Begging the question in Paris


“Are you guys policemen?”

It was a strange way to start a conversation.

No, I said, adding that non-policemen are still allowed to wear blue shirts.

We were four men on lunch break, in a dingy alley full of fancy dress shops and unfancy Indian restaurants.

She was sitting at the table next to us with a burly Caribbean.

She was an Iranian (“Did you say you were Isralian?”) I asked her, having misheard her the first time.

I removed my foot from my mouth long enough to insert a quarter of a cheese naan.

She had a tatoo on her arm – Leroy forever.

“Are you the same Leroy?” I asked the man who she was sitting with.


“Lucky,” I said. “It would be a shame to get that tattoo and then only be able to date guys called Leroy.”

With the naan now chewed and swallowed and mouth thus empty, I comfortably reinserted my foot.

Just then I became aware of a shadow over my shoulder. It was the local lunchtime beggar who does the rounds asking for money.

I don’t usually give to beggars. This may be in part due to an experience in Madagascar when I was sitting in a minibus waiting for it to leave. A beggar had approached the door and asked for money. Madagascar, it should be noted, is impossibly impoverished. I had some coins that otherwise would have rolled into the bus seats, so I took them out of my pocket and gave them to him.

And herein lay the problem: for while this poor beggar did have hands, he had no fingers. Thus I was obliged to gently place the coins in a neat pyramid on his palm.

Inevitably he then dropped them, and as I turned my head to laugh maliciously and uncontrollably at the blackness of the situation, I heard the sound of flesh scraping on bitumen as he tried to pick the coins up off the road.

Only later did I realise that I could have simply put the offering directly into his pocket.

I digress. I don’t often give to beggars, but i don’t like to make too much of a point about it.

Not so my table neighbour.

“Go. Away.” She said to the beggar woman.


“I don’t want to say…” Leroy started.

“Speak English?”

“Just. Fuck. Off.” said the woman. And simple as that, the woman left and continued on her route.


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