...Continued from page 1

The second gang, with an older crew, were less hit-and-run and more choosy. They didn't hesitate to wave big guns around and take hostages, to get as far as banks' safes. Unlike the first gang, the second group robbed banks outside the Paris region; staging hold-ups in Bordeaux, Lille, Metz and Nice.

Real pros, they avoided the usual police methods of detection. But the crooks made a technical error; during a hold-up one of them left his wallet behind, containing the name of a hotel in Bagnolet.

This gang's leader - with a four-month stay in a Belgian jail early this year included - was suspected of masterminding the knocking over of 40 banks over two years, for a total haul of more than a million francs.

This sum, even if inexact, could be divided by two years, the number of the gang members, and with professional expenses subtracted - couldn't have made much more than average wages for each member.

Help Wanted - Grapepickers

In the grape region of Beaujolais, this year's harvest is expected to be a big one and will possibly begin as early as late August. The 3500 vineyards there will need 40,000 pairs of hands to bring in the grapes.

Normally recruitment is by word-of-mouth and small classified ads, but these are not bringing enough candidates this year. The ANPE, the national employment agency, is advertising too, without coming close to its quota.

What's happened, is the economy has picked up. Short-term - six to 12 days - grape picking jobs are no longer in demand. Harvesting machines can't be used because grapes picked with them lose their quality AOC label.

Daily wages, for eight hours of hard work, are between 229 and 248 francs, with meals included. If interested, contact the ANPE, Service Vendanges de Belleville, 8. Rue du 14-Juillet, 69220 Belleville. Info. Tel.: 04 74 66 14 10.

Summer TV

Re-runs, 'bests of' and recycles are the ideas of TV's summer programmers in France. Thisphoto: friday opera steps is according to Friday's Le Parisien, which didn't have any other 'news' for its inside pages two and three.

Normally, each summer brings out at least one new romantic series to make viewers wake up from their siestas, but this area is deserted this summer.

No TV on the steps of the Opéra; just a bit of Paris sunshine.

The summer is also a time for TV to send up its trial balloons, but not this year. The only new show is 'Qui Veut Gagner des Millions?' - which is a copy of some foreign shows that are currently popular.

I'm as bad as Le Parisien. This is not news, even if I don't watch enough TV to be able to tell what is a re-run or not.

Web Life In France:

This was so little and so low-key last week that the high point may be Al Gore's possible Democratic Party nomination for President of the USA this week. Meanwhile, the weather is a good standby - as boring and transitory as it is.

La Chaine Météo

To bring an umbrella, to bring a hat - this is the question. If you are having difficulty deciding, check out the 'La Chaine Météo' for French weather forecasts - up to six days in the future. If your trip is planned for six months in the future, don't worry. Both umbrellas and hats are sold in many Paris shops. But if it is raining when you decide to buy, don't expect any discounts.

The 'Official' Weather

Météo France is the official source for the TV-weather people and for other professionals who are concerned with the state of France's skies. If you don't get French TV where you are, you can get the weather from where they get it, before they put their version on TV. Because it is 'official,' don't expect forecasts to exceed 24 hours. Since they can't do anything about it, they don't talk about it much.

Summer Festivals, Continued

Take a look at the Ministry of Culture's Web site for the section "Organismes" and then look for the Festivals category, and should find nearly 1000 events on this summer throughout France. Festivals are better than TV; a lot better.

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