Foire a tout on a hot afternoon

chineuseBack on the road. A 1960’s garage comes into view, pumps gone, but on the concrete forecourt is a magical sign: “Brocante.” The building has been painted in white and blue – this is “L’Atelier de la Chineuse.” I walk over to the door but am too early – the shop doesn’t open until 14h of course. Back in Moe I’m just planning the next leg of my journey when a man with a baguette under his arm taps on the window. “Shall I call her for you?” I nod. “Tiens, Yvonne, tu as une cliente!” He passes the phone to me and Yvonne says she’ll be there in ten minutes. I am hugely grateful to all involved, and enjoy a short rest under a shady tree. Yvonne and her husband, all smiles, arrive to open up the shop and slide back the huge metal doors to the old workshop. I buy some monogrammed sheets, a few galvanised pitchers, some 19th century illustrated newspapers. These were printed for the weekend reader, and included a song with lyrics and music for the family to enjoy around the piano.

At the far side of this little town is another establishment, “Au Chineur”. Despite crockery and cutlery lunchtime noises behind a door, the place is open. There are rows of heavy brown furniture here but I find a box of ebony and bone dominoes, and a watercolour of a 1950’s man with moustache. On again, man w moustachefeeling flushed and hot. There is a Foire a Tout (i.e. everything from plastic daffodils to silver photo frames) at Damville, which by this time in the day may have nothing left for me, but it is on my route and I just can’t help stopping for a look. Damville’s central streets are full of stalls. Yes, it is tiring after a while scanning the paraphernalia and bits of discarded daily life for something that has “utility or beauty” (thank you William Morris). But interest returns with the purchase of a pressed glass tazza, a friendly exchange with a smiling, white haired woman fanning herself in the heat. I stop at a stall for a chilled glass of Normandy apple juice and push on. I am looking at a pretty painted shelf and a chic woman in a white mini-skirt says , “Prenez la, have it for 2 euros. I don’t want to take anything home with me.” So I buy lots from her at very good prices. Moe is wedged into a parking space and I ask a passing man to help me manoeuvre out. “Braquez a droite, braquez a droite, oui, oui, allez, allez, allez, oui c’est bon!” And after much gesticulating I’m on my way, with a grateful thumbs up to him and a big grin.

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