It was the last market – Montpellier. Barry confirmed that I’d almost filled the space booked on his van. With just one cubic metre left I’d have to be satisfied with buying smalls or light things that would perch on top – no point looking at larger buffets now.
As always the visual feast was copious, and I took pleasure in scanning and taking my time. Some very nice paintings, linens and ceramics could be coaxed into the van – and two sets of fauteuils, reupholstered in vintage hemp fabric, were light enough to sit jauntily above a full load.
Pierre was waiting out in the car park with the green shutters he had mentioned. But I hadn’t realised from the photo they were so tall. (Too tall to stand up straight on my stand at Station Mill!) “I don’t want to oblige you if they are not what you expected,” said Pierre kindly, but I bought them. They had wonderful iron work handles and I’d think of something to do with them…….
At pace dealers and shippers pushed loaded carts (one with a little dog balancing up front, figure head like), carried chairs upside down on their heads and hefted zinc bathtubs, shop dummies, tinkling chandeliers and great oil paintings back to van and lorry. It is always an impressive sight of great industry.
Having bought what I could and with space all full, I had time to help an English dealer friend carry a few pieces back to her van. We talked for a while about how the three days’ buying had been and the vagaries of life. She looked up at the bright blue Provencal sky and smiled – “Aren’t we lucky!”
The wind mercifully dropped on my last day. I wandered outside the walls of Aigues-Mortes to the regular Wednesday food market, held on a long boulevard lined by plane trees.
On a café terrace, taking in the warmth and luminous calm, listening to the echoey song of sparrows and starlings, I watched the timeless vignette of an old Monsieur with beret, cycling slowly past, a wooden crate with his provisions strapped behind the saddle. Life unfolded gently around me after the rush of the last few days. Locals
exchanged festive recipes, commented on how cold it had been, on the performance of a grandson in a nativity play, finished their coffee and went off to buy their tomatoes. I was sad to overhear that Johnny Halliday had died – France’s beloved Johnny. I’d danced to many of his records in my twenties. Emmanuel Macron said “There is a little of Johnny in all of us.”
Later I found a spot in the sun on the terrace of a delicatessen. The owner told me he had worked at the Coq d’Argent in London, and then come home to set up his business. He served a sublime lunch of ricotta, roast peppers with a spinach and rocket salad, then a confit of aubergine and tomato.
Truly a marvellous find.