We’ve just returned from the summer brocante market in Brantôme. It’s held in the park on the edge of the river and it’s full of really interesting stuff. Old iron tools, embroidered linen, cracked paintings in ornate frames, cast iron marmites and piles of red striped torchons (tea towels) that are typical in the South West of France.
Some of the second-hand stuff is over-priced junk but there are some great bargains and some really beautiful old things that you can recognise from paintings and engravings of French country life. The iron fire guards, rush-seated chairs, ornate corkscrews and coloured glass soda bottles are snapped up by locals and newcomers who would rather fill their battered oak sideboards with ornate pre-loved crockery than buy brand-new from Ikea.
Dan and I have a real weakness for brocante. It stirs up the old dream of one day buying a house or a barn in Périgord. This is how we have justified buying an old iron bed, a second-hand moped, a pan for roasting chestnuts and various other things that are too big to bring back to New Zealand. We spent a year and a bit living here with our children in 2005-06 and we’ve returned several times since. At the end of each visit we leave more stuff behind; it’s as if each purchase gives us another reason to return. In the meantime our friends use it or store it and promise to give it back when we do find a place of our own.
Today Dan bought a lovely old Monopoly set so we can play at putting hotels on the Champs-Elysées, and I found a wooden container with an iron rim that was used for measuring grain. I also bought a bunch of ancient looking iron keys. They’re heavy enough to cost me excess luggage but this is one purchase I plan to bring home. I’m going to hang them up as a visual reminder of the sort of front door I’d like to unlock one day in France.