Last weekend, the town of Alex held a Vide Grenier — a giant garage sale where the locals bring all sorts of odd things to sell. I had to go: I love these events! Bizarre offerings included a variety of champagne bottle tops, a four-poster bed (assembled) and a monoski in excellent condition. The usual household goodies were on sale as well, and needing rustic-looking containers for the garden, I asked a woman how much for the two baskets in my arms that she was selling. She said €5 and I handed over the money without the French haggle. Haggling seems to be an important part of the process, and I felt like a fool for not trying to get her down to €4. No worries: I accidentally haggled over something else: I asked a man how much a large metal pot was and he said it was €10. I said ‘no thanks’ and he asked how much I would pay. I said €5, and something resembling the beard-buying scene from The Life of Brian followed.
“€5 for that? Look at the quality. You must be joking,” he said in French to me.
“It’s just for the garden,” I explained.
“But it’s for making jam!” he said indignantly. “You can’t put it in the garden.”
“I’m terrible in the kitchen, but good in the garden,” I joked.
“Okay, €5,” he said. “And a cherry each for you and your friend.”
Success! Without ever thinking he’d give it to me for €5, I scored a lovely jam pan which will never see jam again (now happily filled with petunia) and couple of tasty fresh cherries, and I’ve learnt the art of the French haggle to boot.