Gilded orbs, hedgehogs and ladies’ bloomers

outside barnWhile offloading and inventorying the contents of Moe before they are stacked in the Gite’s barn, I become aware of faint snufflings and shuffling in the leaves by the enormous old barn doors. Two adolescent hedgehogs the size of baked potatoes have emerged under the door and are out for their daily forage. They come and go quite a bit and seem quite unconcerned by my being there.

Later in the week I’m back at the wheel of Moe, this time going to Chateauroux for an auction. I find my friend Nicky, who lives on the other side of Poitiers, already in the sale room searching through a stack of boxes. Viewing was nearly over by the time I’d arrived, so we peeled off for lunch and a catch up at a pavement café with vines, sunshine and parasols. The auction began at 14h. The local dealers, looking stooped, big bellied and worn at the edges, sat at the back of the sale room. Nicky dived into action, bidding first of all for a Lot of old linens. When the box was portered over to our seats she realised she’d bought a box of very large ladies’ bloomers. (“Oh, they’ll come in useful for something!” she grinned). We became gradually boxed in by a bag of metal lamps, two small tables, a chair, a stack of plates for coquilles St Jacques, a set of asparagus dishes, a chandelier and galvanized zinc wash tubs. The usual banter from the Maitre kept the room entertained: “Qui veut me donner 2€ pour cette caisse de cochonneries?!” – Who’ll give me 2€ for this box of rubbish?!

Driving out with Graham on Friday (to be a day of rest we’ve agreed), on a tree lined street in a small town I see an antiques shop. “Sorry, but I have to stop.” He has of course become used to this sort of halt in any itinerary. Inside we meet the owner, an American woman who has made a life for herself in France. I’m interested in a large wooden food chest on legs (une maie), but we can’t agree on price, so it is left. But she tells me that at La Chatre we will find two good dealers, and confirms that there will be a vide-grenier the following day in a nearby village. “It’ll be good,” she said, “it’s the first one the commune has had.”

So in the marvellously pretty town of La Chatre with a vast sloping, cobbled market square surrounded by half-timbered houses we settle in a café for lunch – and then I’m off. The shop in town is a satisfying jumble of brocante and two nice mirrors and metal ware are purchased. The other dealer is just out of town in a little courtyard. Madame welcomes me in. Here are some lovely things, beautifully displayed. Monsieur and Madame used to be based at the well known Paris market, St Ouen, and supplied some of the major English dealers. I’m stopped in my tracks by a Louis X111 table that has been faux-marbled, with a gilded orb on it’s cross bar/entretoise – I must have it. A rush seated Provencale arm chair, some heavy garden furniture, a dozen lovely wine glasses are purchased. In their back storage room a few more things are spied. Purchases are stashed into the van, and we drive back for a barbeque. I promise to make it up to Graham. He’s heard that before too.

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