Read Son of Serge Bastarde Online

Authors: John Dummer

Son of Serge Bastarde

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'I adore hunting through the French
markets and this book will certainly add a whole new dimension to the experience. An entertaining read for anyone interested in antiques or France.'
Judith Miller, founder of
Miller's Antiques Guides
and antiques specialist on the
Antiques Roadshow
'What a delight it is to be invited back into the world of Serge Bastarde – now with an equally roguish son in tow. From cupboards that crunch in the night, to the reasons why French people love floral china, this book is full of warmth, humour and colourful characters. John Dummer gives us a real insider glimpse into the world of the French antique markets. Don't go near one until you've read this book!'
Karen Wheeler, best-selling author of
Tout Sweet
Toute Allure
Tout Soul
'An amusing and well-observed romp through the
of south-west France inhabited by a host of colourful characters – a must for lovers of all things French.
for Francophiles!'
Marc Allum, antiques specialist on the
Antiques Roadshow
'A brilliant evocation of the life of French brocanteurs, full of camaraderie and incident, just make sure the woodworms don't devour the pages before you do.'
Jamie Ivey, author of
Extremely Pale Rosé
Praise for
Serge Bastarde Ate My Baguette
'Dummer describes a very different France... Bastarde certainly lives up to his surname, cruising the countryside in his battered van tying to cheat clueless peasants out of their heirlooms. But Bastarde grows on you, with his imaginative lies and unexpected generosity.'
'Get a copy. You'll love it.'
'The book's startling title [is] surely up there as one of the best of the year... amusing... a nicely observed insight into rural life in south-west France. For the price, it's a bargain (hunt).
FRENCH Magazine
'Well written and set at an engaging pace, this comic autobiographical narrative wends its way through the daily lives of the author and his ex-pat community, as well as the day-to-day events of the local inhabitants of the area... this easy-to-read humorous account of one man's expat dream turning into an all-too-harsh reality is an enjoyable read. Filled with eccentric characters and unlikely adventures, this is a highly amusing romp through the real rural France.'
Copyright © John Dummer, 2012
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, nor transmitted, nor translated into a machine language, without the written permission of the publishers.
The right of John Dummer to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Condition of Sale
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent publisher.
Summersdale Publishers Ltd
46 West Street
West Sussex
PO19 1RP
eISBN: 978-0-85765-718-3
Substantial discounts on bulk quantities of Summersdale books are available to corporations, professional associations and other organisations. For details telephone Summersdale Publishers on (+44-1243-771107), fax (+44-1243-786300) or email (
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For my darling Helen
Photo by my wife Helen
John Dummer has worked as a reporter on a local paper, a music business press officer, a record plugger and a broadcaster. As a drummer in the 1960s he toured with his own John Dummer Blues Band, had a number one hit in France, 'Nine By Nine', and toured with legendary blues acts like Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker and Lowell Fulson. In the 1970s he drummed with the hit doo-wop revival group Darts and met his wife Helen when she was the photographer on a Darts photo session. After Darts John and Helen formed their own group, True Life Confessions, and had a top fifty hit with their version of 'Blues Skies'. John went on to manage the powerhouse rock trio The Screaming Blue Messiahs and after three years of touring the States, burned out from all the madness, he upped sticks with Helen and moved to France. There followed a two year sojourn living in a windmill in the Alentejo region of Portugal, and a return to France with finances much depleted. They discovered if they registered as
(antiques dealers) they could work and be covered under the excellent French health system. It was working in the French outdoor antiques markets and the amusing and fascinating characters he met that inspired John to write his first book,
Serge Bastarde Ate My Baguette
. John and Helen now live in south-west France in the middle of the Landes forest with their dog Buster and quite a lot of cats.
1. Blue Beat and Little Monkeys
2. Gold, Cash and Questions
3. Swallows and Fields of Corn
4. Buying Frenzy
5. A Broken Man
6. Berets and Lost Souls
7. Woodworm and Walnut Buffets
8. Life in a Box
9. Storks and Bridges
10. Eagles and Snowy Mountains
11. To the Woods
12. Fathers and Sons
13. A Bit of a Handful
14. Mayhem in the Markets
15. Tea in Biarritz
16. Handbags and Glad Rags
17. Sandy Beaches and Straw Parasols
18. Lorenzo and His Brothers
19. Hares and Gingerbread
20. Exquisite Good Taste
21. Violins and Teddy Bears
And Life Goes On...
A few years ago my wife Helen and I bought a 300-year-old farmhouse in need of restoration in the Chalosse region of the Landes in France. We had always dabbled in antiques in England and discovered that if we registered as
we could hopefully earn an income working in the colourful outdoor markets in south-west France and be covered under their excellent health system. But we had to learn about French antiques from scratch and needed help.
  My mentor appeared in the form of a short, tough Frenchman with wiry grey hair and a ready wit. His name: Serge Bastarde. When he found out I was English he went out of his way to be helpful and took it upon himself to show me the ropes. He invited me to accompany him on his trips out in the country to 'forage for hidden treasures'. I soon discovered he was a bit of a rogue but he gradually won me over and we became firm friends.
  A couple of years into our friendship Serge romanced and fell in love with another dealer's wife, Angelique, and much to our surprise they ran off together to Martinique. Helen and Angelique had become friends and kept in touch, but after a while the emails and phone calls stopped. We had no idea how to get in contact with them or where they were. What had happened to Serge Bastarde? It was a mystery…
'Oh, fish knives and chintzy tea sets? Now there's a novelty, what!'
  A snooty-faced bloke sporting a ponytail and wearing a deerstalker hat and plus fours loomed over my stand. 'Every time I come past you're selling some tat. It's extremely galling.' He pulled a supercilious face, and picked up a cup and saucer from my table to examine them.
  'Eugh! Country Roses, how tasteless. I used to sell this sort of rubbish when I first started doing the markets here. So common.'
  'The French seem to like them,' I said. 'I sell quite a few.'
  'Yes, well they don't know any better.' And with that he turned on his heel and strode off.
  From his exaggerated toffee-nosed manner and upper-class accent he could only be English. But the deerstalker and plus fours? He was like a P. G. Wodehouse character come to life. I watched open-mouthed as he disappeared into the crowd, his grey ponytail bobbing. Amazing! He couldn't possibly be for real.
  I was at a fair in the square of a little village called Soumoulou on the road from Pau to Tarbes, not far from Lourdes. The market is held right through the year and takes place on the first Sunday of each month. In the distance, the blue-grey mountains of the Pyrenees were silhouetted against the skyline. So far it had gone well. I had been selling since I opened at eight-thirty that morning.
  I couldn't help feeling a bit put out, though, after suffering the snooty bloke's criticism. I had regular, loyal customers who just wanted chintzy tea sets, after all. It amused them, they assured me, to serve up tea and cakes
'comme les Anglais'
(English-style) to their friends. The French enjoy reminding us that we English love tea, and they find our obsession with it charming and slightly quaint.

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