It’s hot enough to burst. The lizards have disappeared down the cracks between the patio slabs and into the crevices at the foot of mistral-blown, sunburnt walls. Occasionally, the cicadas halt their summer songs thinking that a storm might be due; then, reassured by the passing of a lonely cloud, the chorus recommences. You know it’s peculiarly hot when the locals start mentioning the weather. For a people whose national pastime is talking, they are, debilitated by the heat, unusually short on elaboration: hot, n’est pas.
Yesterday evening, three bargain hunters visited that famous cultural venue, the car park at Intermarche in Tarascon where a giant car boot sale was being held between 7.30pm and 1am. 1am? Can you imagine going out at midnight for a spot of rooting around in other folk’s belongings? Well, you probably can if you’re a burglar by trade but not otherwise.
The Kiwis were on the lookout for rakes. They have huge gardens in which there are a number of interesting examples of upcycling. For example, this is a picture of an insect gite made from the gift of an old armoire. K2’s new project involves rakes. The potential outcome is a secret but, unfortunately, rakes were thin on the ground. So they bought a Buddha instead. As you do. My purchases were necessarily small – but perfect. I’m inspired to travel on to better things.
It’s Saturday: changeover day. The Kiwis rush around like demented insects: scrubbing and washing; scraping and polishing; doing this, changing that. By 9.30am I’ve eaten my daily yoghurt and the temperature has hit 40C. Time for me to exit this hive of exhausting activity and cross the Rhone to Villeneuve les Avignon.
Above is the grand tower, but I’m more interested in what lies beneath. Only two weeks ago, I heard one of those antique experts on TV say that the weekly brocante at Villeneuve les Avignon is probably the best of its type in the whole of France.
You can get almost anything you want here at a price you want to pay. Allegedly. I keep a vague and bleary eye open for rakes but without success. The trouble is that, as ever, the French are not very good at moving to the next big thing: the ladies with the reloved ancient linen and the men with the leather hand luggage have lost the plot if they think people will pay these prices. 85 euro for a battered old bag? I think not.
On the other hand, the potential for bartering is excellent if you want unusual (and small ) bargains. They don’t, for example, get that stuff about old photos. At one stall, having spent pennies on an ancient image, I enquired about the price of another. Monsieur seemed surprised that said article was in his possession: ‘it’s a piece of paper’, he exclaimed. ‘Ok, I’ll have it for nothing’, I reply. He looks at me as if I’m stupid and pops it into my bag.