Thursday, November 15, 2012

Nouveaux Modele

As in most cities, Aix en Provence has it's share of street beggars. Some who are most likely in a heap of merde and some who seem to be professional. I know this because I've seen them "come to work" in the morning in their brand new vans. There are those that sit every day looking almost theatrically downtrodden, complete with props and won't leave you alone for a second and those who will not look at you but simply hold a sign that explains their situation. Some greet you with a smile and a hello and then there are those certain homeless who prop themselves up against the side of a building with a bottle of cheap whiskey, a paper cup for their winnings and their 4 scruffy dogs. I give periodically but I simply can't everyday, nor do I want to. I don't have any particular criteria, but I prefer that somebody offers me something for my money. Because it falls within the definition of work!

So there's the guy who sits in the Passage Agard every day. He spends his days making ashtrays out of soda cans. Yeah, I know, not the epitome of chic but at least he's doing SOMETHING! I don't know why, but I just like the guy. He says hello to everyone with a lovely smile and he doesn't harangue them. Every day that I walk by, he beams at me, says hello, asks how I am and waves his hand over his wares, inviting me to once again participate in his project. Well, okay, he beams until I ask him how he is and then he remembers to frown and tell me things are not good and he needs to eat. He seems pretty well fed to me but I like him nonetheless.

I have bought several ashtrays from him in the past which might explain his affinity for me. I really don't have much use for them. I set them on the terrace where they are generally not seen and they just blow away. Which is fine. I also use them to store nuts and bolts and such and keep them in the cupboard, again, where they can't be seen.

Yesterday, I decided it was, again, time to contribute to the cause and stopped to check out the goods. I surveyed his colorful scrapheap and picked up the red and green one. I said, "this one is very Christmasy". His face broke into another enormous smile and he said excitedly, "Yes madame, that one is a new model!

So not wanting to be behind the times and sure that you want to get with the program as well, I'm hearby unveiling the nouveaux modele from the workshop-of-the-guy-in-the-passage.

We're taking Christmas orders now.



  1. I think there's a bit of a begging cartel going on in Provence - they get picked up and trucked out to different towns through the day. When you seen them pull out a mobile phone it kind of gives the game away! I can't tell the real from the fake and so don't give to any of them as a result - all my charity goes to organisations so it hopefully won't be spent on upgrading to a 50 euro phone plan.
    I have seen this guy too, in the walkway - I thought he was quite clever with his creations!

  2. Ha! I guess Provence Rugs isn't the only company coming out with new products.

  3. Actually I've seen similar in shops, so he's on the right track. The first ashtray is pretty cool really. The second looks a bit of a liability with the more exposed sharp edges.

    I say good for him, he's recycling waste and making something useful. I hope he can make a success of it, although lord knows how difficult it is in France to set up a successful business!

  4. Very clever. I've seen people do all sorts of stuff with recyclables and I guess it's another way to reuse these materials?
    What's caught my attention on the Christmasy one is the writings in Arabic. Is this common in France? I know there is a large Arab population.
    And btw, thanks for stopping by, very nice of you.
    Sylvia S.

    1. Yes, it's pretty common. We have the largest Arab population outside of North Africa, I believe. Especially here in the south. And I might add, things are a little hot because of it right now.
      And by the way, I know you don't have a Paris apartment…yet. But we're going to talk like you do. It's part of eventually getting there!

  5. When were in Lucca, Italy for a week we noticed the same female begger. One day returning home we saw her go round the corner, whip off her scarf and long coat dress, shake out her hair, scroll through here cell phone and get picked up by a Mercedes. My husband figures they are gypsies that work as professional beggars and move around to different areas when the money slows down. It was pretty funny to see the transformation from beggar to modern chick. Oh we'll such is life.

  6. I was in Aix yesterday and saw a group of homeless guys with the cutest dog ever! Why do they always have such cute dogs?!

  7. I don't give to any of them. The ashtray looks like it could be better used as a candle holder for Christmas.

  8. Ha! I love his "Christmas Collection." He should try selling them on eBay.

  9. You said it Delana: many beggars in France and many of them are true professionals (like these women coming from central Europe and begging with babies in their arms). It's such a pitty... Anyhow.
    Actually I like pretty much the "artwork" of that guy. It's fun and different and as you rightly pointed out: at least HE IS DOING something. Not just begging. How many of these ashtrays / boltscrew pots do you have???? You should open a store "modern street art". HA!
    Amicales pensées de Floride,
    Anne (Playing with Scarves)

  10. If they are fatter than me, I never give.
    The world is full of fake beggars, I heve seen people pushing their wheelchairs going to their 'job' here and there. I do not like gipsies or those who beg without 'doing' something.

  11. ha! what a cute vignette. good for you buying the cans. they do look like some work, and maybe danger to the fingers? i try not to judge beggars, even though i know some do it professionally. i give if i can, i don't if i can't, and that's it. thanks for the fun read :)

  12. I like the ashtrays, although they appear a bit dangerous with the sharp edges. I visited Aix in June when I visited my daughter who lives in Martigues. It was a lovely clean city unlike Marseille.
    Didn´t really notice a lot of beggars there, but certainly a lot of them in Paris. Near one of the monuments a bunch of kids pretended to be deaf/mute and had signs asking for money. I later noticed that once the tourists gave and left they could actually none of them got anything from me.


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