Coherence et harmonie

Quietly shutting the door of the gite behind me I came through olive trees into the resiny, still night. The vestiges of a full moon hung high over the Pont du Gard. The sky lightened as I drove to the Déballage at Beziers and the sides of the autoroute were beautiful with magenta blossoms and bright gorse. Umbrella pines and cypress waved on the stony ground of the garrigue and I accompanied Charles Trenet and Barry White on the radio.

Vans and lorries from all over Europe were grid locked along the access road to the market, and a line of traffic was practising anarchic parking along the cycle trail and on the roundabout. I followed suite and parked under a pine tree, glad that yesterday’s purchases would stay cool until I handed them over to my shipper.

The throng of buyers by the nearest gates (but not the main gates) into the exhibition ground was growing fast. When 8h came and no one opened up for us, frustrated anticipation stirred and first a couple of men clambered up and dropped down over the gates, followed by a flow of others. Still no one came to open up. Those less courageous, me included, found a hole in the chain link fence and inelegantly crawled through before making for the market at top speed.

A tall trumeau mirror from over a fireplace and a marbled top commode were quickly purchased. From Paolo and Antonella, delightful Italian dealers, I bought a scraped vitrine with its original 18th century locks and keys. With ochre painted interior and a duck egg blue outside it looked marvellous. Paolo said “It is typical of furniture from country estates and, look, there is a secret place inside the cupboard too.”

Negotation is of course a crucial part of buying. I had my eye on a hand painted sign from a Patisserie and Confectioners shop. The dealer and I spoke, and when I asked “Can we meet in the middle?” what actually come out was “Can we meet up with each other?” We both laughed, and he gave me a reasonable price.

The wind got up, and predictable smashes could be heard here and there as mirrors blew over. A couple struggled with their awning which was hung with chandeliers. One chandelier had already fallen and lay in shattered pieces.

The stunning items go fast. Japanese and American buyers with their entourages were busy. I know I can’t be everywhere at once, but it is maddening to find a gorgeous cupboard or commode only to see a shipper’s label already tied on.

Things slowed down towards lunchtime, tables were laid with a cloth, food was produced and bottles opened. But a last trawl around often shows up something previously missed. I found an armoire at the back of a pitch. With a nicely shaped cornice, and original lock and key, it had been scraped back to a distressed grey and it would break down for easy transporting. That it had lost its back at some point was not too much of a problem, it could be sorted.

I’d only booked a part load with a shipper, and was delighted to discover I knew the other English buyer who I was sharing van space with. We both soon over bought and our shipper busily tried to find us additional carriage space – or even a place for storage until a later date. And there were still two markets to come!

Driving back to Castillon on the autoroute there were warnings of Violent Winds – something not unfamiliar in Provence as the Mistral hurtles down the Rhone Valley and the Tramontane joins in for good measure. A radio programme on happiness kept my attention. The likeable presenter, Isabelle, declared her approach to her wellbeing: “It is not that one bathes in a continual pool of happiness, rather it is that one has a coherence and harmony within oneself.” Coherence et harmonie.

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