The ‘vide grenier’ season is here. There were a few in April but May and June are the months for really frantic rubbish buying action. It literally means ‘empty the attic’ and at a visit to a good one you’ll find that the population of the village has done exactly that. At others it is more like empty your uninsured van of the lightly soiled underwear, stolen garden tools and broken electrical goods that you have collected. The only way to find out which is which is to get up early and spend Sunday morning careering about the countryside in a determined search for the sort of stuff that costs a fortune if you buy it on crafty and folksy websites called things like ‘Emily’s French Vintage’.
Well, that is what one person in our car looks for. My own quest is to buy a playable Serge Gainsbourg record for less than 15 euros. I got my hopes up the other day in Auch when I spotted a deranged looking stallholder with a box of vinyl for sale. He was small, fat and at least 70 years old but this hadn’t stopped him from dying his hair black, squeezing into some fake leather trousers and donning cowboy boots with spurs. The whole look was cranked up further by a black shirt that was decorated with the silver outline of an electric guitar and an excessive use of Brylcreem that had left his dark locks plastered completely flat to his scalp. He looked like a particularly vicious pervert from a David Lynch film so I naturally assumed that he would have plenty of records by the man who is widely and warmly acknowledged as France’s most depraved musical hero.
Unsurprisingly, I was wrong. But he did have a copy of my all-time favourite vide grenier buy – a 45 from the early seventies bearing a picture sleeve showing a rather unpleasant picture of Jesus that appears to have been painted by a very disturbed child. It includes the lyric, “Jesus won’t you come back, for the marijuana?” You can only marvel at the sheer lunacy of whatever cult it was that decided to attempt to lure down the son of God, presumably triggering the apocalypse in the process, by offering him a big spliff. Fortunately for us all, Jesus either said no to drugs or decided to hold out for some stronger stuff.
Anyway, I already had a copy and have seen an alarming number of others over the last few years so, wondering how such a bizarre recording could have ever been a hit, I moved on to a pile of magazines that were printed on the sort of paper they used to use for The Beano. They were copies of ‘Rustica’ from 1949-55 and at first glance appeared to be the internal publication of some sort of rural Nazi movement. Closer inspection revealed that they were no such thing and that their splendidly colourful cover illustrations were simply concerned with the joys of rural life. Giant Vegetables! Produce of the Midi! Grow Big Red Flowers! The Destruction of Foxes! Force Feed a Goose! Fettle That Duck!
Ok they weren’t all to everyone tastes but we soon negotiated a good price and bought all the copies we wanted except for one that divided opinion too strongly. I thought a big picture of a rosy cheeked chap sniffing a chicken’s bottom would have looked great framed alongside the man in very short trousers who is almost bursting with pride as he dangles a dead fox but you can’t expect to agree about everything.
On arriving home with our haul I soon realised that the wave of ‘Ooh lovely’ comments that greeted my wife’s choices on Instagram has given her the trump card. Our kitchen wall will be adorned with vintage veg and flowers of the early 50s while my own selection will soon be settling down in a new attic.
We’ll need to find some nice old frames first though so that’s next Sunday taken care of.