Southern France had been on Orange Alert with “temps chaotique,” chaotic weather. People watched in disbelief as cars were swept away in turbulent rivers. Eerie, transparent and purple jelly fish were washed up on the beach. The wind continued to howl.

I arrived at the Montpellier market late. My alarm had not worked and I bolted out of the hotel. Normally only half an hour away, I had to drive through Sete in the rush hour, cursing. There were, of course, no crowds waiting to get into the Parc des Expos. I showed my ticket to the one last security man on the gate and walked briskly in.

Perhaps the day had got off to a bad start but I could find little I wanted to buy. So I told myself to relax and wander. Towards the end of the morning I bought some thick hand-made glasses; some large hemp tea towels and a couple of pretty 1930’s oils of the Cote d’Azur, though nothing to raise the pulse.

But then a small 18th century gilt wood mirror propped up in the boot of a car caught my attention. It was an object of beauty and I was very glad to have found one lovely thing.  The two women who sold me the mirror said, smilingly, in agreement, “And, you know, you resemble very much our actress Carole Bouquet.”  This was becoming a familiar compliment in France –  one I am more than happy to receive.


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