Other establishments had mushroomed in old warehouses and great old farms along the road. We pulled in at the Brocante de Brigitte. I’d called in here a few years before. I found the same tumble of rooms crammed full, every surface toppling over with the detritus of yesteryear. On to the Brocante de Nadine which looked more appetising. One of the hangars here was set out with noticeable flair. An eight metre length of thin white curtain wafted in a shaft of hot sun by the tall metal sliding door. On an ancient armchair in yellowed velvet, once deep emerald, sat an illuminated bronze lamp in the form of a tortoise. Other quirky decorative objets juxtaposed spiritedly together.
It was here that I met Olivier and Laurent, two poetic characters. Olivier, gaunt, dark hair swept back, penetrating blue eyes, wearing an old raincoat, as if from a 1930’s movie. Laurent, more the brooding chevalier with long hair and a tiny beard. They stood together quizzically observing me. As I approached them they said, “Oh but it is not Carole Bouquet! We had believed it was Carole Bouquet here chez nous. You resemble her.” And so our began friendly alliance.
From them I bought a battered carved over mantle to be restored and mirror plate reinstated. Both were keen observers of the comings and goings of dealers, of egos and curious behaviours, and shared some of their tales.
Madame with the chignon, I never knew her name, set off home and I continued towards Le Mans, stopping at two other places. In an enormous farmyard surrounded by barns there was little more than scrap, except that on a table was a stack of jars of home-made apricot jam for sale. It was dark by the time I checked in to the hotel at Le Mans. Dinner was already being served and Laetitia, the capable all-rounder, showed me to a table.
Laurent and Olivier beamed endearingly when I met them next day at Le Mans. We were having a good morning, and buying was steady at this Deballage. I had even bought some beautiful linen sheets even though I had told myself no more beautiful linen sheets.
As the morning progressed porters began pushing their way around, large flat-bed trolleys loaded with deer horns, shop dummies, record player horns, chairs, mirrors and stone statues. I hired a porter too – so much better than doing it all on my own. The dealer who had taken my metal lilies away with him after the previous November market had brought them back, and we added these onto the pile.
On the way through the car park we passed a car with a white marble bust, seat belt on, in the passenger seat, all ready to go. It was time to get on the road, ferry to catch.