Entry to the Chartres Deballage was now limited to dealers with a trade ID card. Heated arguments erupted at the entrance gate as security guards stood their ground in the throng. But once past the altercations the buying was good. After a couple of hours, loaded with silk covered chairs, white ceramics, mirrors and more, I met up with a French dealer for coffee at one of the kiosks.
Then it was off towards Le Mans with the usual stops along the way at various brocantes in old garages, farm buildings and hangars. And an agreeable supper with Therese and her husband at our hotel.
The Deballage at the Le Mans Parc des Expositions is a large affair, organised with outside pitches and in large hangars. Piped music plays as buyers trawl the area. With sun shining bright, the mood was buoyant. Under a stand of pine trees at the perimeter fence an enthusiastic group of buyers were busy investigating as two men passed down item after item from a large van. I hovered for a moment on the edge, but quickly started to lay claim to pieces before they were snatched up by other eager buyers. A third man explained that they had been clearing the attics of a chateau near Angers – which explained the generous bird droppings on chair back and portrait. Small, random items – a chipped and beautiful heart shaped ink well, a pharmacy box (for suppositories) with a little bell on a green ribbon inside – were also delightful. It was all a glorious melée of the faded and cobwebby, steeped in history. I wish I could have been with them at the chateau.
On the other side of the Deballage I bought two stunning small sepia ink drawings of Popes in gilt wood frames. Noted on the reverse was the date, 1812, and the name “The Heretofore Marquise de Turpin de Crissé”. Apparently the Marquis had died not long before, and I imagined that the Heretofore Marquise had taken herself off on a Grand Tour of Italy to sooth her grieving heart.
It had been a good trip and I made my way up to Ouistreham for the night ferry. Since the camps at Calais had been disbanded young African men had found their way to this port. It was sobering to pass them sitting in groups by the side of the road or trying their luck beneath camper vans to get on the ferry. No country, no home.