Now what? Life in rural Ariege

Burblings about adjusting to life in the deep south west of France or "la France profonde" as they call it here and the challenges of restoring a ramshackle collection of tumbledown buildings. I mainly write about local festivals, events and celebrations and, most of all, the weekly ritual of combing vide greniers and brocantes for pre-loved vintage treasures.

11 November 2011

Nearly famous

We live in a celebrity obsessed age. The tradition of fascination with the lives of the rich and famous is not really as recent as we might think. Before the "Hello" magazine age earlier generations were enthralled by the private lives of Hollywood film stars and giants of the sporting world. I, myself, have always had a quiet fascination with the aura of, what can only be described as, things. In other words objects, symbols and all manner of "trucs" that have become overly-celebrated for a short period of time as "it" or the latest thing.

In the course of my thrifting and rummaging for stock for Histoires I routinely ask people if they know anything about the particular item that I am purchasing. How old is it? How long have you had it? Do you know who made it? All these questions sometimes build a picture of the previous life of an item I might acquire. And sometimes these "histoires" or stories almost eclipse the object itself.

During my long sojourn in Britain over the summer I amused myself by attending auctions and car boot sales and I was really quite amazed one soggy Sunday morning when I spied this item lying on a blanket on Southsea seafront.

It is a pretty special object. It is an early Victorian dimity bonnet. The fabric dates back to the 1780s and the bonnet was probably made somewhere between 1830 - 1850, making it during the first decades of Queen Victoria's role. So far, so good. An unexpected find in Portsmouth amongst the broken Star Wars toys and knock-off DVDs. But its credentials alone are not what fascinated me. No. The seller told me a much more recent story of its past - that it was ALMOST famous.

It transpired that she had supplied many of the bonnets worn in the recent acclaimed BBC TV adaptation of "Cranford" and, amazingly, this bonnet had not been purchased by the BBC's wardrobe department. It has never sat on the head of Dame Judi Dench. It was the runt of the litter. It's a 9 stone weakling. It didn't have the X factor. It didn't cut the mustard (what does that mean anyway?!?). Well, you get the idea. It was an also ran. And to my mind that makes it all the more special.

Sometimes while I am rummaging for treasures for Histoires I really do believe in destiny. I was meant to find this rejected bonnet. Somebody else in a (probably) far flung corner of the world will buy this bonnet from me and will know that it was stored against other bonnets which passed the auditions and have been on TV. This  despised bonnet was quite literally lying in the mud. I've launderd it, pressed it, photographed it and told the story of its recent history. Who knows what else it has experienced in its long life?