Beggar My Neighbour

Are there more beggars in Paris than London? I don’t know, who ‘s counting? But where we were staying in the Marais, the lovely 3rd   had its share. Outside the apartment gate , perched on a hot pipe sat the  North African madame, slight,in her scarf ,often smoking , always with her little plastic cup ready.

A few yards away outside the excellent boulangerie was the young rather emaciated fellow.  At most metro stations there was a bag man in need of support. Since it rained for most of our week’s stay these Parisians who stand and stare looked  even more pathetic.

In many ways  it was man outside the patisserie who was  problem. After my jogs  to either the  Square du Temple or the grander Place des Vosges as I came out with my two croissants  and a baguette, he searched my eye. As a hardened Londoner it was easy for me to shake my head and  waddle past. But day by day he was getting to me. I was weakening. Why wasn’t I? I always had 50 cents   or so change why wasn’t I giving it to him. I was wasting more than that every day on tourist trinkets which I knew I would bin. Maybe tourists being  chronically insecure are always more  vulnerable  to these most gormless of appeals.

Then I decided that  if I gave him on one day he would come to expect the next. And that would be worse for both of us. Sacre Blue I did not want to create a dependency culture! So I decided that  I  would give only our last day. As Dr Johnston asked why he always gave to beggars, stated  it was  so they could  continue to beg. When the good doc was told that  even in the 18th century beggars usually  spent the money on drink he famously  and  gamely riposted that of all sections of society it was they who needed drink the most.

But the Parisian beggar who will haunt me for the rest of my life came on the Left Bank. We were walking in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower towards the Pont  d’Alma on our way to buy tickets at the  marvellous art deco Theatre Champs Elysee.

Along the pavement staggering towards  us like a character from Slum Dog was a man trying to get passing motorists to respond to his plastic cup. Staggering was putting it mildly, he had spaghetti legs, he was totally dependent on his stick, he looked like a man  with Parkinson’s recovering from a stroke. It was raining, he was in his shirtsleeves and  not one car even when stationary was rolling down its window. He was getting closer. I gave him two euro. I deserve to go to hell for not giving him ten.

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2 Responses to Beggar My Neighbour

  1. David Ronald Fangen says:

    Glad you’re back, you of such noble spirit. I can clearly see the Thommo waddle!

  2. itwonthurt says:

    money given to beggars is an investment in heaven

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