Not far from Sées lived a dealer who had opened up the stables and a couple of rooms in his fine old 16th and 17th century manor house in order to sell brocante. The faded “Antiquités” sign had fallen off the wall and been replaced. As I drove into the courtyard I heard a bell ring in the house and Monsieur appeared and waved.. “Tiens, vous avez une nouvelle camionette!” he observed – you have a new van. I had perhaps just disturbed him from a late afternoon doze, but then again there was always something charmingly disarrayed about him with his sleepy smile. This was a place I love to call in at. The dust, straw and pigeons in the stables remained unperturbed by the arrival of interesting boxes and crates, some only half unpacked since they were bought at such and such an auction or a chateau sale. Always good things to find here: a crate of oil paintings from an artist’s studio, a box of white dinner ware, pewter platters with years of daily use registered in the dents and the cutlery scratches. In one of the rooms in the house sun poured through onto cobwebs garlanded across the window panes. Nonchalantly piled stacks of plates and heavy handmade wine glasses with that appealing 19th century grey tint to the glass. “My sister says the house is haunted,” he said as I moved around the room turning over and inspecting platters, running my finger around the rims and the feet of the glasses, “but I don’t have any problem. Sometimes I do see the silhouette of a woman, but she does me no harm.” He helped me carry a pile of linen sheets, glasses and plates out to the cobble stone yard. I had also chosen some paintings of roses beautifully captured, and a lovely water colour of worn stone steps and metal handrail leading up to a rustic door. The light captured in it could only be that of Provence. “Ah,” he smiled, “that belonged to my grandmere. She loved the Midi, the south, and spent a lot of time there…”
I arrived in Ouistreham in time for supper before the night ferry. Always a pleasure to slide onto one of the comfortable banquettes at Le Chanel restaurant. Another trip completed and a van full of purchases to be restored or cleaned, made beautiful again, and turned around for a new lease of life in England.