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NewsletterDecember 2002


On November 6 a night train going from Paris to Munich caught fire; 12 people were killed. The fire occurred in the French city of Nancy's train station. As of this writing the cause of the fire is unknown. The part of the train that caught on fire was not a SNCF (The French national train company) car but a Deutsche Bahn (German train company). Also unknown is why the alarm system did not function. Most trains in Europe have an alert system designed to inform passengers and train personnel when a fire starts. This was not the case, as the first sign of trouble was, when an employee spotted flames.

Also on November 6 there was a large accident on the Autoroute A10 near Poitiers that caused the deaths of 8 people and injured 33 others, 6 in grave condition. The cause of this accident was a mix of fog and driver error. Some of the witnesses stated that the fog was so thick that they could not see farer than the front of their car. Also most drivers did not slow down when they drove into the fog.

Homemade Preserves

One thing about having in-laws that live in the countryside is that there is never any shortage of homemade preserves. This along with my father in-law's habit of picking fruit from the trees of the pastures he rents for his horses, means that whenever we go to Ouxy (the name of the farm my in-law live on and where my wife grew up) we leave with at least 5 kilos (over ten pounds) of preserves. Over the last few months we have been able to take back with us the following types: cherries, red currant, peach, apple, pear and raspberry. This of course does not include the honey my bee keeping brother-in-law gives us or the goat cheese my sister in-law's husband makes. Coming as I do from the city, I find homemade preserves to be a culinary delight that I knew very little about



French President Jacques Chirac might be very popular and have a super majority in parliament, but his past is starting to catch up with him. During his time as mayor of Paris it is rumored that he spent as much as 4000 FF (about $600 US) a day on food. The present Socialist mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, decided to open an investigation into this allegation. But if there were any laws broken it is not Chirac who will have to answer to the charges. He has presidential immunity, but his wife Bernadette, could be prosecuted.


Founded in 1810 by Napoleon after a fire broke out during his wedding reception, the sapeurs-pompiers de Paris (Paris Fire Department) throughout its history was an all male bastion. One of the few left in France. That has now changed as women have been allowed to apply for entry into the fire service. They go through the grueling four-month basic training along with the men.

The sapeurs-pompiers de Paris is in fact a military organization were all it members must show great physical endurance and strength. Ever day all on duty firefighters must be able to, with no help, get on a ledge 2.3 meters high (about 7 ½ feet). If someone cannot get on the ledge unaided then their career as a firefighter in the sapeurs-pompiers de Paris has ended.

The main problem most of the women had was their lack of upper body strength. None of the women could on their first attempt make it onto the ledge. Of the eight women that were in the documentary I saw on television, three made it through basic training on their first attempt; there are now in total, 16 women firefighters in the sapeurs-pompiers de Paris.

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