We were directed on to another dealer ten kilometres away, and here again there was no outward sign of what lay within. The bare boarded ground floor was open plan and arranged with Swedish sofas, wooden angels, distressed farm tables, foxed mirrors, buffets – exquisite pieces, immaculate good taste. At the rear of the building a tall 19th century conservatory, cast iron columns quietly rusting away, held projects not yet restored. Prices were high but I found a table in need of repair, and a white gloss painted desk to dry scrape back.
On again to the third dealer set up in large red brick farm buildings, once part of the adjacent chateau, now a workshop and home. Big industrial lockers and riveted coffee tables here, and hide covered gymnasium equipment. Out in the yard under a glass canopy were large tables, stacked three high. The dealer scaled up between a double stack and got a top one down. Nice. Pale, worn green paint beneath and a bare scrub top. Stone urns, a buffet to restore and a few galvanised containers also fitted well into Sylvie.
The afternoon was hot. We drove on to a small, deeply rural village and parked by huge blue painted doors set in high white walls. We were welcomed in by a delightful couple who gave us lemon cordial in their cool kitchen, once the old piggery. Across the sun dappled courtyard was a three storey barn with trap doors, ropes and pulleys, beautifully set out with Swedish and Northern European furniture. I bought an enormous faded blue wedding chest that four of us had to lift up “coffin style”, and other pieces all in distressed greys, whites and blues. The idyll was briefly interrupted by a grumpy farmer who wanted to get his tractor and trailer of manure past Sylvie and up the lane. Angelique kissed me goodbye. I was enormously glad to have met them and seen such a fabulous place.
The last appointment was with dealers who were just in the next street to our B&B. Through another barn arranged with a statue of the Virgin Mary, industrial cabinets, a Swedish sofa bed I came upon another charming couple. “Everything you see is for sale,” said Olav. In the sitting room he picked up a pile of magazines from a distressed, grey side table that I was taken by. His son carried on watching TV as I looked around. Hanging above a door was a long, dry scraped buttery yellow 19th century fairground sign advertising ice cream. “A La Bonne Glace” was painted in blue letters, interspersed with small oval etched mirrors. Very pretty. I had to buy it.
Back out in the courtyard, and a few more purchases later, Olav showed me his new fork lift truck (I was envious). “I couldn’t manage any longer without one,” he smiled, looking over at the 2.5 metre tall plaster Virgin Mary.