A barn in Normandy

Next morning we drove down the Cotentin peninsula to visit another dealer. Graham began making noises about lack of coffee, so at the next small town we parked by the church and sat outside a modest restaurant as it was preparing for its lunchtime trade. Small square tables set with paper place mats, stainless steel cutlery and a glass. A clean, orderly and efficient kitchen in the back. Simple.

I’d met Veronique at a market the previous year and appreciated her 18th century portraits and the overall palette of her style. Turning off the main road we arrived in a hamlet. There were no signs outside the house, but a barn with pretty garden furniture arranged outside confirmed the location. Dogs barked as we pulled up. Veronique led us into her house for coffee and showed us around. A stunning 17th century wood panelled chimney breast dominated the sitting room, a dining room added to OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe side of the house had been finished with salvaged French windows, white paneling and 18th century black and white marble flooring. All sumptuous and topped off with a sparkling chandelier.

I have been in quite a few corrugated metal barns over the years but Veronique’s was the most inspiring. “Everything is “dans son jus”, I do nothing to it, it is just as it is found,” she said, and left me to rummage. Wood paneling in ancient grey paint propped against one wall; tumbling piles of rich duck egg and pink fabrics; shelves of books with ivy growing in through the barn wall; pastels; oils; magnificent gilded frames and a muddle on every surface of broken carved elements, hooks, love letters, tins, door knobs, finials, platters, glasses – and a tabernacle, a carved ivory hand and a porcelain chocolate pot. It was a sunny afternoon, the dogs basked, Graham snoozed and my pile of lovely things grew mountainous. After everything was totted up and packed into the van we sat at one of Veronique’s garden tables, rested for a few minutes, looked at her horse in the field adjacent, drank a fruit juice, and then off we went again over to Sylvie’s (the namesake of my van). Have a look around, Sylvie said, while I finish waxing a table. The warehouse was warm and dusty, with some nice pieces to look at. I bought a long low cupboard that needed a bit of work, a box of books and a lot of cream Sarreguemines plates. For myself I bought a copy of Jean Giono’s “Le Hussar sur le Toit.” The film, “Horseman on the Roof” with the faultless Juliette Binoche is a favourite. Sylvie said the meteo for the next day was not favourable, so she was not going to the market.

On then in the early evening to our little hotel with a pepper pot turret by the lake and ready for a very early start in the morning.

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