Clochard of Place Moufftard, Paris
I arrived in
Paris from Mexico in 1977. How and why is another
story but I used to eat for 30 Old French Francs
including rough local wine on the Boule Miche,
Saint Michel, the student district of Paris. I
would go an old traditional restaurant with long
benches and communal tables looking out on to the
Boulevard Saint Michel.
chatted to the students sitting next to me but
this night was different. My eating neighbours
were clochards (tramps). There were two of them.
One was older and already drunk with a big bushy
beard and the other had long hippy hair and wore
flared denims and a mangy leather jacket. He
introduced himself as Ringo, King of Place
Moufftard which was a well known square in the 5eme.
Proudly he produced a postcard sent from
California, addressed to Ringo, Place Moufftard,
Paris 5eme, France. Amazing that he got it!
Then the older
man caused havoc by sliding off his perch onto
the floor. Drunk as a coot and ranting.
Ringo tried to pacify his friend but to no avail.
The special branch of the police was l'called and
the man carted off to hospital for delousing and
a night in a cell.
The night was
young and so hippy Ringo suggested I walk with
him slowly to Place Moufftard having a beer on
the way. At my expense, bien sur!!
We crossed the
Boulevard and walked on slowly taking short cuts
when Ringo was approached by very friendly Police
officers. I quickly worked it out he was a police
informer out on the streets. After cadging a
cigarette or two from the police, we
continued on passing more tramps clustered
together eating cans of sardines by a fountain.
The first thing I noticed that the men had scabs
on their legs. Ringo explained that this was
because clochards never have hot meals! Everyone
knew him and had all the time in the world to
gossip about life on the streets.
A few beers
later still at my expense, we finally reached the
Place, still in the 5 th district. On the way he
told me that an American tourist had paid his
ticket to join her in San Diego. When he
showed me the photo in his wallet of the
attractive blonde who had invited him, I realised
Ringo was in fact an educated hippy dropout who
had CHOSEN life on the streets.
At the evening's
destination were groups of tramps in clusters in
different parts of the square. On seeing an
obvious green foreigner, one of the men
approached me to chat me up. Ringo pounced on him
saying "Hands off, she 's my guest".
Word went round fast. The man nodded respectfully
and moved away.
After half an
hour in the square, I got bored. I said adieu to
Ringo and walked back to the reality of my new
life in Montparnasse, Paris.
I never saw