Robert the Tramp

Robert the Tramp

I came home from Christmas shopping one year to find our local tramp drinking whisky in the sitting room with my father.

The man, a rather foul smelling, long-haired, beardy and ageless drunk who had been shouting insults at us every day from under a bush by the side of the Eiffel Tower, didn’t take long to make himself comfortable in my mother’s Louis XV armchairs and nor to accept my father’s regular refills.

At the other end of the apartment, my mother, white as a sheet, looked as if she were about to have a heart attack whilst we, the children, nearly peed in our pants with uncontrollable giggles.

We stopped laughing at once when we heard my father inviting the man to stay with us for supper. ”Christmas didn’t mean anything if one could not show a little extra empathy.” Well, this was going to be an evening to remember! It turned out the man whom we thought was something between a serial killer and a caveman had once been a philosophy teacher.

My father used to take me along every week-end to visit an old widow. He would sit and listen to her and perhaps open a jar of Ketchup for her. My little girl’s eyes would stare at her witchy-long nails in disgust but I felt, without being able to put a word to it, that something important was going on.

My father, despite being a lawyer, was a shy, serious and quiet man.

egyptisk bomull sengetøy

My fathers family Tartan

The sight of so many people crying during his funeral some years ago hence came as a shock through the daze of my grief. Had he known that many people after all? And why were they crying?

A week later, as my mother, brother and sister and I were bonding around memories, music and photographs, we casually, but respectfully, took a look through the pages of a book we had left in the church where my father’s funeral had taken place.

Seven hundred and sixty people had written kind words about this shy, serious, quiet and generous man. One of the many heart-warming mentions still sends chills down my spine: “Thank you for the best Christmas dinner I have ever had. Thank you for seeing a fellow human being in me. Robert, ‘the Eiffel Tower tramp’”.

Robert still lives in the 7th arrondissement in Paris, he is still a free-spirit, but no longer a tramp. He does odd jobs for local shop owners and everybody calls him by his name.


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