Where the crap goes to die

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At the car boots we went to this weekend, it was the sheer crappiness of the crap that was astounding.

The DH and I went to a couple of vide-greniers at the weekend. 

The vide-grenier (empty attic) is the French equivalent of the car boot sale, and trawling round brocantes, depot-ventes and vide-greniers is a favourite pastime of mine. The same can’t be said for the DH, who often finds them dispiriting.

Dispiriting wasn’t the word for what happened on Sunday. Our first port of call was the village of Passais, which on the last Sunday of August holds its fete day. 

Local fetes often remind me of Father Ted with the spider baby and the sofa on a crane. There’s usually a tripe breakfast, a little merry-go-round with cars for the kiddies, a display of vintage tractors and a cage full of fancy poultry, and the evening finishes up with a torchlight parade through the streets that might have been more impressive in the days when the village held 4,000 people instead of 250. 

Nevertheless, the vide-grenier portion of the day at Passais is normally pretty good, with stalls lining three or four of the main streets clustered around the war memorial.  Not so on Sunday, however. There was perhaps a quarter the usual number of stalls, thinly straggling out along the main road. 

I was a bit dismayed, as normally I do pretty well at this fete, but we duly started ‘fouilling’ through the goods on offer and even I was brought up short. Old skates, old shoes, cracked plates, bar glasses, acres of grubby children’s toys, used baby clothes, one stall of pub mirrors, which at least had a theme.  

Up the street it got even worse: armies of bored women must have worked on the needlepoint pictures on offer, most of which served up pixillated images of the Blessed Virgin Mary, clowns or screamingly bright flowers on a black background.

When I realised one stall was selling a coconut painted as a clown, complete with coconut hair, alongside a used bathmat, I decided it was time to quit. Total finds, two tiny mirrors for the bathroom and a blue glass oil lamp, which the DH broke before we got it back to the car. 

We’d booked a local restaurant for lunch but the fair had been so rubbish we still had an hour to spare, so we went home for a while, then back out again to eat and then on to the larger town of Lonlay l’Abbaye.

Lonlay is a truly beautiful little town but there’s really nothing there except the church, the old abbey and the new abbey with its famous biscuiterie. However, 190 stalls were promised at the vide-grenier, and we were well pleased to see how the cars were backed up outside the town, meaning we had to park half a mile away.

We strolled down the steep hill and the beautiful day was immediately almost engulfed by a tsunami of shite. "Are they the same people?" whispered the DH. "Have they followed us?" 

He was right – it did seem to be exactly the same crap as before: toys, baby clothes, even an identical neti pot to one I’d seen early (either that or the world’s smallest gravy boat). At least this time there was a bouncy castle, though even THINKING the word ‘bouncy’ filled my head full of Mitch Benn and his brilliant ear worm for the rest of the day.

At this fete, we were both much taken with an entire stall of Barbies, laid out as in the morgue after a Barbie air crash, but the DH was too stunned to even take a photograph. Nor did he get a photo of the Barbie in her white coach, pulled by a white horse with a pink, glittery mane, flanked by two glittery My Little Ponies. Or the red fun-fur coat stand topped with a clown’s head. Or the jug covered in seashells. 

I was esctatic at this, but I could feel the DH starting to panic, so I quickly paid for an oval mirror and a wooden blanket box I’d spotted and we headed back out of town to collect the car. 

I have a feeling I’m going to have to pay for this outing for a long time. "I don’t know which is worse, the fact that no-one turned up at Passais, or that SO many people had so much shit to sell at Lonlay," he said. "It’s not so much the crap, it’s the sheer crappiness of the crap that terrifies me." 

Too right, and we’ll both take a while to recover. But at least I have a blanket box. 

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