Last Saturday I went to my first “Brocante”. This sounds terribly impressive and just a little bit wonderful, but is in fact just a posh name for a flea market or bric-a-brac sale. In fact the Wiktionary definition (it wasn’t in my copy of the Oxford English Dictionary) says:
Brocante: From the verb brocanter (“to deal in second-hand goods”), of obscure origin. Probably either from Dutch brok (“piece, fragment”), or from the same root as Middle French broqueur, abrokeur(“broker”), from Medieval Latin brocator (“broker”), from Old Dutch *brokere (“one who determines the usages of trade, manager”), from broke, bruyck, breuck (“use, usage, trade”), from Proto-Germanic *brūkiz (“use, custom”), from Proto-Indo-European *bhrug- (“to use, enjoy”).
- flea market; bric-à-brac market
- car boot sale; jumble sale
Actually I was aware that it was a sale of this nature, I just wonder why there is this fashion for attaching a pretentious title to something simple to make it seem grander than it actually is?
Anyway, this particular “Brocante” was held in the pocket-sized Village Hall in Wisborough Green, Sussex. My friend Kate and I were greeted at the door by a chap taking the £1 entry charge as well as selling old typewriters for £5 each. While £1 isn’t a lot, I do have a little bit of a problem with being charged to enter what is essentially a market, after all the traders have paid for their stalls. If the entry fee was for charity that is an entirely different matter, but I certainly didn’t see any notices to that effect. Once inside the room was crammed with people jostling for position round tables laden with “stuff”.
Most of the stalls were selling pretty much the same sort of things, old tins, jars, vases, plates, crates, battered wooden boxes which had been painted and ‘shabbified’. Your basic ‘decorators pieces’, things to make your home look like something from a lifestyle magazine.
There were one or two exceptions the best one being the fabulous Cake Angel (www.cakeangelsussex.com) who was selling the most divine cupcakes; obviously I couldn’t possibly not buy some to take home for the family, and very tasty they were too!
Cake Angel, homemade and heavenly
Looking round the room I was sad to see so many teddy bears for sale. I adore teddy bears and have a small collection of bears by a well known German maker as well as a cabinet full of hand painted character teddy figures by a Scottish company now out of business. So my heart jolted when I spotted this cute and somewhat battle-scarred little chap sitting on a shelf. He has lost his left ear and his left leg is very wobbly (I think he may well be paying a visit to my craft ‘hospital’ for leg-saving surgery soon), but he has the most engaging smile. Sadly he has no makers name label, but he does have lovely glass eyes and a hand stitched nose and mouth. He is also made from the sort of scratchy teddy fur fabric often found on mid 20th century bears, and this is quite worn in places, which makes me think that someone loved him once before. The little red ribbon around his neck is very fragile, bit I think may well be the original. There was no way I could possibly leave him there, so a small (and undisclosed sum) of money exchanged hands and he came home.
“Bertholdt” bear at the Brocante and in his new home
There were several other things which caught my eye, some odder than others. A bear wearing a Darth Vader helmet and a group of plastic camels vied for space alongside a stall selling ‘vintage’ trimmings; lace, buttons, scraps of fabric, threads.
As a keen sewer my attention is always caught by fabrics and notions, but it often makes me smile to see the tiniest scraps of grubby lace being sold for huge sums of money because the vendor assures us that it dates from the 1920’s. Does it? Maybe it does, unless you are an expert how can the casual buyer really know? And what is Vintage anyway? Certainly it is a massively over-used word and seems to cover anything that dates from pre-1990. I have seen handbags and items of clothing identical to ones I owned in the 1980’s being sold as Vintage; surely not! All in all it was a pleasant way to spend part of a morning. I learned that basically any old tat, cleaned up and presented in the right way can be sold as ‘Vintage’ to folk willing to part with their cash. After all I bought a tatty old bear didn’t I? If I am honest, I might even have bought the camels if I thought for a minute that my husband would have given them house room!
After a bit of retail therapy a cup of coffee and a cake is always welcome and with that in mind Kate and I adjourned across the road to the delightful Old Mill Cafe where we had the most divine Italian pastries with our coffee.
Coffee and yummy Italian pastries
From our seat outside the cafe we had a grandstand view of the local cricket team playing a match on the village green – now how quintessentially English is that!