About five o’clock yesterday afternoon, mid-tennis lesson, my ex-neighbours and antiques friends sent me a message, inviting me to view their new house, and promising to keep me there until I’d eaten dinner. Not wanting to turn down a French dinner invitation, by seven I was hammering on their door, my car cleverly already pointing downhill on their narrow road in a homeward direction, thus avoiding any awkward manoevres a wine glass or two later on.
Their house, which i’d seen in a very shabby state of distress a week or so before the removal date was inevitably now a picture of perfection. Antiques husband had just arrived back from the coast with Turbot fresh from the fisherman’s market on the quay and Antiques wife was busy stirring crème fraiche into finely sliced leeks. Cooling on the counter was a freshly baked Tarte Tatin.
Somewhere between the first glass of Champagne and the Tarte Tatin, Antiques husband asked me if I wanted to see his latest purchase and we all trooped into the Salon to view an unframed portrait of very beautiful woman from the early 19th century sitting in her fine blue gown against a deep almost black background. Alongside, cheek to jowel, a multitude of other protraits, all gazing loftily at us from out of their frames.
Having, with a certain level of irony, remarked on the striking family resemblance, the colour of eyes, the angle of the nose and so on, I asked him where he’d found her, and only when he replied ‘The Zenith’ of course, did I realise how close I’d come to missing the most beautiful fair of the Antiques calendar – The Rouen Puces. We laughed about his new addition to the family whilst Antiques husband scrabbled in his wallet and handed me an unused ticked for the final day at the brocante.
So it was that today found me wandering the five halls of antiques and bric à brac and wishing I had a tidy sum of money burning a hole in my pocket.
The problem with the ‘Puces’ is that invariably, within about five minutes, it clearly becomes necessary to move house to one with twice as many rooms and several ‘dependances’ or renovate-able outbuildings. Only moments later one is sighing about the misfortune and hardship suffered since the ancestors hadn’t left an enormous country ‘pile’ to inherit. The bearded gentleman above certainly looks a kindly and benevolent fellow, and I considered adopting him and taking him home with me – but first I made a tour of the halls.
This rather wonderful dresser was clearly essential for my new vast servants kitchen, though since I liked the display of old labelled pharmacy jars on the shelves within, I decided I would need a second closed dresser in which to store the more every-day items.
Clearly things were getting ahead of themselves, so I decided to find a more parsimonious ancestor to encourage a bit of frugality and restraint. I felt that he would have been a little more eclectic and inclined to live off the land.
This bed complete with it’s very own ancestor!
A Louis XV style bureau..
..to find a small French chair for my rather more modest bedroom. And after several minutes of hard bargaining the stall holder was carrying a lovely battered Louis XV chair to my car, whilst I took one final glance around at the remaining portraits.
But this glamorous woman was no match for the outstanding beauty of Antiques Husband’s ‘arriere grande maman’, so I turned my back on her musing to myself that..
While you can’t choose your relatives, you can at least these days select your ancesters!