En dan weer komt het
in mij op,
dat ik ternauwernood
J.H. Leopold, Claghen*
On a beautiful summer’s day, now five whole years ago, my wife and I visited the annual flea market in Mérigny.
The quality of such a receptacle of junk is determined by the quality of its junk – after all, there is junk and junk! The charm of the best flea markets, however, resides in the place where it is held. Why not, in its genius loci. In Mérigny it people gather on a small meadow, bordered by trees that in summer give the scurrying visitor some cool, the place flawlessly fitting the hand like a glove.
My wife – an Indo, so no surprise – is good at bargaining. The few times I in my life that I tried, it felt not only ridiculous, but I also felt like a thief of other people’s money. Often it turned out to be me whom they stole from.
We once found a great little table – en Interbellum version, a beautiful cast iron base, a round marble top in good condition, resting in a beautifully decorated steel edge. For years I had been looking for this, to be put in the little side yard of my French house, on my personally landscaped terrace. Supporting precious wines and, why not, good books and not to forget a chessboard on which great matches might be played in the cool shade of the tree.
Finally found! How much should it cost? One hundred Euro, Madam. You’re kidding! Such an amount for whatever on a small, local flea is exorbitant. Also my wife’s opinion.
Once home an ever-growing and awesome remorse hit me. Stupid bastards we had been, the price the man had asked for the table was more than worth it. All those years ever since, in vain I searched on flea market after flea market, always looking for that table – as if it were waiting for me. Whenever I sat in the side yard, it was first thing that came to mind.
This summer I visited the Super Leclerc in Montmorillon. In the large entrance hall stood a number of tables on offer – a sale. Amongst them, God help me, my marble table, that: is more or less. Not of course the Interbellum one from Mérigny. Given the dust, it had apparently been taken from the back of a warehouse, together with these other leftovers of series that were sold years ago.
I asked the person with whom I was there, to sit on top of it and defend it with all her might against other competitors that might creep over the horizon. I hurried myself to the desk to inform the ladies of my purchase.
There it is, glowing in all its glory, accompanied by a bronze chair which I also snatched away from a flea market. Not cheap, but then you learn something. That red seat on the chair I already designed while handing over the money to its seller.
But something strange is going on. ‘Showing off’ is the word. My new marble top is too spivvy and that is what marble should be not. The stone needs to get older, cracky and lived on. The same goes for the cast iron leg. This brand new table is now a misfit, given that my house is two hundred years of age. I also get the eerie feeling as though only with the arrival of this shiny marble 14 La Roche became fully ‘French’. As if my cottage has not been fully French all the time, sitting right in its middle.
Only a foreigner, an outsider, someone who after seventeen years in France still remains a displaced person, forever chained to his foreignness – only such a one can fabricate such a strange paradox and also live it.
Sitting in the newly organized side garden at the new table and awaiting a cool breeze, thus almost a Frenchman, all of sudden through the open gate I see two swallows sitting on the street.
For someone who naturally assumes swallows to belong in the air, this is a depressing sight. Let them sit on telephone wires! Such is part of the order of things in my universe.
Now those two birdies out there on the street are displaced persons like me. This should not be so – soon they will fall asleep and be run over by some scary farmer’s vehicle.
* And then, it suddenly strikes me that I cannot stand this…
Sierksma, La Roche 06.28/2015