A friend gave me an advert clipped from the local paper – a new antiques centre was opening up not so far away and space was available! The next day I met Julia, the owner, and plumped for a double pitch in this lovely old building in the market town of Witney. Quite a few of the dealers from Station Mill would be setting up camp there too. Much relief all round.
At the same time, a conversation with another dealer led me to Tetbury, a beautiful Cotswold town with stunning antique shops. “Try Lorfords, tell Toby I said to call.” My despondency lifted into delight. Lorfords had long been one of my favourite and most admired shops. Lovely space and lovely people – I was utterly happy to be welcomed in. So from the grim debris of the fire, came something very good.
Graham joined me for Sylvie’s first trip abroad. We docked in St Malo on a wet, blustery October early morning: an unexpectedly spectacular granite town behind ramparts, with a fort and long sweeping beaches dramatically staked with tall wooden posts. We stopped for coffee and a soggy walk around the walls. Just off shore, on a tiny island, stood a granite cross marking the tomb of Chateaubriand, the writer, politician, diplomat and historian who died in 1848. The only antique shop I found there was “fermé.”
Along the coast, galettes for lunch in an out-of-season seaside town, shutters firmly locked, bars closed, paint faded. The one antiques warehouse I’d wanted to visit had nothing of real interest. The combination of grey skies, heavy wooden furniture and huge wardrobes painted gunmetal grey did little to lift the spirits. And at the next address inland the owner had left a little note to say she regretted, but had to be temporarily absent.
At last, further on at Vivier-sur-Mer, a blue and white sign declared that the establishment was “Ouvert.” I picked my way down a garden path under dripping foliage, and found a nice man in a little shop so crammed full that one could only move about with great caution. “You are a dealer?” he asked, “Oui, I thought so”. He lamented difficult times. I bought a few appealing objects – books covered in parchment, Creil ceramic plates, pewter platters, a small oil painting – and he helped me carry them out to the van. He tapped on the van window where Graham was just starting to doze, “Il ne faut pas vous endormir!” He directed us on to a Depot Vente at Dol: “Cross the town and follow the road to Rennes.” We found a huge hangar, roof leaking, floor cloths saturated. But nothing much here for me amongst the old fur collared coats, baby baths and formica cabinets. I emptied the rain out of a cast iron cauldron and paid for it along with a few vintage paperbacks.
Our chambre d’hote looked over the Bay of Mont St Michel, and beyond the dripping hydrangeas, on the horizon the Mont St Michel drifted in and out of view in the mist. Madame, an elderly lady, was kindness itself, fussed over us, and her every other sentence ended in “Ma petite cherie.”