Monday, July 30, 2012

An Unexpected Passion, French Brocantes

Tom has discovered an unexpected passion here in France. He’s found he enjoys the  thrill of setting off early Sunday morning on the hunt. No, he has not overcome his aversion to guns, and no, he doesn’t like mushrooms enough to give up his precious free time for a morning tramping around in a buggy forest. His prey is gold leaf picture frames, vases that can be used in still life paintings, furniture to fill just the right nook, garden decorations, and doors. He has a particularly good nose for doors.
Bathroom Doors Trophy
Every Sunday from May through August there is at least one antique fair somewhere within thirty minutes of Bourdeilles. Sundays in France are emphatically a day for leisure, so there can be no mowing, tractor work or sawing noises.  Taking one day a week off from painting, Tom filled his Vermont Sundays with, what else?-- mowing, tractor work, and making sawing noises. So my hunting companion is eager, if not just a tad grumpy. 
As with any hunt we rise early and fortify ourselves with hot coffee and a slice of toast to give us focus, but nothing to weigh us down. Agility of the brain and body is going to be important for the next few hours. Our gear for the outing is comfortable shoes and a basket for any small game. We even clean out the car in case we bag something bigger. We’ve paid attention to the weather forecast for other necessities such as hats and gloves on cold winter mornings or umbrellas and wellies at just about any season if the fair is to be in mowed fields. 

The car ride to a fair is always quiet with expectation and one can feel the tension mount as we arrive to already-parked cars and some scoundrels are already engaged in the hunt. There will be little conversation until the car is parked and we have spied the first vendor. It always takes a few minutes to suss out the terrain of the fair. Will it be elegant, eclectic, or just early attic stuff. No matter. Suspense is the point of the hunt. The thrill of finding a treasure no matter the conditions. The junkier the setting the more exciting it is to flush out the prey. With eyes kept just slightly out of focus we let them float over the terrain to catch just that right thing. This right thing is camouflaged amongst some of the most ridiculously awful stuff any one can imagine:  skis from the sixties, Beta videos from the seventies, rusted stationary bikes from the eighties and nothing from the too-recent nineties.

Divergent thinking has proven to be Tom’s strength while stalking interesting things for our home and garden. It turns out that doors are his specialty. Doors that can be refitted to make kitchen storage. Doors that require walls to be reconfigured so that their elegance and history can continue to live on. Doors that can be taken apart and used for a new purpose in outdoor rooms. I fear that someday Tom will combine this new passion with his existing arboreal obsession and I will awake to doors hanging from our trees.
Courtyard Sliding Doors Trophy

Since starting the blog I have avoided the subject of antiques fairs because there are other writers that show and describe these outings so much better than I will. Below are links to some sites that I encourage you to visit. You’ll see we are not the only ones with this hunting instinct. 
Bathroom a la Marie Antoinette Trophy

Kitchen Pantry Doors Trophy
Salvaged Elegance Trophy
Top Game Trophy

I thought you might like to see some of Tom’s trophies mounted. And as you can see if you ever need doors for someplace Tom’s your man. (Please keep him away from your trees.) The only hunting equipment he needs is an idea of where the trophy will be mounted, a tape measure, and a field full of funky stuff to flush out - well, and maybe a check book.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Friday's Petite Aquarelle, Dordogne Region France

Bouquet, Blue and White
12" x 16"
$120 including shipping

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Let the Sun Shine

Monday, July 16, 2012

Anticipation, Dordogne France

and this is just the beginning......

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Black Knight

Hay Through the Ages
(Or, How Historically Handy Hay Is!)

Haystacks in the 17th century:

In the 20th century hay is rolled into great, giant, round bales:

Ten minutes earlier: 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Golden Fields

For a fleeting moment last night I was 14 years old again, the evening had that hot, humid feel of a Virginia summer and the air was heavy with the sweet smell of just-cut hay. It’s remarkable how a smell can transport one so completely to another time and place. I was bumping along in a hay wagon full of laughing children.  Maybe I was swinging off the rafters of the barn into the stacks of bailed hay. Or perhaps we were all just sitting on the wide porch of The Farm. The lightning bugs flashing around the square bales of hay all tidy in the fields between the house and the river, the last of the day’s heat bringing out the perfume of the day’s mowed fields. 

Those memories were brought on as we passed through a pocket of hay perfume. It has been a fantastic year for hay here in the Perigord Vert. After last year’s drought and heat, this year’s record rains have the farmers practically drowning in round bails of highly nutritious feed. Our neighbor’s fields yielded 4 scrawny bails last year. This year there are 14 great round bails waiting to be taken into the barn. There will be some contented cows. It feels good to see this wealth of food. The industry with which the farmers gather and move these mammoth bales continually animates the landscape and gives all of us a boost of energy. As we travel around there is not one corner that we pass through but where the horizon is dotted with round balls. The funny thing is that, in this hilly region, these rolled giants seem to be poised on the edge of a good long tumble down the slopes and into the streams and gullies.

But not all of the fields are for hay. In many other fields, flowing down other hills, and climbing to other ridge tops we are dazzled by the king of color: gold! These dry, sunny days are bringing on the wheat harvest.  Cutting the tawny colored wheat reveals the gold straw stalks.  Rolling the straw into bales concentrates the color.

There is something magical and special about this color of gold. It is a color that transports me back to an even younger age of childhood. Five, six years old. Tucked in for a bedtime story. How many times I asked to hear the story of Rumpelstiltskin and the princess that must turn straw into gold and the little imp that did just that for her. Here in a land of castles, towers and fortified farms it seemes quite possible that Rumpelstiltskin is still at work spinning straw into glorious gold.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

It's Festival Time

It's Summer in France! It's Festival Time!
The strawberry festival-- with the world's largest strawberry tart!

The Truffle Festival--kind of a wine bacchanal for people who follow nosey pigs in the forest!

The Occitane Festival in Bourdeilles-- a mostly lively party for a mostly dead language!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Festival of Occitane

Welcome to the first annual Bourdeilles Festival of the Occitane Language!
You ask, “What is the Occitane Language?”
Well France has not always been France. For a long period of time southern France was essentially another country, with it’s own language. It was a language influenced by Latin, Germanic and French influences. It wasn’t until Napoleon commanded that all French citizens speak French, a language created and controlled from distant Paris, that the many dialects of Occitanes began to disappear, only lingering on in the patois of the nooks and crannies of southern France.
This three-day festival was to celebrate the culture and language of Occitane so that it is safeguarded and valued.
But being a first time event there were a few things to be worked out.
To start with, there is a unspoken rivalry between the people that still speak patois with it’s strong links to Occitane and the people who are studying Occitane as an intellectual pursuit. Sitting in a conference during the three-day festival I would hear undulating waves of whispers as locals would react to the way the presenter was pronouncing words.The whispers would raise a little in volume as the audience would disagree on the most correct pronunciation.  The variations in patois were very localized. The old timers can tell if someone is from Bourdeilles, or Nontron (20 km away north) or Vergt (20 km south) by just hearing a few words and the accents used.

There was another undercurrent of “us against them” attached to the festival. For the most part it was the younger generation that conceived and executed this festival. So there were some issues for the older generation, whos job in a small village is to always have issues. There was the most obvious panic against what would be -- regardless of style-- the VERY loud music that would be a big part of the festival. And then there is the  weird conceptual art that pops up like mushrooms every time we have a festival. This weekend found two enormously fat ladies with bosoms the size of basketballs frolicking in the river.  Fortunately they were in cast aluminum. Oh, my! there is the fact that it is the young people who will be decorating the streets (Dresses hanging buildings, colorful rags streaming across the town square, indescribable plaster statues lining the street.) And, of course, goodness knew what kind of wild young people would be coming to this festival. I heard a few rumblings that the art was mocking the hard times that the elder generation had lived through. There were some ruffled feathers when invitations to the opening ceremonies were not delivered in a timely fashion. 

But in the end the ambitious schedule was followed and everyone was able to find at least one activity that immersed them in some way into the sense of a lively village fair. Who could resists falling into the magic night time revelry? There was singing and dancing under with the sliver of a new moon hanging over the chateau tower. The light from the blazing feu de St. Jean illuminated the forms of children and adults, casting velvety shadows against ancient stone walls. The beat of timeless rhythms drifted down the streets of Bourdeilles and the river Dronne.