially aroundphoto: waffle wagon, bd montparnasse Nantes and Bordeaux. All the departments bordering the Mediterranean also had big increases; extending up into the Alps areas. Finally, the eastern area of Alsace showed a substantial general increase too.

With the extra 2 million people, you'd think some of them would be eating waffles.

Losers in the population contest were departments in the very geographical centre of France, joined to an area running down behind the Atlantic coast winners, all the way to the Pyrenees.

Montmartre in Paris is supposed to have 'lost' 2000 residents and its mayor, Daniel Vaillant who is also deputy-mayor of Paris, is not happy about it.

In addition to his subjective estimate of the numbers of squatters and transient students, he has a real list of 2000 little kids waiting for places in pre-kindergartens, and 6-7000 on a list waiting for public housing in the 18th arrondissement, which includes Montmartre.

As in every census, the numbers are not everybody's tax-collector's dream.

Paris - Now the Movie

Last week's contents page featured a photo of a Morris column with an ad for the movie 'Le Voyage à Paris.' Le Parisien's movie critic gives this film a rave of four stars, which is a very good score indeed for a first film by Marc-Henri Dufresne.

Daniel, played by Olivier Broche, is an employee of a toll-booth on the autoroute when he inherits his father's collection of souvenir Tour Eiffels.

He's always dreamed of 'rising' to Paris - it's near the top on most maps of France - and the day he finally decides, launches an adventure sowed with ambushes. The movie is about almost getting to Paris. As with all good comic movies by Tati, this one is also short: a full 85 minutes long. Remember: four stars!

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