(From pre-pandemic times)

Autumn had crept in.  Through the bedroom window of a Normandy sea-side villa the rusty chestnuts stood silhouetted against the brightening sky, and birds called in the still, soft morning.  Having crossed the Channel to Ouistreham the previous day, I was now ready to drive along the coast for a bit of buying before the Deballages in Chartres and Le Mans.

Through the deep brackeny forests of the Auge, past gorgeously huge white cows and glimpses of old stone houses, along roads lined with tufts of yellow flowers to a small market at Touques. Slate rooved half-timbered houses stood around the square.  Beneath the old covered market and around the square dealers were engrossed with the finishing touches to their stands or chatting with their neighbours for the day.  I overheard a new expression, “She was as tight (mean) as an old sock!” A wonderful French market scene, utterly quintessential, and as always a thrill to find myself in such a place.

Fabrics, candelabra, chairs and a pretty plate were accumulated along with friendly exchanges.  A man in a bright red jumper sporting a white curling moustache was on good form as we enthused about the patina on a pedestal table.  

In a small Brocante shop on the square I remarked on the framed lines of poetry by the door.  Madame told me it was a gift from her son when she had launched her shop:

“Impose your luck, hold tight your happiness and go towards your risk.  They, eventually, will get used to staring at you.”  (René Char 1907 – 1988).

No one was rushing, the market was calm.  I wandered across to a café.  Around the bar customers were commenting that many of the regular dealers were at a large annual vide grenier in Cormeilles today.  They gave me directions and off I went.  Oh, this was an enormous brocante lining the streets of the little town.  Such a throng that one had to let oneself be carried along in it.  As well as brocante there were stalls selling balloons, candy floss and beer, and sausages on the grill sending smoke up beyond the roof tops and church spire. Most people were out for the day – buying home made jam, apples, pumpkins, toys for the children or the odd leaky watering can or decorative item.

The early bird dealers had long flown and I had obviously missed a trove of treasure but I was happy with the armful of items that I tottered along with.  “Oui Madame, vous avez entendu correctement, tout a un euro, on veut debarraser!”  Yes, I had heard correctly, and with delight I chose some battered candlesticks from the lady who was selling everything at one euro!  Clouds gathered, rain drops started, it was time to head back to the van as heavy rain began.

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