I have been buying at local brocante fairs for years. Early morning starts, rummaging through a mix of antiques often in a field, unexpected finds. My idea of fun! But sometimes I get a little more than I bargained for …. this is the tale of my encounter with a most unusual lady, a few years ago.
First of all I met the gentleman at a country brocante fair, he was selling hand made fishing flies. Works of beauty, exquisite knots of thread and feather and beads, designed to lure and to deceive. But it wasn’t the boxes of flies, or the old fishing tackle that drew me in, it was the piece of antique fabric thrown across a trestle table and used to create his stall. A length of pale grey ticking, a most unusual colour, beautiful.
I finally found their pretty house, thatched, in the middle of nowhere with a happy dog in the small unkempt but flower filled garden. A lady came out to greet me. Beautiful. Walking tall, her elegance strangely out of place in such a modest setting.
Yet, despite, all her words about wanting to keep them, I was sure she wanted to sell. For the first time she let me talk: I smiled, “Your fabrics are stunning, I have quite a collection at home, but I haven’t often seen any this beautiful”
She looked me in the eye and named her price. I agreed without hesitation and she suggested I step inside to see ‘the rest’.
The tiny house was more than cramped. It looked as if the contents of a large château had been fitted into a garden shed. “Excusez-moi” she fussed, I know I have kept too much, but when I had to leave my last home for unfortunate reasons, I couldn’t leave it all behind.
And then it really started. From cupboards and from behind doors came a steady flow of monogrammed porcelain, of crystal, of fine linen and shining silver. In between each new box that was opened she told me more about her family, her former splendour and her misfortune.
I didn’t take any photos while I was there and I can’t tell you everything she shared with me; that would be disrespectful to the confidence she showed me. But I can say that I was fortunate to meet this woman. She grew up in the lap of luxury, she married well, she was widowed, and through a tragic turn of events she lost everything.
Today she has created a new life with a charming gentleman who makes fishing flies. They live simply but they are happy, and she still insists on only using linen bedsheets and silver cutlery. Now and again she meets someone like myself, and takes pleasure in getting out the treasures she has kept, in remembering easier times, and a quality and handwork that has nearly disappeared for ever.
And the ticking?” I hear you say. Well yes, I did come away with both pieces of ticking and also with a couple of paintings she didn’t have the space for. I was thrilled to bits with my afternoon and with the treasure. I hope you have liked hearing about it all.