Deluge had been forecast over the entire country the day I left the Loire. Lowering skies hung over vines and fields of sunflowers.
On the route de Chinon, a straight Napoleonic ribbon of road between Chinon and Loudun, the brocante warehouse I’d visited a couple of years before, was, oh joy, open! A vintage wooden ironing board had been painted eau de nil and lay on its side like an arrow, indicating the direction of the “Parking.” A 1930’s child’s pram further along the drive also painted in eau de nil announced “Brocante” in big black letters. I sensed a change of ownership – the previous owner had been decidedly grumpy and unwelcoming. Even a Buvette had been installed under the trees with old garden tables and chairs (all for sale).
Four aisles in the warehouse, long and densely packed, demanded concentration – no quickly zipping round a place like this, it would have to take the time it took, and I would be late for my first appointment. Boxes of old picture frames needed attention, stacks of pretty linen napkins certainly merited careful inspection, and as for the piles of cream, white, and off white crockery…..
By now rain was falling steadily. Monsieur helped me out to the van with three heavy boxes and I continued on to Lilianne’s farm about an hour away.
The lane to her farmhouse borders a shaded green, glossy river much favoured by local fishermen, but today the trees just dripped. In Lilianne’s courtyard a line of linen sheets hung wet and heavy. “They were nearly dry”, she lamented, “I was going to pack them for the fair tomorrow.” I’d known we’d both be at the fair, she selling, me buying, but had wanted to see what else she had in her storerooms.
The rooms had lovely beams, white stone walls and beautiful white stone, floor to ceiling fireplaces. I asked whether they had ever lived on this side of the farm. “No-one has lived over here since the Revolution,” she said. As a sign of mourning at the execution of Louis XVI the rooms had been painted black and shut up.
In one of the barns, Lilianne’s husband obligingly clambered over chairs stacked on top of buffets to reach some wooden trugs with metal handles still full of farmyard straw. “Look I am doing gymnastique!” he puffed with precarious poise. In torrential rain we loaded trugs, rush seated chairs, carved frontons, a bench and other small items into the van and could only laugh at how wet we were. A quick coffee together, then “a demain.”
I drove west across country, through villages and towns shuttered against the heavy rain. Three hours later, as I got into a slow line of 14th July traffic from La Roche sur Yonne the sky cleared. Squat white one storey houses with thick walls and blue shutters indicated the Atlantic wasn’t too far away. Great bushes of blue hydrangeas grew everywhere. By the time I reached Challans the evening was warm and bright, and palm trees, a pool and pretty tiles set into white walls around the courtyard made my hotel extremely welcoming.