horz line

Metre–reader Readiness

photo: resto, le bugatti, italiano

A snazzy Italian spaghetti parlor.

'Fluff' Turns Into Drizzle

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 5. April 2004:– There is no reason to make a big song and dance about the weather. The closer to Easter it is, the worse it will get. From the looks of it, the last ray of sunshine may be tomorrow morning, and it is not at all certain.

Like today there will be rainy or drizzly periods, and between these periods it will be cloudy all the time. If the wind fromposter: fete de l'arbre the northwest was like it was today – you will notice it tomorrow and on Wednesday.

You will also notice it because it isn't a wind blowing from the slightly warm Gulf–stream waters off the west coast of Ireland. Nah! It'll be a crummy damp wind that will hold high temperatures down to a maximum of ten degrees until Friday at least. Low temperatures after tonight will hover just below five degrees.

It is possible that by Thursday the wind will swing around to the southwest and blow a bit warmer weather this way, but probably not before next weekend. And since the coming weekend is Easter, don't count on it being balmy here. No doubt Italians making repeat visits will dress as they have in the past – for winter.

Café Life

Metre–reader Readiness

Visits by my electricity-metre reader are rare. EDF would like the counter to be read by one of their experts at least twice a year, so they send a letter saying that this will happen – for example, next Monday between 8:00 and 10:00.

If you, like I do, routinely work until midnight or later, this early morning time is not particularly welcome. Sometimes there is the option to have the customer read the metre and send them the number, but when I tried it I couldn't figure out which of eight different numbers was the right one.

My door–buzzer is an add–on one, without wires. It works via magic rays, and requires batteries. When the original batteries died of old age – when? – I replaced them with old recharged batteries. Experience shows that these don't last long at all.

To prepare for the arrival of the electricity metre-reader, I recharged a couple of batteries. I tested them too. At 8:45 the next morning they worked fine, the metre–reader read the number and left, and I went back to what I'd been doing.

Imagine my total surprise then, to get an electricity bill a week later – amounting to over a year's worth ofphoto: palm tree consumption. Just before the metre– reading episode, EDF had asked me if I wouldn't prefer six–month bills instead of quarterly ones, and I opted for the quarterly ones.

With the new bill, showing that I'd consumed over a year's worth of juice in three months, I was on the phone in a panic. I was asked to read the metre myself. But when I did, but the number was so obviously wrong that they said they'd send the metre–reader guy again. Almost the same deal as before – sometime between 08:00 and noon, the following Friday.

A lone palm thrives in the depths of the 15th arrondissement.

Before then I figured out the data on the bill by comparing it to other bills. I also figured out the counter, by repeatedly pushing a button to finally display a reasonable and likely consumption number.

Last Thursday evening, after the week's club meeting, I recharged the door–buzzer's batteries again and tested the thing. At some forsaken hour on Friday morning, the buzzer buzzed again and a metre–reader came in and read a number. After he left, I read it too, and wrote the number down.

The numbers on the electricity metre are no longer a mystery. The buzzer batteries remain a problem, but as long as I know somebody is coming, I can recharge them. For anybody else, they will need heavy knuckles.

Then there was the second–round of the elections. In the following week EDF displayed full–page ads in Le Parisien, to tout itself as a good investment opportunity, because the government needed to sell it because Brussels insists that the electricity market should be open to competition.

As the election results sunk in, the government decided not to be so hasty to sell the state electricity monopoly. Until I get a corrected bill, I am not going to rush out and buy any long–life batteries for the door–buzzer.

Fête de l'Arbre

Without much warning Le Parisien announced the Fête de l'Arbre for the weekend of 3–4. April, on Saturday, 3. April. I was, I admit, totally unprepared for this important 'fête.' It is not clear whether it is an annual event or a brand–new one.

According to the paper there were to be at least three demonstrations – of logging in the Parc Monceau, a big gardenphoto: park place du commerce in front of the Hôtel de Ville, and a rash of plantings dispersed throughout several arrondissements. Until recently Paris trees were mainly plane trees, chestnuts, lime or linden, sophoras and maples.

A little park full of trees to hug.

In all, there are 92,000 trees in Paris. Their average lifespan is 60 years and 1500 are replaced every year, and 400–odd are added to the park. As a result of observing the China palms put in place for Paris Plage in the summer, city forestry experts think this tree can thrive in Paris' climate, because it seldom gets colder than –18 degrees.

The article mentions that some palms have been planted at the Porte Dorée, near the museum. I managed to find a lone one in the remote 15th arrondissement, beside the Square Saint–Lambert.

But we'll never see an eucalyptus in Paris. They can't withstand the least frost, and neither will date palms. The reason for greater biodiversity is simple – trees can fall victim to illnesses. At the turn of the decades 70–80, a third of Paris' trees suddenly died from a disease.

This is why you should hug a tree from time to time. They too can fall ill, get bored, have moods, drop their leaves and grow shiny and glossy new ones. Not only this, but birds do things in them, besides building nests.

The Next Exciting Elections

For those interested in how Europeans hold their elections, be sure to be here on Sunday, 13. June when the first–round of voting for the European Parliament is set to take place. Candidates surviving the first–round will be letting the voters have a 'winner–take–all' bash at them on the following Sunday, 20. June.

This may turn out to be fairly interesting in France, in light of the results of the regional elections, held last week. Voters here may not feel that their 'message' got through, so they may return to the polls to give the nail a proper whack to drive it home.

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