August's Headlines

photo: bistro aux vieux colombier

My cafés and bistros are a bit mixed this week -
this may be a café.

The Eclipse, Pots of Money and No Smoking

Paris:- Sunday, 8. August 1999:- The newspaper headlines reflect the essential character of the first week of this month, when editors suspect nobody may be reading them.

Heat, pollution - what you need to know, on Tuesday. Eclipse glasses alert, on Wednesday. The passion of do-it-yourself, on Thursday. Football player transfer fee phenomenon, on Friday. Beaches - the new restrictions, on Saturday. All, heavy reading.

Why Heat Worsens Pollution

Dog-day heat and increasing pollution are more and more common, says Le Parisien. The earth is heating up - true, says Le Parisien. High temperatures worsen automobile pollution - true, says the paper. And sophoto: bistro l'atelier, montparnasse on, including every summer's standard claim that drought is gaining ground in France.

This was the theme of the day last in Tuesday's editions - based on Monday's weather. By mid-week, winds were blowing in summer storms and blowing away pollution; just like every summer.

The one new element about wind, was the mention that Paris' pollution blew southwest - to cause initial pollution alerts, not in Paris, but in the southwest departments of Essonne and Yvelines. Two departments, in themselves, relatively pollution-free.

Three out of five of Le Parisien's readers did not agree with the paper's proposition that summers are more and more warm - proving perhaps that Le Parisien's readers are skeptical about what they read and go by what they feel.

By week's end summer storms had caused flooding and downed power lines throughout France, forcing the electricity company to recall vacationing line workers.

Fake Eclipse Shades

Exactly one week before the mythic date of our celestial magic show, stories appeared about the inability of certain 'CE'-branded eclipse safety-glasses to shield spectator's eyes from the sun's powerful radiations. The first dud glasses were made in Colombia.

Fraud inspectors, of whom there are not many, attempted to verify some of the 36 million pairs of glasses ready to be distributed or in circulation. Many of these are sold for a nominal five francs or given away in every sort of promotion.

An inspection of your own eclipse glasses should reveal a printed mention as follows: 'CE' and 'INRS,' 'BSA' or 'DIN-CERTCO,' for respectively, France, Britain and Germany. Thephoto: metro line 6, tour eiffel suffix-letters stand for the technical certification organizations in each country.

If the only thing you can see through your eclipse glasses are clearly-defined, lit halogen lamps, then your glasses are probably okay. Even if okay, during the eclipse it is recommended that you only glance at the spectacle for seconds at a time.

Other dud glass was reporting to be coming from Taiwan by TV-news, which ran one or more eclipse items in every broadcast. For last-minute Charlies like me, I'll get up early Tuesday and buy Le Parisien or its national edition, Aujourd'hui, which is attaching eclipse glasses to 600,000 copies.

It's Crazy Summer Do-It-Yourself Time

Some 40 percent of the residents of France do not go away for summer vacations. Some of these stay-at-homes cannot afford to, but many others use their annual days off to decorate their new houses or apartments, or redecorate their existing ones.

Just when you think shoppers may be a bit thin on the sidewalks of the Rue de Rivoli in central Paris, all you have to do is visit the basement hardware departments of Samaritaine and the BHV, to see where the action is.

Dads, and some moms, are busily buying paint, brushes, wallpaper, tools, sinks, and all of the other odds and ends designed for renewing or improving living quarters.

Le Parisien has expert advice: 'With two hours available for do-it-yourself, go to a movie,' says one. In a day, you can carpet on 10 square-metre room, Mr. Fixit says. In three days, you can paint one. With a whole week, you can tile your kitchen floor.

The secret to most home-improvement jobs is to spend two-thirds of the time on preparation, a bit on doing the job, and a good bit on cleaning up the mess.

Two of Le Parisien's interviewed lady 'bricoleures' do-it-themselves, two get their husbands to do it and one tricks friends into doing it. No men were asked if they liked doing 'bricolage.'

My answer on their behalf, sitting in a new apartment that needs some work, is I wish I had a husband who liked doing it. If do-it-yourself is seen as a sea of opportunity, I am in the Bermuda Triangle of it.

Paris Kid Gets 'Jackpot'

TV-news did not abandon eclipse news entirely late in the week to go gaga about the transfer fee paid by Real Madrid to Britain's Arsenal for young footballer Nicolas Anelka, whichphoto: terrace rue rennes, montparnasse was reported to be 220 million francs - something like 37 million dollars.

It was not a record for this transfer season, but it was pretty good for a big kid from Trappes in Yvelines, who will receive a monthly salary of two million francs, on a contract lasting seven years.

Anelka started out as a junior with PSG and went into first division competition at 17 in 1996. In January of 1997 he signed with Arsenal and was with them in 1998 when Arsenal captured the British Cup; scoring the winning goal over Newcastle. Called back to France for the national team, he was not selected to play in the World Cup last year.

The young footballer did not have an easy time with the sporting press in England, and we'll have to wait and see how he does with Real Madrid's fans, who will be expecting more than great things from this star player.

'Rules' Invade French Beaches and Resorts

In the summertime - and in this summer particularly - the French like to go to the beach and act relaxed.

They like to listen to music, smoke a Gitanes or two, and maybe have a little Rosé with their noontime picnic. If something is missing, they like to just go to the nearest shop in the seaside resort and get it.

This summer, in many places, some of or all of the above have been banned by certain beachside communities. The no-smoking rule applies to some beaches where grass and trees are near the sand and the fire hazard is high.

It also applies to some beaches that are very wide. As far as music goes, personal sound systems have been around for a long time, and not everybody wants to hear somebody's else's musical choices from a portable stereo box. Some people will not leave their portable phones at home either, but these have not been banned yet.

Apparently the mayors of some towns think shoppers wearing only bathing suits are a health hazard, and have set minimum dress codes. Deauville did this three years ago for the benefit of the idle well-offs, but this year it is neighboring 'populaire' Trouville that has followed suit - although without fines for infractions.

For the no-smoking, the fines can run from 900 francs to 5000 - but this is for the prevention of forest fires in risky areas, mainly where the windy Mistral is common.

Begging has been banned in Sète on the Mediterranean and 'aggressive' begging has been banned in Nice on the Côte d'Azur. The anti-nudity decrees affect Arcachon and Cannes as well as Deauville.

The drinking ban at Morlaix, Canet-en-Roussillon and Béziers seems to be the result of young people being careless with multiple sixpacks of beer, and their empties. Beach-side bar keepers do not all agree with the bans; somephoto: cosmos cafe, montparnasse are indifferent while others welcome them because the stuff is purchased at supermarkets.

Many of the French do not care for these bans, decrees and possible fines, even if they do not drink, smoke or go in for nude shopping. The beach is believed to be an area of 'total' freedom from city nuisances such as parking tickets and other forms of year-round stress.

The problem seems to be that there are many more older and conservative people around who want to have city standards of conformity, while there is a minority of young people who want to 'let it all hang out' a bit further than is really necessary.

The vast majority of the French are willing to accept 'laissez-faire' in summer, and many of the police called on to enforce the new regulations, would prefer not to.

Weather Forecast for the Eclipse

TV weather-news has been followed in Northern France with more attention than usual, as the date for the eclipse draws near.

In line with the media's tendency to act as a spoil-sport, weather reports late in the week were semi-gloomy for next Wednesday. Tonight's report has reversed this trend, with black clouds to the north and north-east, leaving a narrow band of clear air from the channel, almost to Alsace.

The official weather guru says, forecasts are accurate - plus-minus 500 kilometres. The path of the eclipse will not vary by 'plus-minus 500 kilometres' so on Wednesday, you will either need the smoked goggles, or you won't.

I will have my cameras' batteries charged fully, just in case. I will not cheat by taking any pictures at night, or just putting in black rectangles and calling them 'photos' either.

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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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