Sunday, 2 December 2007

Festive and Feisty

It’s the first Sunday in December, and Christmas lights are up! This year the Gros Caillou neighborhood gets red bells lighting up the streets, and this weekend the annual brocante was crowding the cobblestones and sidewalks on rue Cler. Unfortunately the morning was grey, windy and wet, so the merchants must have been disappointed, along with the families, bargain-hunters and shoppers who wanted to browse.

I got mine in yesterday, spent a couple of hours examining the glassware and silverware, old farming implements and antique mirrors, old well-read books and shiny new editions, paintings and posters, CDs and DVDs. There were brass candelabras, art pieces from Thailand, strands of freshwater pearls, handmade wooden toys, stacks of china plates, precious Limoge boxes. I asked the price of a wine cork with a golfer on top, a perfect gift for Mom, but it was made of silver, and the seller wouldn’t be bargained down from 50 euros. Ran my hands over a soft Moroccan rug, got offered it for only 2,000 euros – a real bargain, I was told, as it sold in the shops for 8,000. New this year were fur coats and fur hats, mink and beaver. The vendor called it “le rat américain” because 100 years ago trappers would claim government bounty for having killed a “rat”, and profit also from selling the beaver pelt.

I managed to stay sage and succumbed only to my usual weakness, came away with a handful of silver forks and spoons, and a few linen pillowcases. So this morning I was just as happy to follow my umbrella through the mist to Tribeca, being followed part of the way by a homeless man singing through the rain, with a smoked-out voice repeating a verse from a French love song. He must have got lucky at a fruit stand because I saw him later walk by munching on a bright green apple.

Lucky him – he got by before a gust of wind shook the café’s tent-roof, flapping a wave of rain water onto passers-by. It also missed a little 3 or 4-year-old struggling to balance a tremendous green-wrapped bouquet of flowers almost as big as he was.

A young man to my left is drawing the street scenes in black and white, the women on my right are conversing in English, and voila - here are Molly and her girls, Esther and Miriam, come to share the festive, feisty morning with me!