My wife and I were walking over the Pont d’léna, which is the pedestrian bridge that crosses the Seine opposite the Eiffel Tower. We were holding hands, as we often do, when a young woman walking towards us stopped about a yard away, bent down and picked up a gold ring. “Oh my god,” she said, gazing at the ring in the palm of her hand.

She was now right in front of us and we had to stop.

“Someone must have dropped it,” she said frantically looking around. She pointed to a tiny hallmark. “It’s gold! How sad that someone has lost their wedding ring. Look.”

She offered me the ring and, like a fool, I took it. Sure enough, there was a hallmark stamped on the inside. I made to give it back but she refused to accept it.

By now, alarm bells were ringing, but I own up, the girl was incredibly attractive and a wonderful actor, her timing was impeccable and her concern for the person who had lost the ring was OSCAR quality. Then there was her beautiful smile.

Again I tried to give back the ring, and again she refused. “I don’t need a ring,” she whispered. “I have no one, I’m alone and a ring like this must go to someone who is in love. And I can tell that you two are very much in love.

She looked and my wife’s hand and noticed her wedding ring. Then she raised my left hand in hers, “You don’t have a ring, you must have it,” she said. “Please, you must take it, it will make me happy and will bring you so much good luck.

I smiled and again said no, I can’t accept it. “Take it to the police and if you don’t want to do that, sell it,” I said.

“No, no, I cannot. I am a Croatian refugee and I am illegal in the country. I have no papers, no passport. They will arrest me. Please, please say you will keep the ring, it will make me so happy. Keep it and it will bring blessings on us both.” A gentle and now oh-so-sad smile played on her lips and she walked away.

She had gone six paces when she stopped and turned. “Do you have a little money to give me for food?” she said.

“Take the gold ring and sell it,” I said again.

“That will never be possible. The ring now belongs to you both.”

And I knew she was right.

I dug into my pocket and pulled out six euros and put them into her hand.

“I see you have two more euros there,” she said. “Please, a little more.”

She pocketed the money and with a warm smile brought both hands together in front of her face in the Buddhist Anjali Mudra. She gave a little bow and waited.

I returned the gesture and she turned and melted into the crowd.

As I write, the ring twinkles on a shelf above my desk.

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Brass or gold?

Scam or something with a deeper meaning?


I was in Paris recently and what a wonderful city it is. Every time I visit Paris, I swear I will never leave.

The first time my wife and I visited Paris together we spent our nights in a very cheap garret with rooftop windows that opened to reveal magnificent views of the city. A dusty room with an ancient iron bed, warm May nights, passion and romance. Paris is made for such memories.

Back to my recent visit. I was alone and loving the freedom to roam the city like an alley cat. My hotel, booked on line, was located in a labyrinth of backstreets that (at least on Google maps) looked as if they might be in a very dodgy area.

Much against the wishes of my wife, who was in England, I decided to walk to my hotel from the Gare du Nord and within minutes was hopelessly lost. After almost an hour, my legs and wheelie bag screamed in protest at every, lump, bump and curbstone they staggered over.

My hotel room, when I found it, was on the top floor. Not quite a garret, and although it looked out over the rooftops of Paris, which I loved, it could only offer the romance of a cold and empty bed.

For the blog, I wanted to write about the streets of Paris, but not in my usual way. I gave myself an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening and wrote down some of what I saw and experienced in the literary style known as Stream of Consciousness. Or, to be more precise, vomit from my pen sans punctuation.

I wrote quickly and soon realized that what I recorded happened every day in the streets, shops, restaurants and bars of this wonderful city that some call the City of Light and others the City of Love, a place where they out weird and out eccentric their reluctant cousins, the British.

Here are some of the things I saw and experienced in those 120 minutes, and I make no excuses for my thoughts along the way:

Alleyways passageways ginnels here’s a beggar with a beautiful white cat and one with a tired old dog feel that way sometimes breathless in Paris Muslim beggar shoving her kid at me is it for sale there but for the grace of god but whose god that’s the longest outdoor bookshop shelf I’ve ever seen lovely useless books in French lucky I would have been there all day and old toys to collect not to love or push or throw her bra strap is twisted and the color’s all wrong, someone should tell her more swishing skirts short swishing skirts nice legs haute couture under guard he thinks I’m a bad smell tosser handbags for the price of a first class ticket around the world cellphones let you shout and talk to yourself all day could be mad who would know the law says no smoking in the bar so I sit outside and smoke a dozen secondhand Gauloises in two minutes pronounced golwaz wazzock golwazzock life turned on its head liberty fraternity soggy ends the world’s most uncomfortable bar seat another glass of wine from an endless list speak French you numpty laughter shaking heads Les Anglais more laughter monsieur’s vin rouge cheap wonderful party party party what a great Friday night only it’s Tuesday 7.20pm not a table to be had oh no she’s really drunk don’t sit next to me shit eye contact mistake Paris rocks singing glass waving walls rotting under years of nicotine he’s a handsome bastard bet he’s gay madam’s from the French Resistance smiles an ancient smile shrugs a sexy French shrug still pretty someone’s poking a bloody selfie stick through the window  Powerful Pierre’s fallen over Jacques picks him up been there stunning woman on bicycle wearing business suite and Christian Louboutin shoes just peddled by an eyeful of the Eiffel trifle sirens calvados sorbet hustle bustle carved angels and fallen angels smiling hookers where’s all the dog shit gone traffic noise violins vio-fucking-lins lost again seen that before mystery mayhem endless worn streets love ‘em lines of tables chairs lights laughter poverty one for the road barman sighs smears spilt beer too late for food he says never too late to drink shadows doorways pssst pssssst no merci at least her bra’s the right size … time to leave time to live Paris