(From the time before Covid).
Then came three days of intense buying at the Deballages. Prices were swingeingly high – everyone remarked on it. I bought slowly and carefully, but US buyers were out in force and had slapped their sold stickers everywhere I looked. Beautiful things, but I couldn’t even begin to pay the impossible prices.
Five pink covered Voltaire books were popped into a bag for me by a jovial dealer in a quieter corner of the fair at Montpellier. I love the philosophical exchanges that the French often to embark upon. “Voltaire got it right,” said the dealer, “he lived until he was 83, he took plenty of time to think and write and contemplate life…… The question for us this moment is, do we make time or take time….?”
From Eric, a dealer I knew from the Auvergne, I bought a long farmhouse table, in need of work – its six legs needed strengthening, and the remains of old paint and linoleum would have to be scraped off the top. But for today a picnic lunch occupied one end. “Try some of our home cured salami,” offered Eric.
Meanwhile Claude, a wonderfully vibrant and salt of the earth dealer, and his partner were hugging the shade of a neighbouring van. “Trop chaud,” they puffed. Round the corner a Spanish dealer offered me a cold drink from a barrel filled with ice. It was just so hot!
I negotiated long and hard for four 18th century fauteuils. Only by the end of the fair was the dealer willing to come anywhere near what I wanted to pay. (Le prix du fin du marché). Elsewhere, prices might suddenly drop only as I started to walk away.
I find it’s worth making a final tour at the end of a fair. Three stunning Swedish tables, staggeringly expensive at 8am, were waiting, ready to be loaded back into the dealer’s van. They had presumably not sold because they needed slight restoration. Not a problem. An excellent deal was made.
Barry was feeling the heat too. It’s hard work loading up. I’d bought a three metre long Italian gilded balustrade and watched as it disappeared inside the van, along with ceramic pots, mirrors, chairs, canvases, consoles, baskets, tables and so on.
Every cell in my body felt blasted with heat and light and wind as I drove back from the last fair in 32 degrees. I felt sated with all the Provencal clichés: sun, herbs, lavender and garlic, palest rosé, cypress trees and singing crickets! Glorious.