Sunday, August 24, 2008

Embroidery (and What to Do With a Dead Pig)

Another vide grenier (attic emptying) to take up most of a sunny Sunday morning. Today's was in La Bastide-de-Boussignac. It's not that large a village so we only expected a small event. Wrong. Streets, side streets... hundreds of people buying and selling.

It's not just the bargains that are the draw. It's just as much the opportunity to get an inside look at how life was in these parts in the past. Monogrammed linen is everywhere, evidence of the hard (needle) work put in by most young women in the early decades of the 20th century. Skills like these haven't disappeared. They've just been re-routed. The lady busily stitching away is responsible for all the work on display. 

The Ariège has always been a farming region, so you can often pick up old wood collars that once held bells for cattle and sheep. Something else easy to find are ox yokes, often riddled with woodworm. 

What on earth was the use for a length of baguette-shaped wood about 70 cm (27 inches) long with a piece of sturdy chain at its midpoint and a notch at either end? Turns out it was used to hang a newly slaughtered pig by its trotters. Its technical name is a porte-cochon.  I bought it, of course, and am picturing saucepans hanging from it instead.

Today was probably in the low thirties but winters can be icy in the Pyrenees.  Doug, a friend we ran into, asked about the long curved wood frames you often see for sale at vides-greniers. Inside is a little box and that, said the woman at the stall, held coals, and the curved frame kept the linen away from the heat. Yup, an ancient bed-warmer.  

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