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Final Late Final

photo: cafe de l'epoque

The last café of the year, but not the least.

With No Sports News

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Tuesday, 30. December 2003:– The final weather of the year will not be brilliant, so this report about it will be boring. Tomorrow, the last day of the year, it might be partly sunny and no snow is forecast for the region – so long as you don't stray too far from it.

Overnight temperatures are forecast to be low, at minus one degree. During the day, if it is in fact 'partly sunny,' the high should reach plus two degrees. If you can tell the difference between daytime and nighttime, you probably won't even notice the temperature.

The first day of the New Year 2004 promises to be cloudy, with vague promises of snow. The high temperature may reach three degrees. Since it is still officially winter, this rating may be in total conformity with 'the season,' although the official version calls for an 'average' of 6.9 degrees.

Vast improvement in the weather is expected on the second day of the year on Friday although it is supposed to be mostly – if not completely – cloudy. Rejoice outside with a high of four degrees predicted.

For saints' fans, the official name for New Years Eve on Wednesday is Saint–Sylvestre. The first of this illustrious line was born in Rome and was the Pope from 314 to 335, which was quite a good run for the time.

Sylvestre II, known to his mother as Gerbert, was born in the Auvergne, but only held the job of Pope for four years, ending in 1003 – coincidently, an even millennium ago. Sylvestre III, again born in Rome, had an even shorter run in the Vatican's top job. Jean Sylvestre died aged 46, after being Pope for only a year.

Only Sylvestre I was a saint, and is celebrated for it every 31. December, regardless of the weather forecast.

Café Life

Paris–Dakar

New Years Day is still forseen as being the beginning of the world–famous Paris–Dakar endurance road race from Paris to Dakar in Africa. However, its organizers have announced that the opening stage between Clermont– Ferrand and Narbonne has been cancelled on account of fears that José Bové's followers will attempt to hang it up at Millau. The rallye's destination, even if in Africa, is unknown at this time.

Less for More

In France on Thursday, 1. January, the government will raise taxes on cigarettes from eight to ten percent. At the same time, according to Le Parisien, an European directive will go into effect that will compel the reduction of nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar per cigarette.

At the time of the last price hike in September, the designations 'léger,' 'light' and 'mild' weresign: leon, maurice est revenu suppressed. Some of 2004's new model cigarettes will actually be 'lighter' than the former 'léger,' 'light' and 'mild' types.

Another European directive scheduled for 2004 will require cigarette manufacturers to list the ingredients of cigarettes on the packages. With this measure, it s unlikely that there will be any space left on an average packet for the government warning, 'Fumer Tue.'

In anticipation, manufacturers have already quietly reduced the toxic qualities of many brands. Tonight's TV–news also said that the coming price rise will be countered with fewer cigarettes in an average package, resulting in far less smoke in Paris.

Less for More II & III

While unemployment continues to gain new numbers in France, the period for unemployment benefits is to be reduced in 2004. In addition, the amount of benefits will be sharply reduced after a certain period of time.

Meanwhile, some unwelcome surprises have come to light concerning the details of the government's new pension scheme. Workers who started early in life and accumulated a full employment duration of 42 years, will not be able to retire with a full pension unless they worked at least 1.25 years before they were 16 years old.

This 'Catch–22' clause is expected to affect about 160,000 older workers in 2004 – requiring them to work and contribute towards their pensions for another couple of years.

Another clause stipulates that workers who were only partially active during their careers - mostly at the minimum wage – will not have periods of official unemployment, illness, military service, or parenthood, counted as 'time worked.'

However, mothers who stayed home and looked after their kids for at least nine years before they were 16, will be credited with the equivalent of two years 'employment' for each child minded.

For workers who started their careers only after extensive scholarship, the government has proposed that they can 'purchase' up to four years' worth retirement contributions. However, the government's formula for calculating the price of this 'purchase' is anything but 'bon marché.'

As promised by the government, most people will have to work a couple of years longer to get the pensions they anticipated. This does not, of course, apply to those currently without work.

Concierge of the Year

This is a real person, whose name I've misplaced, who switched from being a tenant in an apartment to being the building's concierge. As shown on TV–news, he has put in a great deal of effort to make the public spaces of his building not only extremely tidy, but well decorated for this season.

At the end of a year, the old 'rule' used to be that a good concierge was worth a tenth of a month's rent to grateful tenants. Tonight, shown distributing mail and sweeping up the courtyard, he said that the envelopes contained between 10€ and 100€.

The goal, he said, was the equivalent of a month's salary, so he could go on holidays like everyone else.

Foie Gras Forever

Parisians are assaulting the fine eats' shops to get the necessary supplies required by custom for the New Yearsphoto: maille mustard shop, madeleine Eve fête. TV–news was out on the street outside one of these temples of high life, to ask shoppers leaving the store, what they intended to have.

One lady said, "This year calls for something different." Asked what 'something different' might be, she replied, "Foie gras, just like every year since the '60s."

Meanwhile, thefts of foie gras, truffles and even oysters are becoming increasingly frequent throughout France. Oystermen have had to put out patrol boats at night to keep their beds safe from robbers.

One Man Crime Wave

A hooded and armed bandit got away empty–handed after an attempted hold–up of a clothing store in the Rue Montmartre. Ninety minutes later the cashier in the Hard Rock Café in the same street refused to hand over any money.

About three hours after the rampage began, the robber struck gold at the Planet Hollywood café on the Champs–Elysées. He discretely showed an employee of the establishment the gun stuck in his belt and demanded 1000€.

The café's employee could only offer 650€, which the bandit accepted before melting away in the pre–Christmas crowd on the 'most famous avenue in the world.'

Cashless ATM Alert

Many stand–alone ATM cash dispensers in Paris may not be functioning on or after Thursday, 1. January. This is the date that was selected by the French Banking Federation for all ATMs to conform to new security regulations. The cash machines that won't be workingphoto: la fiat 500 de maman, book are supposed to have a sticker of some sort attached to them.

Major banks say their cash distributors are mostly in conformity with the new regulations. However, it is normal during holiday periods, and on Mondays, that the handy money machines are routinely empty.

Mama's ultimate 'Fiat 500 of the Week.'

Experience in recent days has indicated that finding an ATM willing to cough up some cash is a 50–50 proposition. Machines attached to actual banks or post offices are the best bet, but several in my quartier were tried without success. My own bank's ATM was a winner though. It's record on any given day over a four–year period has only been 50–50 at best.

Beagle–Eyes of the Year

"I think 'ikky' is spelt 'icky." Is an observation from a sharp-eyed expert in English, and long–time Metropole reader who had never publically made a complaint about the misuse of 'ikky' before.

The Regular Plugs – Last Time In 2003

These are not here this week because they are within the last double super bonus jumbo issue on the 'Café' page, which you should turn to in case you dont know anything about 'Rooms to Let Online – 50¢ Etc' and 'Shareware' Is Metropole's Only Version.'

If you are completely unfamiliar with both of these, then you can also find the appropriate links in the side columns on this page – which will save me from slightly rewriting them this week when I intend to do as little as possible.

Café Metropole Club 'Reports'

Tap this link to have a look at the last meeting's "I Will Bring You a Blow–Fish" club 'report.' On an outrageously sunny Paris day two weeks ago, several first-class members showed up to provide welcome company for the club's secretary.

A few minor details concerning the club can all be found on the 'About the Club' page. The virtual club membership card shown on this page is free, so long as you print it for yourself and all of your relatives. The card is valid for your whole lifetime worldwide, but hyper–valid in Paris.

The next meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on Thursday, 1. January. The Saint's Day of the Week will be Sainte–Marie, which is spelled the same in English five times. Except for this date, there are actually three other Sainte–Maries, with dates of 9. April, 24. April and 15. August.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago

Issue 8.01/04 – 6/23. Jan 2003 – This jumbo multi-week issue began with the Café column's 'Resolution for 2003! – 'Ed' To Take a Powder First.' But before this there was a New Years report from the Cadillac Ranch, titled 'New Years In Boullay – Beyond the Café Zone.'Then there were the Café Metropole Club's updates – for 9. Jan – The "I See You Have Good Taste", for 16. Jan – The "Yuk!" to Mushy Green Peas' and the report for 23. January, titled the "Iphoto: sign, rue des bons enfants Learned to Read and Write" report. The Scène column's title was 'Attention! Old Car – And Young Cow Fans.' There were four 'Poster of the Week' and Ric's cartoon of the week had the caption, '1st Blizzard of the Week.'

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago

Issue 7.01/02 – 7. Jan 2002 – The Café Metropole column's headline was 'New York City Wrap.' This small issue contained one feature, titled 'Two Weeks In New York – Was It One Tour or 12?' This was followed by the Café Metropole Club update for 10. January, the "Nothing To It!" report. Finally there were four new 'Poster of the Week' while the Cartoonist of the Week took some time off to fill his pen with fresh, black ink.

The Paleolithic Vision of the Countdowns

Sturdy Paleolithians can unearth the last known regular version of this ancient feature by turning to the last Café page with it, and subtract about 70 days from all numbers except the anniversary dates, which remain the same even if out–of–date for this column.

Driverless New Years Eve

If you are planning to be out and about on New Years Eve in Paris, the RATP has good news for this 'Grande Nuit.' For starters all public transport will be free starting at 17:00 on Wednesday, 31. December – and will remain free until noon on Thursday, 1. January 2004.

Regular service on all bus, Métro and RER lines will continue until the evening's normallogo: service grande nuit shut–down time. After 01:15 on Thursday, the following Métro lines will continue operation until 05:30, although not all Métro stations will remain open.

Métro lines 1, 2, 4, 6, 9 and 14 will be operating. The RER lines 'A' and 'B' will also be operating and picking up passengers at all stations. Within Paris the RER trains will be running at 15–minute intervals, and beyond the city there will be trains every 30 minutes.

The night buses – 'Noctambus' – will be operating from 01:00 until 05:35, and with three times the normal frequency. The major difference will be that the terminus will not be at the usual Châtelet. Instead, buses will be leaving from Porte Maillot, Gare Saint-Lazare, Gare de l'Est, Gare de Lyon, the Cours de Vincennes, Place de l'Italie, Porte d'Orléans and the Gare Montparnasse.

For RER lines 'C,' 'D' and 'E,' for SNCF buses and for other SNCF suburban services, the InfoTel. number is 08 91 36 20 20, from 06:00 until 22:00.

Goodbye to 2003

The number of days left this year is only one. This is a number so small that it is hardly worth mentioning because it isn't even a weekend day. In two days, the next countdown canphoto: sign, square du cardinal wyszynski begin, with a whole 366 days 'left to go.' Put another way, in two days it will only be 60 days left until our bonus 'Leap–Year' day extra, which will actually be a public holiday in many parts of the world.

We are still able to skate on frozen rinks in front of the Hôtel de Ville, the one in front of the Gare Montparnasse or the one out at La Défense. By the time you read this, we may even be skating on our sidewalks too, or maybe building snowmen on them.
signature, regards, ric

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