Travels in the Auvergne

I’d known Eric for eight years.  At 10 o’clock he arrived at the chateau and came into the kitchen for a coffee, shaking everyone by the hand. The plan was to begin at to his depot and then visit a couple of colleagues in the area.   We drove the few kilometres back to his village, up twisting roads with far reaching views over to extinct volcanoes.  He pushed back the metal shutters and in we stepped.   Stacks of banana boxes to one side, furniture, paintings and mirrors on the other.  By lunchtime we had clambered, reached, dragged, hefted.  Eric put up a table at the entrance so I could unpack boxes and set things aside.  Heavy framed mirrors, a faded grey and mustard painted shop counter from a “Bonneterie”, a pair of armchairs were among the larger items I liked.  Eric would deliver everything  to the chateau. 

I hadn’t given a thought to lunch but Eric’s partner called us up to the house.  How very agreeable to sit together and chat at their kitchen table over hot Puy lentils and smoked sausage, salad, cheese, fruit, wine, coffee. 

After we’d sorted some of the disarray in the depot Eric took me on a tour around the rugged landscape, low cloud and fir trees, to see some of his pals.  Up a winding track we visited Fred.  In one corner stood a grandfather clock case with a taxidermy deer’s head peering  out.  Right in the back of a cavernous stone barn a cupboard with chicken wire doors looked interesting.  With determination and some grimacing we managed to extract it.  Into Eric’s van it went, with some creamy yellow glaze Ardeche pots, a lidded lacemaker’s box and other visual delights.  On we drove to see a dealer who had just moved into a woodworker’s workshop.  Bits of machinery and cables remained but, while Eric chatted with his friend, I hoovered up and down the aisles, loving the large white ceramic jug, pretty gold framed mirror and occasional table I bought.  Further along the road we passed a restaurant sign promoting “All The Frogs Legs You Can Eat”.  Our last call was to another depot piled high.  In the fading afternoon I pulled out a few more items.  By the time we neared Le Puy the sky was velvet black and the colossal statue of Notre Dame de France Virgin, built above the town on an old citadel, shone bright down below us. 

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