More dust, more cobwebs.

I like September trips to France, when the hubbub of summer is over but there are still plenty of markets happening. Graham and I set off on a bit of road trip – me in my van and he on his motorbike. 1,300 miles of hot and glorious days, getting grimey and cobwebby, and usually arriving at the chambre d’hote very late, with Graham already arrived, showered, and sampling our host’s home produced vin aux noix. There is something very exhilarating about being up and out when the sun rises, and then heading on to a destination at the end of the day as the clouds turn orange and dusky grey.

Oui, oui”, said the long faced woman with a greasy fringe in the boulangerie, “you’ll see the brocante on your right as you leave the village.” I crunched up a driveway and parked alongside rusty farm equipment and associated debris. An elderly woman in slippers and apron appeared at her kitchen door and acknowledged me with a nod. A dog barked furiously nearby. She slowly crossed the yard and heaved back a large, battered metal door to reveal a gloomy space brimming with dust covered brocante – she gestured me in. I didn’t stay long – just buying a pretty painted platter and a small table. And managed a dramatic skid on the gravel as I left.

I was en route to meet up with Jean-Christophe, René’s son. I parked up at the side of an endlessly straight road with articulated lorries buffeting past. The frontage of the place looked promising – behind metal shutters extended a long, dark room full and enticing. An old man in a battered hat shuffled through the yard outside and set himself up with table and orange plastic chair near the road to read his paper. This was Papi, Jean-Christophe’s grandfather, and owner of the vast spread of barns and hangars at the back and also across the road.

I spent a long time in the barns amongst dismantled stacks of armoires, sideboards, tables. As if thrown up to the surface of the pile by a subterranean heave, a small child’s piano, painted pink, an old cart wheel, a typewriter. Jean-Christophe had to leave to do a valuation, and left me with Papi. “Il est dur, tu sais!” he winked as he left, “A la prochaine. See you next time!”. Papi was indeed a hard negotiator, and by the time we had harangued and cajoled over my purchases it was early evening, and I still had an hour and a half to drive. Late for supper!