The Weather, Coluche and the Euro

photo: cafe le match, rue reaumur

In Paris, night now starts about siesta time.

With the 'Club' In the Middle

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 17. December 2001:- It is not only darn cold here but there is a really sneaky wind blowing around, making it feel like it is a lot worse than the zero it is - although Le Parisien says it is one or two degrees above.

On top of it - yes, it is 'on top' - there is a clear ice-blue sky, so if the wind doesn't make your eyes dribble, then you really have to squint to see anything - and this can make your eyes dribble too.

But this is not so bad. The sun doesn't rise above the horizon much before 8:40 and it disappears before 17:00. Within the next few days the first time will get a bit later and the second a bitphoto: logo resto du coeur earlier - until 'Hiver' day arrives next Thursday, which all should remember is much more night-like than daylight.

In other parts of France the weather is quite extreme, with highs maybe as high as 10 degrees on Corsica, if it isn't having the 'snowfall of the century,' which it had for a while last week. The 'lows' might be around -5 if you are far from Paris, but mainly sunny skies are predicted until Friday, when eastern France will become a crummy- weather zone.

'Café Life'

'Restos du Coeur'

This was the name given to an idea in 1985, by the comedian Coluche, to feed the hungary in food-surplus France. It continues every year with two purposes - putting basic food packages together, and providing hot meals to those without cooking facilities, usually because they are homeless.

The homeless in France are estimated to be as being 0.5 percent of the population, which is the equivalent of 300,000 real children, women and men. Last year in Paris, the 'Restos du Coeur' fed 20,000 people 1,447,000 meals over a period of four months.

Individual volunteers, associations andphoto: 2cv club 92, collection clubs collect the food and deliver it to warehouses, where it is repackaged and shipped to distribution centres. Another army of volunteers either hand it out or dish it out.

Club members checking donations for excess spaghetti - which they return to the supermarket for something more appropriate.

Last week Dimitri told me his '2CV Club 92' in Antony would be doing a 'collection' outside a supermarket near the RER 'B' station of Fountaine-Michelon, which is in Antony even if it is just over the border in 'zone 4.'

So on Saturday, he got up while it was still good and dark and about minus-four, while I warmly waited for daylight before taking a fairly short RER ride out to a 'zone.'

Beside a 'cité' of a high-rise housing complex, the '2CV Club 92' had a mid-sized Franprix supermarket surrounded with about four 2CVs. The club members handed out 'Les 2CV du Coeur' shopping lists. These were necessary because most citizens think hungry people want spaghetti and pasta, and experience has shown that these can be too much of a good thing.

While I was there, most shoppers coming out of the supermarket donated something to the 'collection' while club members clapped their hands together or hopped up and down to keep warm.

They expected to stay all day - about 12 hours in all, except for a two-hour break for a hot lunch in a café. All of this was plain enough to see in about six minutes, so I didn't wait around to see a 2CV loaded with 500 kilos of tinned ham and 'petits pois' lurching off to a collection warehouse.

Around France, the 'Restos du Coeur' have about 2000 distribution centres. Their main campaign is concentrated during the winter months from December to March, but a lesser level of activity is maintained throughout the year.

'Restos du Coeur' is a non-profit association, initiated by the late comedian Coluche, who said, "When I was little, the hardest times were always the end of the month. Especially the last 30 days."

The economic 'poverty level' of income per month in France is currently about 3650 francsphoto: 2cv club 92, franprix for a single person. This is roughly half of the minimum wage. Residents of France living at or below the 'poverty level' number about five million, or nine percent of the population.

Actually, only one 2CV was necessary. The other three were back-up spares.

At the beginning of 2000, under the 'administrative' definitions of poverty, the numbers were slightly higher - at a half-million persons more, or roughly 10 percent of the population.

Although 'misery is not fatal,' it is worth remembering that it exists in 'douce France' - fairly close to luxo 'Capons' and ultra-fancy designer threads. It is also worth remembering that there is a small army of volunteers who give their time and energy to associations like the 'Restos du Coeur.'

Paris' Christmas, Winter Sales 2002

All of Paris' 'grands magazins' will be open next Sunday on 23. December for plain but frenzied Christmas shopping. Many other stores in Paris will be open on this Sunday too.

If you choose to skip the pre-Christmas season, the 'Winter Sales' mayhem begins on Wednesday, 9. January and continues until Saturday, 16. February, when regular-price 'Spring Shopping' is supposed to begin - but usually doesn't because everybody is broke.

Try and buy as much as you can as soon as you can so 'Spring Shopping' can start earlier. The sooner these sales can be gotten out the way, the sooner the 'Summer Sales' can start unloading the 'spring' stuff.

Café Metropole Club 'Updates'

Readers can catch up with last week's club subjects by reading the meeting's report concerning the nearly historic Moyer-Moyer 'Meet of the Week.'

While you are thinking over the sheer thrill of this, the coming meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on Thursday, 20. December - because it is a Thursday again - and it will be at the Café-Tabac La Corona.

I have also been assured that Patrick, the club's popular 'Waiter of the Week,' is eager to servephoto: passage verdeau club members again. He will be making sure that there is enough onion soup for all, so don't let him down.

The coming Thursday will be just another fairly ordinary Thursday-type day called Saint-Abraham, which is not any kind of known holiday in France.

Paris' passages are the places to find really unusual gift ideas, often at reasonable prices.

The following day will not be an ordinary Friday, because it is called 'Hiver' and it will be the shortest day of the year. If short Fridays are a favorite of yours, make the most of what there is of it - even though the following and final one this year will be slightly longer.

Metropole readers and those wishing to become club members can learn all about this free club by glancing at the 'About the Club' page, again. It explains how to join, its meeting time and so on, and other true facts such as being free. This page also contains a location map for the club's café La Corona, which has been splendidly renovated.

Details For the Meeting In New York On 27. December

After the club's secretary wraps up the coming meeting in the Café La Corona next Thursday on 20. December, he is going to fly from Paris across the very wide Atlantic Ocean to New York City.

On the following Thursday, 27. December, one of the club's two meetings of the day will be held at the Rue des Crêpes café in New York City. This club meeting begins at 5 pm, or 17:00. Here is the exact address:

Rue des Crêpes, 104 - 8th Avenue, Manhattan, New York City 10011. This location is between 15th and 16th Streets on the east side of 8th Avenue. InfoTel.: 212 242 99 00.

New York's street and public transport system is more elaborate than Paris,' so read the following and pay some attention to detail if you don't want to end up on Staten Island because there are more than three access possibilities.

First with the 'E' train - to the 14th Street station, at 14th Street and 8th Avenue, with another exit at the corner of 8th Avenue and 16th. Second, with the 'F' train - at its 14th Street station, at 14th treet and 6th Avenue, with another exit at the corner of 6th Avenue and 16th Street, with a two-block walk westphoto: cafe au rocher de cancale to 8th Avenue. And finally there's the No 1 train - at its 18th Street station, at 18th Street and 7th Avenue. This will involve a one-block walk west to 8th Avenue and then over to 15th Street.

If you find yourself walking around Manhattan soon, you may want to remember this café in the Rue Montorgeuil - to pass the time.
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