5am. Adrenalin soon kicks in as I load my bag into Moe, start the engine, headlights on – off on a mission! Out of the village and into the deep countryside. I love seeing the day gradually emerge, and the smell of the sweet earth.
There was a long line of white vans at La Couture Boussey. Nothing was moving. Men in high-vis jackets occasionally marched out into a field in the middle of the little town, waving torches about onto the grass. I found a spot to park to watch for further activity. In the dewey cool, other would-be buyers hung about in groups of two or three, empty bags on their shoulders. Not until 7am, with the sun rising behind the Museum of String Instruments, did vans and cars with trailers begin a cautious advance into the field. From several key perspectives, however, this was a “de-luxe” vide-grenier: parking close by (the usual luggings of bags and trolley to and fro are tedious) and a squatty style loo with a toilet brush hanging on a chain, even water and soap! The stall selling coffee and croissants got going. Banter between the guys setting up the barbeque for the lunchtime crowd was good-natured. The day held promise.
As the action began I sprang on a large gold-framed mirror as it emerged from the side of a van. One man arrived nearby with boxes and chairs piled precariously on an old pram frame – looking a little like a circus act. But stallholders were being meticulous and slow in setting out their wares. As ever it is a process of patiently circling as goods are unpacked, or rooting through boxes as they appear. At some point, about 10am, there’s the feeling of “well, that’s about it then”, time to collect up heavier purchases – chairs, picture frames, wooden trugs – that have been put aside for me, encouraging everything into Moe and off again in the, by now, hot morning.
I drive west, across great swathes of harvested fields, towards St André sur Eure. But en route I spot a serendipitous sign announcing “Antiquités” pointing down into a village (what joy to come across these signs!). I circle the duck pond, do a couple of three point turns, stop and ask a woman in her apron, then ask an elderly man painting his gate and finally arrive in front of a tall, bright yellow metal gate. This is the place! The sign on the gate declares that the place is open at weekends, yet another little sign hangs down: “Fermé.” I sit for a moment, hoping that someone will spot me and rush out across the courtyard. I ring the number on the sign and a young man says, sorry, it is my father’s business and he’s not here today….. Ah well, c’est comme ca..