A large Brocante had opened on the N12, a ruler straight road south of Verneuil that thundered with lorries.  This place lookedpromising.  We walked into what had been a spartan and high ceilinged industrial unit, which was now was adorned with stuffed pheasants perched on antlers, painted panels from fairground carousels and a pyramid shaped tabernacle.  I recognised the dealer from previous markets and exchanged a few words before launching into the eclectic and decorative array of items.

Graham and I were on a trip down to the Loire, stopping in the Perche en route.   A few days of “Brocances” was planned- the irresistable mix of “Brocante” and “Vacances.”  Graham has come to understand that this means there’s going to be a lot more Brocante than Vacances.

Graham and Michel carried five tall and heavy mirrored doors to the back of Sylvie.  This was a good start to buying.  I’d also bought an iron garden table and some small canvases all from the same atelier.  Michel told us that we would see a couple more Brocantes not far along the road but that they weren’t up to much.  I had to stop just in case, but found nothing of interest amongst piles of household ceramics, gloomy armoires and leatherette sofas. Michel was right.

We drove on to Belleme, a favourite spot, with continuing mushrooming numbers of brocante shops in old warehouses and shops around the town.  The round of dealers was made but, disappointingly, I found only a pair of pretty chairs to recover, letters from a Charcuterie,  hand made wine glasses and a quirky 1940’s watercolour of a woman in a dress that was  marked “Haut“(top) around the neck, “Milieu” (middle) around the waist and “Bas” (bottom) around the hem.  “Most people haven’t noticed the writing,” said the shop owner.  She told me this artist had spent so much on materials that his wife forbade further expense, so he took to painting on the inside of packets and sugar cube boxes.

Driving through a small town next day an “Antiquités” sign brought us to a halt.  I walked back along a narrow pavement to a dusty windowed shop.  I pushed open the door into a room with every surface crammed full.  A small spaniel stood barking furiously at me.  “Delice!  Delice!  Tu te calmes?”  A head popped up from behind a canapé.  “I beg you to excuse me”, said the owner, “I have just had an excellent lunch in the little restaurant opposite and I was making the most of a quiet moment to have a nap.  Do you know the estabishment?  Non? Ah, well, you need to be curious, open every door to every cupboard and armoire, and the drawers too.  Everything is organised inside.  There is a cupboard for soupieres, a cupboard for coffee mills, a drawer for cutlery and so on. There is more on the floor above.”

I was gathering a few finds together when the shop door opened and a girl of about eight or nine came in with 5 euros to spend.  She walked around the shop talking to herself (or to her imaginary friend?) – “Ah, this is magificent,” or “Oh yes, I absolutely must buy this.” Meanwhile, downstairs the owner had resumed his nap with Delice curled up in the crook of his arm.

What had once been a home was now dedicated to brocante.  Traces of an interior from forty or fifty years before – a fireplace, green painted wood panelling, peeling wallpaper – made an interesting backdrop.  Some time later I emerged with a box packed with Creil et Montereau ceramics and a length of lovely old ticking.  What a delicious way to spend an hour or so – with perhaps a hint of Wonderland about it.


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