Friday, March 6, 2009


"Nobody ever went broke underestimating the good taste of the American public." said H.L. Mencken.
He could have economised on the "American".

I think of this every time I see TF1 – the main French TV channel.
Not that I see it very often.
To be more accurate; not that I see it very long, because I get to see it briefly every time I turn the TV on and until I can find the right remote-control unit to switch to a better satellite or TNT channel.
I suppose I could reprogramme the TV to start somewhere less inane, but that is job n°xxx on the to-do list.

The only thing we voluntarily watch on TF1 is the much-derided national institution known as Jean-Pierre Pernaut's One o'clock News.
Regularly accused by satirical media of being a government stooge due to relative absence of biting criticism of the incumbent lot, he naturally has to devote the first half of his news show to the usual daily litany of global & local catastrophies, just like all the other news shows, but then he puts balm on the wounds by a series of delightful cameos which renew your faith in humanity in general & French humanity in particular.
Little old ladies nursing sparrows with broken toes.
Volunteers keeping a village's last bar-tabac-boulanger-poste-poissonnerie-cordonnier going.
Somebody who built a cathedral out of old tooth-picks.
More seriously, visits to hidden historical treasures you instantly add to your "one day…" visit list.

Recently, there have been several cameos on the collateral benefits of the current crisis.
People driving littler cars & slower.
Increasing market for "pre-used" items which would have been junked previously.
Out-of-workers organising themselves to repair things nobody would have repaired last year.

So when DS (Mrs 2CV67) had a premature bout of spring cleaning last week (always a sign of something, but I don't yet know what this time…) and unearthed 6 giant bags of not-too-old clothes and several not-too-indispensable old Xmas presents, we naturally thought of giving them all a new lease of life & helping the new poor at the same time.
Feeling positive about it, we added 6 decent pairs of skis and a complete Canon colour printer, with installation CD, mains lead, PC lead & a spare set of new unopened ink cartridges.

The natural place to take things like that has always been Emmaus, which was founded in Paris in the terrible winter of 1954 to help the freezing homeless, by "Abbé Pierre".
It still provides shelter & work for otherwise homeless down-&-outs who collect, repair & re-sell whatever they can find.
Abbé Pierre was France's Favorite Personality for decades, until his death at age 94 in 2007.
That in itself says a lot for France.

So we stuffed all our goodies into our old Renault Espace, which can seat seven, but is usually stripped out as kids-flat removals-van these days, and drove 20 km to the nearest Emmaus.
There, we were welcomed by an inmate who took the clothes bags & Xmas present boxes inside somewhere.

Then he took the first 2 pairs of skis & chucked them accross the road onto a pile of old bricks!
When asked, he said "Nobody will be looking at skis until next winter…".
So I put them back in the car.

Then we queued up behind a nice lady carrying what she proudly told us was a complete working PC.
She was told to "Put it on that pile there." which was a heap of PC junk outside in the rain with no cover.
"Another group comes & collects them every week or so…"
So I put the printer back in the car too!

We drove home feeling most uncharitable, thinking "No wonder some people stay poor!"

We are now looking for a good home for 6 pairs of skis & a Canon colour printer.

Parting thot: " I only feel angry when I see waste. When I see people throwing away things that we could use." – Mother Theresa

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