Here Comes, There Goes, 'Hot' Weather

photo: cafe le colibri, madeleine

To look at this café terrace, you wouldn't know it
was the hottest day of the year.

Metropole Gives You Another Week Off

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 6. August 2001:- Since it does not require much thinking, I usually do 'Metropole One Year Ago and Two Years Ago,' further down this page, at any old time, if I don't almost forget to do it entirely. Since I actually read this 'feature' while doing it, I see that I have been on the job at this time of year for the past two summers.

Not so this year. I had a week off in July and now I'm going to take another week off. Given, because I work in France, that I should have to take five or six weeks off every year - my statutory holidays now have a deficit of about 15 weeks, including this year.

Do not worry about this! In about another thousand years I will be retired and I will have every week off all year round. I am not worried about this because Paris seems to havephoto: rue du chat qui peche decided that all retired residents must become tourists - or do something! - and nobody is permitted to become a total sloth.

It seems as if the days are past when it was perfectly okay to sprawl around in cafés writing, reading, or trying to have deeply philosophical discussions as a cover for meeting interesting people.

The Rue du Chat Qui Pêche is not an alley, but a 'street' from 2.5 to seven metres wide - since 1540.

This was always allowed for ten or 15 years, and then you had to work. On retirement, it was permitted to return to the cafés, smoke cigars and read the free papers. Philosophical discussions are not required when you are at retirement age or beyond it, because you've passed this course, presumably.

Anyhow, this is how it used to be when you were not ready for work yet, and after you had done your fair share of it. With the city urging its seniors to stop sprawling around and to get 'out there,' I expect the situation of Paris cafés to continue to decline.

This will not be the case for the Café Metropole Club. You can read about it having its meetings 'as usual' below.

Summer Weather

However, cafés may be saved by typical Paris summer weather. This is never right on the mark - it is nearly always 'above average for this time of year' - but rarely! - or 'below average for this time of year' - nearly all the time.

But last week, on Wednesday, 1. August 2001, Paris' weather was well over its 'average for this time of year' - when the day started somewhere in the 20s, was at 30 by noon and warmed up to slightly over 35 degrees centigrade in the afternoon. A light breeze made this all seem to be less warm than it was.

Looking back at last week's weather mention here, I see that Paris did have its summer weather, for practically two whole weeks, with only slight interruptions in the form of tropical rainstorms.

Looking forward in the weather department is not rewarding. Since last Wednesday we have already seen a slide from 'way above average, etc' to 'way below average for this time, etc.'

In some way the city seems to have retained a memory of its short-lived warmth, and our present "average temperatures for late March' seem warmer than they actually are, thermomentre-wise. However, the pouring rain at the moment is not fooling anybody.

'Café Life'

Street Music

It is not always the most common thing to see Parisians ambling around wearing berets, striped jerseys and carrying a baguette, but you do hear the sound of music in the streets a lot in the 'quartiers.'

A couple of days ago the knife-sharpener was making an unholy racket in my street, playing to an audience of shuttered and locked apartment windows. It went on and on, enough to wake the dead, or seriously late sleepers like myself.

The other day in the café, Jonathan told me he would be playing on Sunday afternoon, on the Pont Saint-Louis, with the group known around Paris as René Miller's 'Wedding Band.'

He told me they had recently gone on tour to Freiburg in Baden and had done much better there than in Strassbourg. But mostly the 'Wedding Band' plays in Paris - on marché streets and on bridges and sometimes underground in the métro.

The band would really like to get important gigs like - weddings! - but will also consider doing funerals, and they have a repertory for both, with pieces like 'Sweet Home Chicago' or 'Just a Closer Walk With Thee.'

Yesterday they were set up before noon in the marché section of the Rue Daguerre. While I watched, a lot of shoppers stopped forphoto: wedding band, rue daguerre a bit of a listen, for a bit of applause and even better, to buy the group's audio-CD - an item no self-respecting street band is without.

The 'Wedding Band's' first gig on Sunday - entertaining the seekers of food for lunch in the Rue Daguerre.

In the afternoon I was downtown looking for a sandcastle that I thought was in front of the Hôtel de Ville, and to see a mock ceremony of the Paris 'Greens' renaming the right bank speedway - from 'Voie Georges Pompidou' to something like 'Avenue de Hoofer Stroller Roller Biker,' on account of it being closed to motor traffic until 15. August.

Neither of these attractions or events were to be seen. The weather was turning from overcast to overcast-with-rain, but when I got to the Pont Saint-Louis which joins the Ile Saint-Louis to the Ile de la Cité, the 'Wedding Band' was just setting up - their umbrella.

This turned out to be not so necessary. The audience began to gather before they even started playing, and afterwards quickly swelled into a small and appreciative crowd. The size of this was deceptive because it constantly changed with the flow of pedestrians crossing the bridge between the two islands in the Seine.

Quite a number of the audience flipped coins into the box containing the CDs as they left. It is a good sign when an audience pays on the way out, and it looked like the 'Wedding Band' was going to do a good boxoffice.

Summer Substitutes

This morning in the cafe Le Bouquet two things were different. My neighborhood café was nearly empty, and it had a great big new waiter, dressed in the full-standard waiters' costume - with a tie.

This required me to request my usual double-café rather than lift an eyebrow or have it automatically and neatly placed by my elbow. I had hardly time to look at today's thin version of Le Parisien when Matt Rose, the painter, came in - and immediately noticed the new waiter too.

It seems like when cafés are opened they are supplied with waiters along with the beer taps and the café machine. Within a short time waiters become a true part of the café, and if it is a good café they seldom leave it - although owners occasionally move to Tahiti.

Le Bouquet does not have an excess of regular waiters, but during most of the year the café's owner and wife work in it too, and if they are on holidays, the owner's retired parents come in and work.

But the 35-hour week must have stretched the bit of flexibility there was, resulting in today's new substitute waiter.

Matt and I pondered about this. It is August, and although a lot of cafés are closed - all the ones that are staying open must need substitute waiters. Is there a stockpile of them someplace? Or do waiters, who are supposed to be on holiday, moonlight?

Have 'our' waiters, on holidays, gone to Saint-Tropez to work in a bar there? Millions of customers, who used to be here, are now there - and they need waiters to. Are they using ours?


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