Hunting and Gathering

It has been a good week for hunting and gathering. At Drouot, the auction house, there were 15  auctions taking place throughout Wednesday afternoon.  I was commissioned by a young friend to bid on a (Hermes) Kelly bag as two were on offer at the fashion auction. I don’t quite approve of the brand obsession attached to the Kelly,  but I was happy to go, catch the scene, and drop by another auction, this one devoted to antique textiles. Imagine. A roomful of people interested in dropping a thousand or more euros on a piece of Renaissance embroidery. Talk about specialized.  I love fabric and had to see these lovely pieces of textile art as they came out. This is close to the  way they looked: 8a4454c80b75d78c628d974e3276e1c977219ddbd6b9b552c6228fb150986cee Beautiful, no?

I also had a second motive. Remember that Kuba fabric from Zaire that I hankered for at the flea market? Here is a reminder:01bb5960f265b02868cb8fbce9b04e8e96231491fc  I had learned on-line that  there was a lot on offer containing three pieces. I sat expectantly and in due course the lot came up, described somewhat sniffily as “Du raffia”. What luck. In this crowd of high rollers no one was interested in “du raffia”, and so it was mine for 25 euros. How much did that flea market guy ask for one piece of the same? I think it was 75 euros. Here  are my trophies.

019aea9edbf14ae711240bf02d1f903f7428cb7afd  Here is what they will look like if I make them into pillows. What do you think? Should I frame them instead?

411fc990a6a17742c813846d1dbd8ab0  I have been reading about how the artisans weave these, husbands and wives sharing the tasks of collecting palm leaves, stripping and tufting the fibres. Quite interesting. But I could not rest on my laurels. There was fashion to be had.

Upstairs in the fashion auction, a roomful of women resembling Lee Radziwill were packed like proverbial sardines. It was easily as interesting watching them as the Chanels, St. Laurents and Givenchy’s coming off the racks.There were hundreds of items sold and the auctioneer handled the bidding from the crowded room as well as from a crowded table full of Drouot staff working the phones and computers. She was very amusing, full of patter, “Mais c’est ravissante!” , “C’est du Sonia” (Rykiel), “Jamais vous ne le regretterez”. There were many bargains, especially if you long for a little black dress, an impossibly chic black suit or two, or a fur. Personally, while I admire these items, they do not actually fit into my lifestyle. Perhaps I should change my lifestyle. The furs were going for A SONG – by which I mean 200-250 euros. For mink. In my view you shouldn’t have to feel guilty about the mink because you got it second-hand. Someone else was responsible for its death, there is no point throwing it in the garbage now.  Unfortunately for Sophie, the Kelly bags were not going for a song, unless that song is “Money, Money”. They brought 500 and 1000 euros respectively. I think that’s ridiculous but no doubt there are a couple of people out there convinced they got a bargain.

You might think that I would have had quite enough by now, but auction-going is not for the weak. The last hour is the crazy hour and I had spotted just the right kind of junky/garage-sale-esque auction going on in the basement. It was me and a bunch of guys named Salim as things got down to the wire. Amidst the pseudo-antiques there were some quite nice things and they were going for nothing. I mean it this time. A piano in good working condition went for 20 euros. I had spotted a stack of rugs and I was thinking that a couple of small ones would probably fit in my luggage. The rugs came on last. They brought out the small ones and slapped them down on the table. A cloud of dust rose up. They were selling all of the small ones (10? 12?) in one lot! What to do? How could I take all of them? I didn’t want all of them! But the auctioneer couldn’t even get 20 euros for them. The price came down to 15 euros. My mind was racing. And as it did so the lot sold. Rats!  No matter, Salim assured me. “You will find many things here.” No doubt. Tomorrow, Hunting and Gathering II.

3 thoughts on “Hunting and Gathering

  1. Hi Christine,

    Great posts lately. I really miss you. I especially liked the one about the kids/dogs etc. and the one about sacred places. I love the fabrics -rugs idea. Maybe we can go when I’m there. I have suddenly this week been sucked into another southern vortex – not polar at least. I am going to Miami on Monday as they are in need of a parent to supervise, so my way is paid and I am meant to get the kids to do most of the stuff themselves. No regatta, it’s training camp so they’re supposed to learn independence. We’ll see… So as you can imagine I’ve been going crazy trying to get myself organised, book flights etc. I did ask back in Dec. if they needed me. Oh well, it worked for Hemingway. Maybe I’ll need a few Martinis to start the day. Not my style, but at least it will be warm. I expect I’ll find a local Starbucks or something to go write in. Will let you know. Cheers, love Al xx ps Can’t wait to come to gay Paris! pss Your little artist symbol is so cute, I love it! suits you.

    Date: Sat, 1 Mar 2014 15:33:43 +0000 To:

  2. Hi Christine,

    Oh boy, now you’ve done it. Just when I thought we had Paris out of our system, I read your blog (Elaine gave me the link at Book Club on Thursday). Read all 26 posts at one go. Which clearly qualifies me as something of a masochist. Rod and I never did anything as brave as your 6- and 3-month stays. Ours were more of the baby 2-week variety . . . in 2005 in an uber-cute although uber-minuscule apartment on rue du Vieux Colombier in the 6th (ours was the turquoise door beside Longchamp, should you ever be wandering that area) and in 2012 we spent a couple of weeks at #25 rue des Grands Augustins, also in the 6th (yes, that was us – right across from the laundromat). Just thinking about those trips – and reading the wonderful account of your current stay – brings back such great (and funny) memories. Like my chicken reservation incident. When we were there two years ago we’d invited some Montreal friends over for dinner. Unable to prepare much more than a sandwich in what they called our kitchen, I headed over to nearby rue de Buci early one morning in search of take-out possibilities. And what luck! A sidewalk rotisserie filled with yummy-looking roasting chickens. So I asked the vendor (en francais, of course) if I could reserve a chicken . . . you know, pay for it now and come back to collect it at the end of the afternoon. Well, he just looked at me with some vague combination of incredulity and disdain. I had apparently reinforced his notion of us colonials (they always know you’re not Made-in-France) as barbaric dimwits “Madame”, he began patiently, as though speaking to an intellectually-handicapped child, “ici a Paris, on ne “reserve” (added emphasis on the “reserve”) pas de poulets.” Okay, okay, I get it. It was just a funny encounter, but – as you say – one of many things we learn when living in the land of the Other. Your writing style is wonderful (reminds me a bit of Nora Ephron whom I’m reading at the moment) and your photos are absolutely superb. I’m green with envy but hope to continue enjoying Paris vicariously. Best to you both. Affectionately, Joy (Hayes)

    • Thanks so much, Joy. It is great to reconnect and to know that you are out there reading and viewing the blog. It’s been fun to write and gives shape to my experience. As ideas occur to me here I am often wondering whether this is something for the blog. About your experience with the chicken vendor, it fits right into my current thinking, soon to be a BIG post, It has to do with whether you would rather be correct or nice. As Canadians we choose the latter but for the French the former will always win out. Bises to you and Rod.

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