We drive to visit an English dealer who seemed oblivious to the fact that I might want to look around the shop, or eventually to leave! We were regaled with tales of poor health and many operations. I didn’t find anything to buy there either. A few kilometres down the road we pull up in the yard of a brocante, full of rusty bedheads. The muscular proprietor, dressed in black, is in his little office drinking beer with two men, and is stunningly indifferent to my presence. A good farm table is purchased nevertheless. The next few more stops yield little of interest. Heavy rain sets in. The night is spent at a simple Routier hotel and we sit in the bar in front of the dying embers of a fire with a kir – and paperwork.
Next day we carry on south down narrow lanes, returning to a dealer also with many barns and shops dotted about in their little village. Metal shutters were rolled up as we arrived, the dog stopped barking and rolled over to have her tummy scratched. Splendid dusty mirrors were spied. Two beauties were loaded in to the van. On to a dealer I’d not met before. Chain fencing, a fork lift truck and a large Alsation dog straining at his chain set the scene. Monsieur, in his blue work overalls and a trilby hat, pointed to where we should park. Here was a “fils de broc” (son of a brocanteur) and his son carrying on the family tradition. Five enormous metal hangars stood around the yard. Sliding back the metal door revealed a solid wall of furniture with a just a small opening to get in. A narrow path snaked through piles of everything to get to the stairs up to the loft. I am led through a “guard of honour”, a tunnel almost, of upended farm tables, legs nested together. But the volume of stuff was overwhelming and in the end, I bought very little.
The next stop was more inspiring: a friendly couple with a large barn and workshops. She elegant in jeans and a brocade jacket, he in overalls – he the one with a quick word and a joke. I found some lovely fruitwood furniture, polished and humming with rich patina. We were invited to have tea, and four chairs were arranged up round a table in the showroom. A little kitten miewled for attention and Monsieur scooped him up and popped him inside his jacket, stroking the little head as we sat and talked about life.
Back to stay at the wonderful Normandy manor house near Valognes, and a few more dealers to visit. I find that the two large fauteuil chairs that Madame has been keeping in her boiler room still won’t fit in the van. “Oh well, next time you come you will have to put them in first!”