Autumn Brocante in the forest

I’d put my clothes in a pile ready for the next morning and was out into the early darkness without waking Graham. The market was along a single road through the forest between Bagnoles and St Michel des Andaines – three kilometres of stalls would be setting up, I drove to the far end of the market still in the pitch black.

As I started walking along the road by torchlight a large cupboard loomed towards me, wheeled on a child’s scooter. This is the market for using anything with wheels to ease the distance and the lugging – shopping trolleys, mobility scooters, tricycles, pushchairs. Another man carried past a very large metal clock face – I should have been here earlier! But Jean-Jacques was here, with rows and rows of sturdy banana boxes laid out. By torchlight I bought galvanised bassines and a dozen or more enamel coffee pots in excellent condition, pale pink, pale blue, white with a line of navy blue around the top, apparently all from a late husband’s vast collection. Jean-Jacques kindly said his daughter would drive me back to my van with my load while the the road was still open for stallholders setting up.

This October market was smaller than the one in May, but nevertheless there were interesting things to buy. In the misty sunrise, large cows put their heads curiously over the fence and torches were put away. A long stall was already piled up with crates of rosy apples, another with croissants and pastries. Never let it be said that the French ignore their stomachs.

donkI’d made a third clattery, rattly journey with my trolley back to Sylvie before Graham walked along to meet me. I was glad to stop for coffee out on the terrace of the little bar-hotel, before ferrying 19th century metal garden chairs, a metal oven (very decorative in a metallic sort of way), glasses and books. The rain started just after we had everything loaded, and we then spent a wet afternoon driving up to the lovely manor house south of Valognes. Sylvie was parked up and a mother and baby donkey out in the wet meadow looked on.

The prospect of a few favourite brocante haunts nearby with dark recesses and things piled on top of other things, to be rummaged through at leisure warmed me through as well as a cup of “chocolat brnchaud”. Next day we went to visit a charming dealer, Therese, always beaming with smiles in her little shop tucked away in a tiny village by the sea. We had a friendly chat and agreed that we should meet up soon at the big dealer’s market in Le Mans. I bought a tall faded moss green cupboard that had to be fitted into Sylvie – so everything else had to come out!

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