Jeremy Clarke Jeremy Clarke

Low life | 17 August 2017

My grandson makes friends everywhere he goes

On Sunday morning we went, Oscar and I, to a vide grenier in the ancient, picturesque Provençal village. Vide grenier means ‘open attic sale’ — which is the French equivalent of our car boot sale. Oscar had €20 with which to buy homecoming gifts for his Mum and her partner, and his three half-siblings. The stalls were set out under the shade trees of the village boulodrome. Ex-dustman Grandad loves browsing in skips and charity shops and at car boot sales and he was in seventh heaven.

At the first stall, I was very drawn to an old hand-tinted framed print of two peasants standing in a furrowed field. The sun was setting, their shadows were long. The man had his hat in his hand and was thanking God for their harvest, a pathetic basket of potatoes. His wife’s head was also humbly bowed in prayer. My first instinct was to laugh, my second was to mourn, my third was to ask how much. If he had one, Oscar kept his opinion of the picture to himself. The stallholder, a ruddy-faced 16-year-old lad, was entirely indifferent to it and said that yes he could easily change a twenty.

Further on, Oscar was attracted by a row of miscellaneous animal teeth on a table. He thought one of these might make a suitable gift for his Mum’s partner. He hesitated between a boar’s tusk and a huge tooth whose origin we could only guess at. The stallholder was squatting on a wooden crate and shaking the dregs of a bottle of rosé into his glass. An elderly woman behind him was standing and buttering a lump of bread. The loudness and cheeriness of the man’s greeting suggested that we had had the good fortune to catch him at that moment of alcoholic lift-off when the day looks altogether brighter and more absurd.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in