Four crucifixes, five books, a wine cooler, a screwdriver, a garlic press, a soap box, a tiny pewter goblet and a cactus. Eleven euros: about £8 or $12.50 A good day.

It didn't start out well. For reasons beyond our control, we couldn't leave until just after noon. Almost precisely at noon, it started raining. Hard. Even so, we went to the nearest vide-grenier, at Martaizé, about 8km (5 miles) away. When we got there, most of the tables were covered with plastic, which at least you could just about see through, or blue plastic tarpaulins, which you couldn't. The rain came and went repeatedly. We didn't buy much. Frances bought a little pewter goblet for drinking very small amounts of liqueurs or digestifs (1€); a small chrome box, probably a soap box from an upmarket travel kit, the classic "useful box for keeping things in" (1€); and the cactus (2€). Actually it was more of a succulent, because it didn't have spines, but it had the most amazing flower. I bought a garlic press and a screwdriver for 1€ the pair. So, having blown 5€, we gave up and went to some vide-maisons at Maranzais de Taizé.

A vide-maison is like a vide-grenier only less so: it's one household getting rid of stuff they don't want, instead of a village-wide sale (usually with outsiders). The clever thing about the Maranzais vide-maisons was that five people had coordinated their sales. We only found four of them, because one had shut up shop just before we arrived, and we only bought things at two of them, but the great advantage of those two places was that they were people who were genuinely trying to get rid of stuff, rather than make a profit.

At the first we bought a crucifix, five books and a wine cooler for 5€. At the second, I bought three more crucifixes for a euro. Well, strictly, two of them were crosses rather than crucifixes (no figures of the Christ), but for a euro the lot I wasn't complaining. The proprietors were moving house and I'd met the lady before: she'd seen my entry hall and immediately dug out the three crucifixes/crosses. She knew they'd go to a good home. There was nothing we wanted at the third and although there was a mildly interesting book of photographs of schools at the fourth they wanted 5€ for it. I'd been spoiled by the prices I'd already paid so I didn't buy it. Total for the day, therefore, 11€.

Home to cold lamb sandwiches. On Sundays during vide-grenier season we normally have very simple meals, because we just want to relax after the outing. Also, we had five new books to read. One is about mushrooms edible and inedible; one is the complete works of Hieronymus Bosch, more for reference and dipping into than for reading through; one was "The Two Californias", baja (Mexico) and alta (USA), which was where Frances lived for a total of 22 years and where we met; one deals with European mammals, including the lérot or garden dormouse we once found in our garden (probably the snakes eat them now); and one was a really wonderful book of photographs by Eric Dexheimer called Amours de Vieux et Vieilles Amours. Perhaps the best translation is Love Among the Old, and Old Loves.

Vide-greniers usually give me pause for thought, and the main thing I came away with this time was the difference between being young and poor 40 or 50 years ago, and being young and poor now. In the 1950s and 1960s it was comparatively easy and affordable to find somewhere to live, but you couldn't afford much in the way of stuff to put in it. Today, especially in the UK, a roof over your head costs vastly more, but when it comes to just about everything else, be it furniture or kitchen utensils or even clothes, everything is vastly cheaper. 

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Words and pictures copyright (c) Roger Hicks 2016