Brocante in the forest

I had bought well the year before from an elderly couple in prime position at the start of the five kilometer forest road. They lifted boxes on to the trestle tables and let me rummage by torchlight and do the unpacking for them. “We don’t know what is in the boxes,” they told us, “it is our son who packs them up.”

The lightening of the night sky always comes as a blessing. Time to put torches in pockets and enjoy the bright morning. Some dealers had set out their goods the previous night and everything was wet with dew. At one grassy pitch I wanted to buy a rustic stool and looked around for the stallholder. A voice called over from a far corner – the dealer was still lying in his tent, bare shoulders poking out from his sleeping bag. “Il fait un peu frais ce matin,” he said, it is a bit cool this morning “Il faudrait mettre un pull,” you should wear a sweater I said, feeling rather motherly.

Further on, Linda, always kind and gentle, invited me to deposit my bags and boxes at her stand if I needed. This year a sputtering, noisy municipal tractor and trailer was available, shuttling purchases to either end of the market. Having made many purchases – books, glasses, linens, paintings, chairs, frontons – and left them in piles along the route I rang the chap with the tractor. “Oui, j’arrive dans 30 minutes.” I waited next to Didier’s stand. Didier always did a rocketing trade, dashing back and forth giving prices and answering questions. After waiting fifty minutes I rang the tractor driver again. “I have run out of petrol,” he said, “and someone has gone to get more for me.” So I sat on the back of Didier’s lorry, watching people, for another forty minutes until the tractor could be heard chugging through the crowds. A large paper sack of baguettes was already in the trailer, for delivery to one of the café stalls in the market, as well as an enormous chandelier (I wished I had found it first) in a dilapidated condition. I walked ahead, with the owner of the chandelier, clearing a path for the tractor through the throng, and ran on to collect purchases from stalls ahead. “Come to the Lido for supper,” called Linda as we chugged past her stand, loading in several boxes as we went.

Linda was already at the Lido with some other dealers from both sides of the Channel. One of the French dealers, Pascale, joked with us as he looked at the four English faces around the table. “At first it was just Linda, one Engleesh it’s ok. But now…… we are outnumbered, I should be worried!”

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