'Mardi Noir' To Continue

photo: cafe rendez vous

When at a loss for a name, always meet at the café Rendez-Vous.

Revenge Weather

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 19. May 2003:- Last week I called the weather 'faithless' and it has been getting revenge since then. I should have said it is very reliable. About every ten minutes it sends over a darker cloud and it dumps a zillion litres of water on everything then it stops for nine minutes.

Occasionally, if you glance out a window, you will see no sign of any clouds. There is empty blue sky, and the sun may even seem to be shining unless it is after dark.

This is a trick. If is meant to fool you into going outside without wearing your stoutest North Sea rough weather gear. You are supposed to leave your umbrella at home. Don't do it! Carry it at all times.

On top of it, the temperatures are only fair for late February. Monsieur, the TV-news weatherman, qualified this type of weather as 'yoyo.' I never knew this was a French word before tonight, so I guess the situation is serious - except for the lack of any drought in sight.

Here is the outlook for the next couple of days - it might be a bit sunny tomorrow for about two minutes around 14:27. It depends on whether the weather fronts from the Atlantic arrive 'on time,' at the 'right time,' or not.

The sunny period might be sooner, it might be later, or it might be in Montpellier. In fact, it will probably be in Montpellier all week. It might even be 23 degrees down there, but up here, where we are, we will be lucky to see the thermometre top 15.

Wednesday might only be cloudy, but it is more likely to be periodically rainy. Thursday. Well, Thursday is not going to be a brilliant day to remember in Paris. The weather appears to intend to be faithfully rotten. My fault, my excuses.

Café Life

'Mardi Noir' Bis

I have had more explaining to do about last week's 'Mardi Noir' than I expected because it continued on Wednesday and Thursday, and replayed again today. There are some folks in France who are seriously dissatisfied with the government's plans for their pensions.

This is a subject I have not been following as carefully as I should so it is kind of hard to explain. It seems that the government is willing to accept two unpleasant 'facts' as 'laws' that it cannot ever change.

One of these is a high unemployment rate, another is a growing under- employment rate, added to the notion that salaries will never rise at any rate higher than inflation. The trend is towards the minimum wage instead of the other way.

In effect, this means that the government believes that the mass of salaries will decline while the number ofphoto: street cleaner, rue du prevot workers decline and the number of retirees increases. Since retired ex-workers live longer than they used to, there isn't enough money being collected now to pay the pensions of workers who will be retiring in the future.

Street cleaner built to fit one of Paris' 15th century streets.

The government has proposed that everybody work a few years more. Workers who are about the retire tomorrow do not necessarily feel like working a couple of extra years - to help pay for a full pension agreed to years and years ago.

In France, a huge number of public employees - teachers, medical workers, social workers, prison guards - are those who purposely decided to spend their entire careers earning lower salaries in return for respectable pensions.

Now they are joined by many private sector workers who are being pressured to produce ever more, but for hardly higher pay than public sector workers. But by not being in the favored public sector, they are expected to work at least a couple of years more for their pensions, and they are facing the amount of these being whittled down.

The government - the management's - problem is that its best solution is to spread the misery. Most people running France have gone to special schools in order to learn how to do it. I think a lot of them must have skipped classes on the days when courses in 'mankind's progress' were given.

The same issue came to a boiling point in 1995, and it caused a conservative government to fall. Here we are again with the same problems - plus eight years - and with a conservative government - one apparently with the same ideas as it had back then.

The next 'Mardi Noir' is scheduled for Sunday, 25. May. If today's street turnout throughout France - not even semi-officially a 'Lundi Noir' - is any indication, then we will be having some interesting times.

Instead of these, it would be more to everybody's benefit if we could have some 'progressive' times instead.

59th Birthday Rehearsal

For no discernable reason, Dennis decided to have a dinner party last Tuesday evening. It was not his birthday and it wasn't a vodka-with- buffalo-grass occasion, although Dennis had some handy and used it. I guess it was a 13. May occasion.

My contribution to the whole evening was a baguette, and I never saw it again. It was one of the pricey, super-baguettes too. The food was very good. I don't know how he does it because lives on the fifth floor of a highly-polished stairs walkup building, and good food is heavy.

There were the usual gaggle of guests with the exotic wild cards for spice. John the Poet challenged us to guess who Dennis looks like, but insisted we wait until after the roast before putting our cards on the table.

I think it was Jonathan who led off with Benjamin Franklin as his guess. Everybody except John the Poetphoto: red fruit days, marche thought this was a fine choice, including Dennis, but he wasn't allowed to look like Benjamin Franklin, maybe because he was wearing his Cossack shirt.

In fact we were so sure that Dennis looks like Benjamin 'Marx Brothers' Franklin that we forced the issue a bit by refusing to guess any other look-alike possibilities. There was still a lot of wine to get rid of and cheese yet to come.

Here it is again - red fruit season at Paris' marchés.

Caught in a crossfire of doubt or stubbornness, John the Poet finally gave us - William Shakespeare - as the Dennis look-alike.

Jonathan is very open-minded and was willing to consider this. Myself, I know perfectly well that nobody knows who William Shakespeare looks like because nobody knows what William Shakespeare looked like - or even if William Shakespeare is William Shakespeare. Dennis is more real.

While we were arguing about this Dennis slipped out to his library and returned with his entire Shakespeare collection of about 25 books and dumped them all in the middle of the table, nearly in the roast's pot.

With all of us searching, a supposed likeness of William Shakespeare was eventually turned up, in book number 24. It is true, Dennis has a nn-haircut that looked like the haircut in this spurious engraving of William Shakespeare.


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