The thinnest woman that I have ever seen has just passed my table. She is so thin that she has become ageless. Nobody looks at her although she is clearly in pain putting one foot in front of the other in an attempt to walk to wherever it is that she is going. She is dressed all in black, not fashionable clothes, clothes which are now too big for her. Her head hangs down; she is carrying a plastic shopping bag from one of the shops in this gastronomic street market in the 7th arrondissment in Paris. Clearly she does not take part in consuming the many delights this famous food corner of Paris has to offer. She raises many questions in my mind. Does she live on this street, I hope so because she dose not look as though she can walk very far. Does she have a family, a husband, neighbours, children? Why is she so emaciated? Where are her people and why are they not looking after her?
Where is she going?
Paris is one of the world’s most famous capital cities for people watching. The Parisians invented the pavement café long before other countries took up the habit and with this vantage point one can watch the world go by. One can sit sipping a coffee or “apero” and wonder about passers-by and their lives. It makes for an entertaining and fascinating few hours.
A mature gentleman walking with a young Asian girl is another person that grabs my attention. Is this unusually tall girl his daughter, or is she his company for the night. Her demeanour and attitude could fit both briefs. She is nonchalant in her manner and her jaws have that familiar look of the young chewing gum. She has that bored look of many young people in their attempt to look “cool”. What is this couple’s story?
Sitting sipping my “apero” I am opposite a small supermarket amongst this street of specialist food shops. It supplies the other things we humans need to keep our lives civilized. Outside sits a beggar, actually I think the beggars do “shifts” as there are different ones at different hours of the day. The beggar is sometimes a man, sometimes a woman and sometimes one isn’t sure. They all seem to have pet dogs, sometimes two. The surprising thing is that these dogs appear to be pure bred, well kept and well fed. They appear to be in better condition than their owners. On inspection the beggar does not seem to be too unhappy and is in fact having quite a game with their dog or dogs. On closer inspection it becomes apparent that this beggar is a bit simple and also crippled with a game leg, his/her stick is close by. Is it because of these handicaps that people become beggars? Can society not absorb a less able person into the workforce? Have we all become so obsessed with the means to an end that individuals who are afflicted from either birth or from traumour or accident have to resort to begging and queing for a living.
Rue Cler at sundown is an endless parade of people of all sorts from all parts of the city and indeed the world. Not least of all the parade of people with dogs of every breed and size. There are some enormous dogs and one wonders how they fit into an average Parisian apartment. Hopefully these dogs have several walks during the day I would hate to think of them cooped up in said apartment waiting for the few hours, or less, of fresh air and stretch of legs at the end of the day. Then of course there are the Pomeranians, the Poodles, the Shitsus together with their fashionable owners. These little dogs pick their way gingerly over the cobbles which must be uncomfortable under their long nails which click along the stones adding a chic sound to the chic for which Paris is famous.
Varying types of people oblivious to each other and representing such different life circumstances are found in this street. Will they repeat what they have done today, tomorrow, are they creatures of habit or will tomorrow bring them another set of tasks or even whims? I have now finished my “apero” and am wondering what to cook for dinner. It is so easy to pick out some tasty morsel and its accompaniment which will all be a pleasure to cook. My apartment is just around the corner so I am not hauling shopping bags for too long. Or else I could just be lazy and drop into another café and have what they are offering on their menu. Whatever food one either buys to take home and cook or eats in a café one can be assured of it being freshly bought from a market and then freshly cooked by the excellent chefs.
Bon appetite !