Don't Forget to Feed the Canary

photo: cafe le comptoir

And make sure its wine cup is full too.

Plus Tennis News

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 20. May 2002:- Last week amidst the nefarious 'Internet incidents,' TV-weather news flashed an alert that we could expect a freak storm, cooked up by the difference between land and sea temperatures near Biarritz, to arrive in Paris - and it did.

While the weatherman was excitedly pointing out the arrows of wind aimed at Paris, the arrows struck. Météo-France can be thanked for this 'on-time' type of alert, even though I usually claim that the Ile-de-France has no extreme weather and you have to go to the Alps or to the Riviera to get some.

We got much more notice of a second, bigger storm, to happen on Friday. Even though this was after 'the nicest day of the year' - until now! - on Thursday, I was willing to believe in it and took down my genuine Hamburg tugboat life-ring and dusted the rust off it.

I need not have bothered. I'm not saying I remember what the weather was like on Friday, but if there was a storm it happened while I was unconscious and this wasn't until sometime on Saturday morning.

The only reason for mentioning 'old' weather is because the weather service's warnings do work even if the weather doesn't quite match.

These warnings may not do you much good during a visit to Paris unless you watch the local TV-weatherphoto: graffiti, art markt, ed quinet news or hear bulletins on the radio. So, while you may remain unaware of dire warnings, you can be equally certain that the weather here is seldom extreme. What's a little rain after all?

A May feature of Paris - artists all over with 'open doors' or no doors at all.

Because if you are in Paris this week you might actually see some and get some puddles to paddle through. This month of May seems to be determined to give us one truly nice day, a bunch of so-so days, and this coming week, which has a very dull outlook.

After winds in the west tomorrow which will lessen on Wednesday, the rest of the week will be one long, flat, blah. After Wednesday, being in the Alps won't help. Pitiful little sunbeams might cling to the finger tips of the Riviera sticking into the Mediterranean, but if you need sun, having nights in Tunisia might do the trick.

Café Life

This Year's 'Count-down' of the Year

A masterful piece of planning coupled with a freak stroke of impeccable timing took me out to Le Bourget airfield last Wednesday, to 'do something' about this column's 'count-down' despite what seems to be a global air of total indifference surrounding it.

Readers, club members, friends! You are too complacent. I sailed across the Atlantic three times before I got up the nerve to fly across it. My shortest crossing, in the biggest boat available, took four whole days and nights.

That this crossing was done mostly in a North Atlantic November storm, with 1478 out-of-sight seasick passengers, gave me a great respect for this body of ocean. Its cold, salty water can transform itself into four or five-story waves, that can last day after day.

Day after day, as I sat alone in thephoto: theatre odeon ship's front-end veranda bar, watching the ship's bow disappear beneath apartment building-sized waves, I had plenty of time to think about what it might be like to be forced to land on the water.

The Odéon, just as all of its European flags went limp.

In the early mornings, in my narrow bunk, far below decks, one floor above steerage, I was able to hear the sound of an ocean gone mad, pounding at the steel plates of a flimsy 80,000 ton boat, for four nights in a row.

Little did I imagine that 26 years later I would have the courage to fly across the whole immense thing in a few hours in an 'airbus' without any kind of steel plates and only two motors, with in-flight movies - terrible ones! - at 10 or 11,000 metres above the clouds and the remorseless grey waves.

A little bit of imagination is called for to contemplate the idea of flying from New York to Paris, non-stop and solo, in a single-motor monoplane without a radio, with nothing to eat but hotel-made ham sandwiches, no in-flight movies, no duty-free goods - and staying awake 33 hours and 30 minutes to do it. Think about it a bit.

Skip ahead 75 years and here we have people showing up in Paris who have been in the air for 33 hours. This is what it can take to get here from New Zealand or Australia, with the necessary changes of planes or refueling. Two hundred years ago it could have taken six months in wooden-hulled ships.

What makes Charles Lindbergh's flight so extraordinary is that the prize money offered for the first to cross the ocean non-stop - not even Icelandic did this with its four-motor DC-6s - created a hot competition to be 'first.'

Well-heeled competitors had co-pilots and three engines and multiple wings, while all Lindbergh's backers could afford was one motor, one seat, one wing, two windows and no windshield or wiper for it.

The radio got left behind because its range was too short and it was too heavy. Lindbergh got to Paris first because he thought an extra ham sandwich was more important. In 1927, he was just a fairly ordinary guy, who happened to be a pilot, who became a hero.

And Now, the Tennis News

I have often wondered why the 'Stade Roland Garros' where the International tennis championship matches take place, is named after Roland Garros. I mean, you don't see any overpriced polo shirts around with little crossed tennis-racket logos, called 'Roland Garros' shirts.

So, anyway, I was quite surprised to see him in the Air and Space museum last Wednesday. Roland Garros was in the WWI section, for having been the first to try the idea of getting a machine gun to fire forward. He had deflectors attached to his plane's propeller so that bullets that didn't go between the blades wouldn't shoot the prop to pieces.

As unsuitable as this was - ricochets could hit the pilot, who was Garros of course - he shot down three enemy planes in two weeks in 1915. Then his Morane-Parasol airplane either conked out or was shot down by ground fire, andphoto: parabellum machine gun the enemy captured it and him. Garros, of course, escaped.

If you have a small plane, try putting a Parabellum on it and miss shooting your prop.

They turned his plane over to the Dutch airplane designer Anthony Fokker, who had never seen a machine gun before. He took Garros' prop and a borrowed Parabellum back to his shop, and decided synchronizing the two would be more dangerous to targets than the pilot doing the shooting.

Although Roland Garros was France's first 'Ace' this is not why he is famous. In 1913 he felt lke visiting Tunisia in North Africa and he was to first to fly there non-stop.

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