...Continued from page 1

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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