Friday, 4 May 2007

The day of the Vide Grenier

There was a feverish air of excitement this morning Chez Nous for it is the occasion of the village Vide Grenier and Chief Patissier had agreed that we should have a stall! Madame Grognonne has been up in the attics since before dawn scouring forgotten boxes of delights and unusual oddities and she has found, amongst other things, a rather splendid portrait of the Arch Duke Ferdinand, a cracked mirror, its frame made from a cart horse's collar and an assortment of miscellaneous agricultural implements. I had hoped to be able to sell bunches of Asparagus but since the Horse ate them yesterday sadly this will not be possible.

We assembled all our surplus goods and chattels in the courtyard and Madame Grognonne and the children began cleaning them all thoroughly. We were at a loss as to how to transport our treasures when Madame Grognonne remembered that Phillipe Le Tue , the undertaker, had a handsome handcart which she thought he may be prevailed upon to lend us and I dispatched her forthwith in search of it. Phillipe was in the process of removing the remains of some poor soul to their final resting place within the churchyard but on hearing our request he propped the coffin against the wall with the intention of collecting it later and we loaded up his cart with all our assorted “trucs et puces”.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the term “ Vide Grenier”, its literal meaning is “empty attic” and it is a splendid opportunity for everybody to unearth all their accumulated and unwanted paraphernalia and set it on a stall in the centre of the village so that others may peruse and purchase what they will. They are such jovial events and quite a tradition here in France. Regrettably, I suspect probably the nearest you poor things have to such jolly fêtes is a village jumble sale. One of the many advantages the Vide Grenier has over these is that being held in the open air one is saved the risk of asphyxiation from the pervading aroma of stale clothes, old people and unwashed bodies which I remember all too clearly from my brief experience of English Jumble sales.

It being spring and our village being très agréable and beau there were more than a few tourists present at the event , although whether they had any idea what was going on or what it is they were purchasing I think unlikely. There appeared to be quite a vocal group who had arrived ensemble in several extremely large motorcars whom, from their dress and abysmally loud voices, I took to be Americans. They gave the appearance of being intent on purchasing anything and everything they espied! I saw one man gleefully grabbing incomprehensible amounts of dented, dirty and rusted enamel storage jars to his chest which he insisted the “folks at home would just adore”. I understand it was one of their party whom is now the deliriously happy owner of our horse collar mirror, 3 pitchforks and a broken plough. Whilst the woman whom I took to be his spouse bought several pairs of Madame Grognonnes rather worm eaten wooden Sabots and an implement for castrating cattle, though whether she has the skill to utilize the latter is another matter entirely.

I find these colonials to be awfully strange people, and having met them at close quarters , one can quite plainly see why their forefathers dispatched them to the four corners of the world to seek out their fortune. They must have been awfully tiresome to have around the house for any period of time. I sometimes wish I could do the same with Middle child when he is proving a trifle troublesome!!

In the centre of the village the Madame le Bourré from “le petit chevre” had set up a tent selling refreshments of kir, cidre and andouille sausages in a crêpe, all of which were proving most popular, even with the tourists, although if they knew what went in to the sausages I suspect they might not find them quite so delectable.

I supervised the children and Madame Grognonne in making a tasteful display of our goods and let them to the business of commerce whilst I amused myself admiring the bibelots on other peoples stalls.

I couldn’t help but notice that our very own Alexi Vlodaflodavodavitch was doing a lively trade in cherry eau de vie and fruit preserves. Madame Clothilde the postmistress bought several bottles I notice. Her stall seemed to be entirely made up of old cartes postales, an eclectic mélange of rural scenes and rather scantily clad young women in exotic poses, several of which bore an uncanny resemblance to her in her youth.

Jean Claude and Antoine were doing a surprisingly brisk trade in an assortment of ladies garments and footwear in rather large sizes but where they had amassed such a collection I can not begin to imagine. Good gracious some of those shoes could only possibly fit a man! However, to show willing I did buy myself a rather attractive paste and enameled necklace and matching earrings from them which Antoine assured me with a wink Chief Patissier would find very fetching!

Whilst rummaging through the stall of our Parish curé, I found two books which , since he has always professed an interest in philosophy and history, I thought an ideal cadeaux for my dear Chief Patissier’s private library. "The 120 days of Sodom and other writings" and “Philosophy in the Boudoir” by a rather aristocratic author whom I have not come across before but nonetheless which I hope he will enjoy reading.

I believe the writer is le Duke de Sade but he may have been a count or a Marquis . Since I have already wrapped the books as a surprise, can not verify which, although I doubt whether you will be any more familiar with him than I am! I am not sure where exactly the kingdom of Sodom is located on the globe, I have briefly consulted the household atlas but with little success. However, I am sure Chief Patissier will be familiar with it as he is awfully knowledgeable about such things. My understanding of geography is shamefully lacking but then one can not be good at everything and I am, naturally, an excellent needlewoman, which I think is sufficient for anyone. In my experience it does not pay a woman to appear too intelligent.


The painting is rather a charming oil of some unnamed rural idyll and shows the village Vide Grenier in full swing. It looks not unlike our own little village earlier today and is so I am told by an Irish American artist ALOYSIUS C. O'KELLY . I do wonder if perhaps he was the gentleman, and I use that term in the broadest sense only, who paid Madame Grognonne 45 Francs for our chipped scullery sink which, he informed her, he fully intended to take back to America and place outside his front door planted up with geranium !


Inthemud said...

Vide grenier sounds so much better than Garage sale!!

What fun!

You do make me laught, you must be a wonderfully humourous person to know.

lixtroll said...

Cor you don't half do me good Un Peu! Just one glance at your pages and I am chortling away like a good'un.

Actually our house smells like an English jumble sale all the time, but that could be just one snippet of information too far!

sally's chateau said...

Ah yes, Philosophy in the Boudoir, such an essential edition to one's country house library wouldn't you agree to the 'visitors' or PG's as one refer's to them in modern terms !

snailbeachshepherdess said...

I think jumble sales here have been overtaken by car boot sales - well at least they are open air.... keep the stories coming love every minute of them

Frances said...

How wise you are about the value of the appearance of intelligence.
So, I will whisper and only say it just the once, ... these blogs are magnificent.

Pondside said...

That's my old horse-collar mirror - I sold it at the last garage sale! It sounds as though you all had a wonderful time, and I'm sure Chef P.will love the books! Re our sufficient skills - your mother would be proud of you - entirely ladylike, for sure!
My Lillypad is in Paris - having a wonderful time, seeing lots and eating a baguette for every meal. (at least that's what I think she said!)We are so lucky to have email.
I do know Mother Earth. For years I subscribed to the magazine. Lots of useful things there. I still also have my Foxfire books - incredibly interesting old-time skills.
Anyway - I do go on! I loved the blog and I love the illustrations!

PG said...

I love the musty smell of jumble sales, although they are few and far between since wretched car boot sales took over!

I see you did the commendable thing of getting rid of 'stuff'only to buy up someone elses 'stuff'...

@themill said...

Un peu, do hope you're going to publish your adventures. You do make me smile. Ah, Philosophy. The baggy bottomed son is currently doing Philosophy 'A' level because he intends to live and work in France and "the French love Philosophy Mum."
Jumble sale aroma - reminds me of my Granny. Her garage was always full of stuff waiting to go to the next jumble sale. I'm sure the same stuff just kept going backwards and forwards. Ultimate in recycling tho!

LittleBrownDog said...

I loved hearing about your Vide Grenier (although I do rather fear for the husband of the woman who bought the cow castrating contraption...)

Hope M Chef Patissier enjoys the books - you obviously have a cure (sorry, don't seem to be able to do accents on this computer) with very catholic tastes)

Inthemud said...

I will take it easy, my manager is very good and says do as much or as little as I feel able. I work from home adn go out to visit people to talk about their problems over a cup of tea, so not too demanding, only on emotional front really!