Sailor boys

Off again, direction Angers and beyond. In Le Lion d’Angers I popped into the local antiquaire but regretfully only bought some 1940’s postcards of the town. “Ah, but you have a photo of me there!” he said. The little boy standing in front of the Vieille Eglise, he assured me, was him, several decades before, on the day the local photographer had been capturing the town’s notable edifices.

I reached the village where Francis, the dealer lived. I had no actual address, so pulled up in front of the church and enquired of a man passing by. “Le brocanteur? Il est la,” he pointed directly across the street. Large metal gates opened and there was Francis and his charming wife. She had prepared some beautifully monogrammed linen sheets for me to see – I was not disappointed.

The sky was full of sunset as I headed across country to find Graham. In Vouillé I spotted his motorbike through the huge gateway of what had been a coaching inn. The large courtyard had a dovecot, and the logis was pretty, with white shutters and pink roses climbing up the stone walls. From our room we could hear the occasional great beating of wings as fifty white doves moved from one gently sloping terracotta tiled roof to another.

Mornings are darker in September though. At 5am I groped open the huge wooden doors of the gateway and made my way to market. At 6am I found myself on the far side of Poitiers in a long line of white vans being directed into a field. I leaned out the van and said to the chap with high-vis jacket that I wasn’t wanting to set up a stand but to buy! “Oh vous etes anglaise! Well, well!!” came the reply, sounding very Sherlock Holmes. I’d forgotten my torch and had to content myself with buying things in the light of van headlights, or following other people with torches very closely. As the sky lightened I was relieved to see that the things I’d bought were actually rather nice.

It doesn’t take much to put me in a good mood: as I bought a few lovely items from one stallholder – blue spotty coffee bowls, a set of skittles painted to look like sailor boys – he said, “I saw you here early this morning. You’re not a brocanteur from around here, are you. I know all the brocanteurs around here. I said to myself, she must be an antiquaire from Paris.” An antiquaire from Paris indeed!