Losers Win Big Party

photo: aux amis des halles, le gros minet

A part of Les Halles - more than 20 years old.

France, the Junkyard

Paris:- Sunday, 7. November 1999:- While there were serious events in Paris last week - which I hardly ever report anyway - the main news at the end of the week concerned the final rugby match in Cardiff, to determine the outcome of the World Championship.

France Wins Party - Rugby Takes Second Place

Despite the French team's miserable loss to Australia's Wallabies in Cardiff for the World Championship Rugby title yesterday, the evening's TV-news devoted its first 20 minutes to the subject.

The conclusion: France had done more than was possible by simply getting to play in the finals against Australia. After four months of intensive training, the French team reached its peak during its semi-final match against the New Zealand All Blacks last week.

The philosophical French think that if they had 'saved' their maximum performance for the Australians, theyphoto: rugby sign would have been beaten by New Zealand first - so coming in second can be considered a victory after all.

TV-news showed rugby fans watching the match on television in Marseille and in Sydney. While Australian supporters looked glum after France gained the first three points; game watchers in Marseille looked glum after the score was lopsidedly in Australia's favor.

A local café's promo for the big match on Saturday. Drinks were not 'on the house.'

French fans assisted the Australians in their Sydney rugby bar and an Australian fan was warmly congratulated in the Marseille bar. While this was going on, the third half-time was played in Cardiff's bars by fans of both teams.

This afternoon, 20 to 25,000 fans gathered at the Champ de Mars at 16:00 to wait for several hours for the French team to arrive - which they did on the open top of a double-decker bus.

To the music of bands, laser light shows and messages beamed from the Tour Eiffel, the French team did its 'war chant,' its boola-boola high kick and both fans and the team seemed to have a great time in the cool November air.

French players, interviewed by TV-news, seemed surprised at the enthusiastic welcome they received in Paris. Theyphoto: rugby cafe also did not seem too optimistic about knocking out the Australians the next time around, but this may have been due to their fairly recent push-and-shove encounter.

Inside the café, shortly after the beginning of the match.

After four hours the party broke up, with the players going off for a dinner cruise on the Seine - to be followed by yet more 'third-halves' around Paris.

Authorities also noted the considerable difference between rugby fans and football fans, after the Champ de Mars crowds left without demolishing any police cars or kicking in shop windows.

Meanwhile, the Sunday edition of Le Parisien carried reports about the game, the players, the fête - up to and including page seven.

Junkland & Cie

According to Le Parisien, about two million old cars are abandoned in France every year. They are left by roadsides and rail lines all over the country. Normally, when a car is too old and costly to maintain, it is taken to a wrecking firm, which issues a sort of 'certificate of destruction.'

A 1976 law requires automobile recyclers - car wreckers - to conform to a strict set of rules for containing dangerous liquid wastes, keeping them from polluting the ground, and for hiding the wrecks from view. Only the ones who are legally registered, are permitted to issue 'certificates of destruction.'

Of France's 3000 wreckers, only about a third of them comply. The others are called 'bad wreckers' - or outlaws - but there is little effective control exercised over them. They claim the 100,000-franc investment necessary to comply with the environmental rules is too costly.

A thousand wreckers have addressed an 'open letter' to the Minister of the Environment, denouncing the 'lawlessness' caused by the non-enforcement of the existing law.

This is a perfectly normal situation in France. Common-sense laws do exist, but in many cases enforcement isphoto: how bike lanes are made considered to be 'repression,' and this is not thought to be popular by prosecutors and the police.

Also normal, are denunciations; and although these are not considered to be polite, are common enough. Some people get hot when they think somebody else is 'getting away' with something - other people do it to cause their neighbors trouble.

In case you wondered, this is how the bike lanes are made.

France is a big country, one that is only slowly coming to grips with various sorts of industrial pollution. Hardly a day passes without some mayor somewhere finding out his commune is home to some abandoned poison factory.

Usually by the time this happens, those responsible have long disappeared and the mess left behind is huge - as well as very costly to clean up.

In news reports, it is often left unmentioned who pays for these depollution exercises. In the end, we all pay - with the actual polluters probably paying no more than the average taxpayer's share. 'Douce France.'

Banditos In Yvelines

With a rocket-launcher, between three and five ski-masked bandits attempted to crack open an armored car Friday night, just as it was returning full of cash to its depot in Trappes, near Saint-Quentin.

In an exchange of gunfire, the armored car's driver was hit three times but his two companions keptphoto: billboard last restos du coeur up a return fire that eventually drove off the attackers. Then they raced him to a nearby clinic, where he was later reported to be out of danger.

The 'Restos de Coeur,' founded by Coluche, get ready for the century's final winter.

On Saturday morning at a shopping mall to pick a load of cash from a bank, only a few kilometres from the Friday night shootout, another armored car crew was attacked with tear gas by four bandits.

Le Parisien's report says the bandits got away with the guards' guns, but went empty-handed in the cash department. Their grey Audi was last seen heading east towards Vélizy.

The Versailles judicial police, heading the investigation into the attempted twin robberies, do not think the two attacks were related. They noted that this type of crime increases at this time of year because bandits think the armored cars are carrying more money.

I do not have any statistics, but armored cars are regularly attacked in France, and usually with shockingly high levels of violence.

French Web Life

There was no 'French Web Life' this week.

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