Monday morning, after a peaceful and restorative weekend with friends, I drove away from the old mill house and back on the road up to the Loire. Another visit Lilianne, a dealer I’d known for a couple of years, in her farmhouse. I only had room for smaller items at this stage but squeezed in linens, ceramics and paintings. We had a coffee together after things were loaded, and Lilianne told me about a dealer’s fair held twice a year a couple of hours drive from her. We agreed we would meet each other there next time.
I drove on to visit Thierry half an hour further away, and he confirmed the merits of this fair “Il faut venir avec le camion vide!” he said – you must come with an empty van. Heavy lidded, kind brown eyes, a deep resonant voice, thick black hair and very relaxed, Thierry called himself the last of the last in the pecking order of the antiques-brocante world, but he always had interesting or quirky things to buy. A pile of greaseproof sheets printed in blue with the name of La Laiterie Co-operative, for wrapping butter; a suitcase full of notary documents; oil paintings with canvases beyond repair, but with robust carved frames that could be salvaged; striped mattress ticking, a green folding café table, footstools, and lithos all managed to slide into the van. And for myself I bought a crisp poplin blue and white stripe 1950’s blouse with a label that said “Elegance de Paris.” We shook hands and Thierry gave me a kiss on both cheeks.
On then up and over the Loire, over the white stone arched bridge crossing the languorous river at Saumur. A glimpse quickly towards the square, turreted chateau high above the old town. A rather rueful gaze actually, because I’d crossed the bridge there many times and always wanted to stop long enough to admire the chateau at closer quarter. But Antiques and Brocante always come before Chateaux in my alphabet. Time was running short and I joined the autoroute just south of Le Mans and sped up to Sées in Normandy leaving behind the terracotta rooves of the Loire and their promise of le Midi.