Sunday, October 02, 2005

Rain on the Vide Grenier

The town where we live had a 'Vide Grenier' sale today. 'Vide Grenier' means 'empty barn'. I don't know whether the term originates from the idea of emptying your barn of old junk, or if this type of jumble sale originally took place in empty barns. The UK equivalent would be a car-boot sale, except here, there were no cars, just people setting up their own rickety stalls beside the road. And what a lot of them! Stalls lined the whole of the main street and all of the side roads leading off. Probably a couple of hundred of them. There were lots of children selling their toys, videos and tapes and people had brought vast amounts of stuff ranging from bits of old furniture to clothes to entire video collections to entire libraries of old books.

I was hoping to find some good French films and possibly a book or two to help the children learn some French, when suddenly the light started dimming and we looked up to see a large dark cloud approaching. People started muttering, looked at each other, looked at their stuff strewn over the high street, put out their hands and felt for spots of rain, looked at each other again, tried to ignore what their reason was trying to tell them, picked up a plastic bag, checked to see if it would fit over the neatly arranged fan of books in front of them, started to panic, felt the large wet drops starting to cascade down their necks, too late, too late already, what a terrible idea, we should never have thought of doing this, rain now drumming off their flowery cotton umbrella, rain making the surface of the road in front of them glistening black, dozens of people running about in search of shelter.

All those possessions like so many sacrifices to the gods of rain. Around two inches fell in as many minutes. Soon water was running fast along gutters, soaking up into the sleeves of record collections: 'Ragtime Guitar Tunes', the music from 'Top Gun', damaging pictures in frames, irrevocably crumpling old suits. People could do nothing but stand around getting soaked. They couldn't just leave all their stuff. They walked back and forth, picking up pictures, putting them back down again. There was really nothing they could do. A minor catastrophe. Some managed to laugh. Others looked as if they would cry.

After ten minutes the cloud passed and left a blue sky. People started trying to salvage what they could. I heard a woman say that now the stuff was wet, it couldn't even go in the charity box at the Champion supermarket. My daughter looked into a plastic crate of childrens' figurines. They were swimming about in three inches of water. The owner saw her looking and dragged one out to give to her. "Here, have it, it's free" she said.

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