Monday, February 25, 2008

Hidden treasure

Having confessed to my weakness for Lidl, I might as well come clean altogether. What's good about living in France? The wine, OK; the cheese, mm, though we miss harder cheeses ( Cantal and the other Auvergne cheeses are a good replacement); the cuisine, well, not as good as they think it is; the healthcare, so far so good, though for how long?; the people, probably no better or worse than anywhere, generally found to be welcoming, civic-minded, civilised, we've been lucky, can be chauvinistic (in the true sense, he was a soldier of Napoleon...), especially about the cuisine, reactionary, horror stories of corruption and closing of ranks have been heard...

But no. A really great thing about living in France is... won't find that in Peter Mayle. Noz is a discount, end-of-line type store found in big ugly sheds on the edge of most towns of any size throughout la belle France. It is the place where one can indulge in delightful, serendipitous retail therapy and barely feel it. You have to have the right mentality, of course. Tom who, like many though not all men, prefers to go to a shop for something in particular, find it, buy it and come away again, can't be doing with it, though he enjoys what I bring back. The first time you walk in, you look about and think ' How awful! What am I doing here?'. On subsequent visits you think, hmm, not much here today, I won't be here long, but then the spell of Noz begins to work, and you start looking properly, and Finding Things. I don't think I have ever left empty-handed.

There is little logic to how things are displayed, indeed, display is really not an appropriate usage here. You are quite likely to find bits of tawdry tarty underwear in amongst the pickled gerkins, Swiss chocolate amongst the loo brushes, plastic plants in with the hosiery...
And you don't need to be to dainty and fastidious about your shopping environment, the floor is concrete, the bins chipboard and plastic, and the light is mostly provided by a few suspended neon tubes and some bits of clear corrugated plastic set into the roof.

Here is today's haul,

Clockwise from top left:
-Three clip frames of rather odd proportions. Not sure what I'll do with these but I often crop my pictures into odd proportions so they may have a destiny.
-One chunky blue candle. Tom can entertain himself for hours poking burning candles with dead matches and only burns himself occasionally, so this should keep him out of my hair for a bit.
-One 625 gr jar of redcurrant jelly, no kitchen cupboard should be without.
-One small aluminium saucepan, non-stick with a design of strawberries not only on its sides but in the little circle in the centre of its bottom. I simply couldn't resist that. There were ones with oranges and lemons and flowers too, but the strawberries won easily.
-Pack of three (label, not that I give a stuff about labels unless I get them really cheap from Noz)cotton socks for Tom - bless them.
-Rhubarb and yoghurt filled German chocolates. This is only the packet as we scoffed the lot as soon as I came home. They were delicious and really did taste of rhubarb and yoghurt.
-Packet of assorted sunflower seeds, the multi-headed multicoloured ones for cutting.
-Pack of ten sheets photo paper. Not quite as cheap as Carrefour's everyday photo paper I use for making cards etc, but this might be better quality. Worth experimenting.
-2008 calendar with pictures of angels from Old Masters. I bought it for the pictures, we've already got several calendars for this year: a dreadful one someone gave us of pictures of the Peloponnese from the air, weirdly Photoshopped and mostly in Greek, so we'd probably end up inadvertantly celebrating Easter a month late; another I bought last year with mediocre photos of Brittany with a view to copying the date pages and making my own (didn't get round to), both of which are rather too small, and finally a Harry Potter one which I capitulated and let Tom have, in fact it's rather well designed, though I'm not looking forward to June when there's a scary picture of Voldemort sticking his tongue out. I actually prefer calendars with paintings on, as we put them in the loo and consequently spend quite a lot of time looking at them. If they're photos and not much good I'm iritated by them, if they are good I'm disheartened and jealous. Story of my life.
-Two gel pens and two fineliners.
-Two pairs quite girly socks with slightly frilly tops for me.

The total came to 20. 70 euros ( I've got a euro sign here somewhere but don't know how to work it...). That's a bit more in pounds than it used to be, but still not very much, no idea how much in dollars. I daresay quite abit of it came from China and I should rightly feel guilty about it, but not all of it, and most of it's fairly useful and not totally wanton and wasteful consumption...
My cup runneth over. Quality of life comes in many guises.


Anonymous said...

I recognize the red-checkered top on the jam jar! I've saved them all over the years and reuse them for food storage. I must admit I've lost my interest in shopping as I've matured, and a store as you describe would probably drive me insane, heh. My husband would probably love to scavenge through it.

andy said...

Tom is clearly a man after my own heart; we have at least two things in common: our prefered shopping style (in-buy-out, although I'll make an exception for certain types of emporium such as a good old-fashioned tool shop), and a fascination for playing with the softened and melted wax of large candles (or indeed any candles for that matter)with dead matches. I think the latter trait must be genetic; my middle son has the same disposition. Christmas dinner (about the only time we actually all get round a table with candles on) usually ends up with liberal spatterings of wax on the festive red paper tablecloth, together with the ash of just anything handy (e.g. dead cracker snaps) that looks as though it'll burn.

meggie said...

The simple pleasures! I get absurdly pleased, when I get something really great, like a book, for a measly dollar, at a garage sale.

I too love candles. We have no areas suitable for displaying them, so we go without. Enjoy, Tom!

Rosie said...

Don't cook any fruit in your aluminim pan...or it could become alzheimer's compote:
sorry don't know how to make pretty links in comments.
While I am here, I would like to discount the sexual stereotype of women liking to shop. I'm with Tom. Jimmy has adapted his hunter gatherer instincts to spend hours in Noz and Lidl. I suppose that is what he is doing in India, one big shop...

Lucy said...

Thank you, some chucklesome stuff here, and some debunking of the hunter/gatherer men/women shopping issue, the common cod evolutionary interpretation is that the swift no-messing attack coming away with the prize is analogous to men hunting, while the browsing, rummaging, training of the eye to spot the edible and tempting is parallel to women gathering. Like most of these things it's almost certainly bollocks. I do in fact know many men who enjoy shopping, and often it just depends on where and for what. My brother abhors consumerism in general and spending his own money in particular ( hi, Chris, in case you're reading, I'm sure you won't mind me saying...), but he is quite partial to Noz, proudly displaying useful artefacts he has found there. Admirable women such as Marja-Leena and Rosie care little for shopping, while their menfolk do. In fact I have a fairly limited appetite for shopping in general, easily satisfied by occasional visits to such places as Noz, and if I were bestowed with great wealth it's doubtful I would spend much of it in shops. It's the serendipity of these places I enjoy, I think.

Andie - did you ever try live cracker snaps in the candles? that might be interesting...

Meggie - surely you could sometimes have a candle on the table? The garage sale thing also has a waste-not-want-not appeal. One reason Tom appreciates being in France is that it forcibly broke me of my charity shop habit. Growing up in hardship has left him with an indelible unease about second hand stuff.

Rosie - so you won't be joining me in my next Noz-Fest then? I generally do avoid aluminium for that reason, but I think it's OK if you avoid acidic stuff and while the non-stick lasts isn't it? I'll follow your link, I can't do that http cleverbuggery either.

robinstarfish said...

Most intriguing is the little packet of sunflower seeds, presaging a garden of beguiling photographs and prose in future months.

Pam said...

I wonder why you do live in France? I've just realised that I've never read your complete archive; and look forward to doing so if I ever have any time, which doesn't look like soon.

I myself can't conceive of moving countries. Too rooted.

Helli said...

Spirit of Marjory!

Lucy said...

Robin - they are Autumn Beauty variety, so it'll be a little while yet!
Isabelle - reading another's blog archive is, I think, above and beyond... but anyway, I've not actually ever written about how or why we came here. I might sometime, if I can decide if it's interesting enough, which is doubtful.
Helli - heh heh heh! ( Marjory was our mother, BTW).

Anonymous said...

A junk store with currant jam and Fra Angelico can't be bad.

Anonymous said...

Noz soo evocative! Coming to live 'permanently' Easter Monday. We go to Noz @ Chateaubriant each Wednesday.

I tend to use EUR and GBP as they're e-mail-proof, tho' never sure whether they should come before or after the amount.

If you could take the occasional private e-mail;

All privacy respected.

I've already linked to your 'jolly green lizard', as we call them.