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  • Debra Palmen

The Ups & Downs of a Buying Trip


Here’s the down bit: my laptop went into melt-down on this trip, crashing at every opportunity. Some days I couldn’t log-on, and after not very long I couldn’t download photos of the things I’ve been buying onto the Newsletter or FB. So that's why you haven't heard much from me, although I’ve been stockpiling my Newsletters and photos.

But here’s the up bit: I found a repairman who (sort of) got me back in business. I appear to have an entirely new operating system downloaded – he did say he’d given me a free upgrade – although now I have to relearn how to do what were basic and fast functions for me. But now I’m back I’ll download a bunch of photos of good stuff onto FB for your perusal over the next few days. So they’re coming. And in some cases things are actually coming, in our luggage.

But first, here’s a quick update on the pre-Paris shopping. After arriving in France our first stop was to visit Vincent and Sue, our contacts in Brittany for beautiful antique French copper kitchenware. As usual, they did not let us down. I told Doug I didn’t want to spend as much as last year, but it was all too good and I ended up spending more.

Doug will spend weeks getting it ready, but the shop will look wonderful when he does, featuring lots of beautiful and functional cookware at outstanding prices. But this time I also scored a lovely French oak individual prayer bench that Vincent had sourced from a sale at an old, nearby church. If you like to drop to your knees and pray every night, this is just the piece for you. If not, it will serve as an elegant stand for a picture or book.

Then it was off to Le Chateau de Bourgon for an afternoon and evening with Isabelle and Alain, in their medieval castle which is a listed French historic monument. They severely limit the number of guests they will accept, so as with last year it was just me and Doug spending the night. We went walking through the woods with Alain on a champignon hunt, accompanied by the chateau’s boisterous springer spaniels.

We had limited success, and the mushrooms we did find Isabelle declined to cook on the grounds that she wasn’t sure they were edible and it’s never a good thing to kill your visitors.

But Alain said he was 99% sure they were okay, and we all agreed that if we woke up dead we would haunt the chateau for time immemorial. But it was fine. And after a simple, candle-lit dinner we enjoyed the best night’s sleep of the trip so far. It’s inky-black in the middle of French fairy tale forests, and so, so quiet. Plus the French do mattresses really well. It’s never entirely quiet in the Mountain Stronghold – you can always hear birds, or crickets, the wind, or some critter or other at our place. But in the chill of an autumn night deep in the French countryside all the birds and insects have long since settled down and the silence is absolute.

Next morning, I was up before everyone else so I collected Mascot, one of the dogs, for a brisk morning walk in the woods. Poor Mascot must have thought I was an absolute imbecile. After about half an hour she stopped and pointed, in the manner of game tracking dogs, but for the life of me I couldn’t see what we were supposed to be looking at. She peered intently ahead, then looked pointedly at me, then peered ahead again.Obviously she expected me to do something, but I was wary because I know there are wild boar in the woods around the chateau. But what she was alerting me to was a herd of tiny roe deer. How charming. And because it took so long for me to see what was right in front of me, by then the deer had grown accustomed to me standing there and didn’t bolt off. I did manage to see the ducks on a pond at the edge of the woods that she pointed out to me, but overall I think I scored Zero as a potential grounds-keeper in Mascot’s eyes.

After breakfast we visited a brocante Isabelle recommended, and she telephoned ahead to instruct the proprietor to give us good prices. Which he did. So I bought six more wooden stools. There will be no shortage of wooden stools to select from in this shipment. Then off to visit Serge and his chaotic barns and dangerous scrap metal yard.

So more glass pate pots are on the way, ecclesiastical metalware, a lovely small slab of marble with little crosses carved into it from the altar of a church in Paris, a large French oak baguette holder (where baguettes were stored standing up) from an old Normandy farmhouse, some nice wooden boxes including a Priest’s box, and this time a range of lovely ceramic pieces. You never know what you’ll find in Serge’s barns, but they’re always worth ratting through.

Next stop, Paris.


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