Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Local worries make the headlines

To my surprise, our Saint Didier parish ( photo) was in the local news the other day ( in the daily La Provence, 26 nov. 2009 edition), because of a petition circulating among the residents in order to police some of the street dwellers. Avignon benefits from a climate so hospitable that a number of people live in the street. Those SDF or street dwellers sometimes have their own place to sleep, and spend only the day idling on the pavement ; sometimes, notably during the summer, they just sleep in the open in a quiet corner. Some of these permanent street residents are locals, born in the city or in the nearby villages, who just stay around and enjoy an undisturbed pace of life, with the help of a pension or RMI ( minimum income allowance). Alcohol of course plays a major role in their life, or so I gathered after talking to a few of them. They do not beg ; they are reluctant, even for a fee, to help one with carrying a sofa from a car... but on the other hand remain always composed and polite. Should you meet some at one of the local caf├ęs ( the nice buvette in the Halles market, a favorite haunt), you will notice that if they are prone to denigrate all changes and municipal activities, they throroughly enjoy the tranquil, bohemian and ever changing atmosphere of Avignon street life. Their presence is acknowledged by everyone here a staple of city life : they are greeted by regulars in the cafes with the same friendly respect as the butcher or the postman. What residents don't like of course is the influx of SDF who 'do not even stem from the neighbourhood', as a New Yorker once famously said about Bin Laden. Those (younger)foreigners sport a viking look , they drink beer, not wine, speak too loud and they have dogs. Some of them even look from the other side of the Channel, I dare say. They are nowhere to be seen, the local probably sent them grudgingly drinking elsewhere. Anyway, we don't feel guilty : wedidn't sign the petition : the place where they used to sit happened to be on the other side of the the parish steeple. But I will tell more on local neighbourhood societies soon.