We were driving round the outskirts of Cartaxo in Central Portugal. It was about thirty degrees. We should have been in the pool. Not looking for furniture. Zed was getting slightly cross with me. Why? I’ll tell you why.
We bought books over from England, films, pots, usual stuff. Not much furniture. Our original plan had been to move to France. I love French furniture, the beautiful vintage armoires for sale in brocantes or painted book cases in attractive shops like ‘Maisons du Monde’. I have been in barns full of gorgeous furniture where I’ve wanted to ship the lot over to the UK. Or move to France and buy a house to put it all in.
Much of our furniture was inherited in the UK. Our furniture styling was eclectic. Partly due to the fact that I loved spending Thursdays at the local furniture auction which resulted in our home and garden being filled with some quite peculiar stuff. At the other end of the spectrum there was always John Lewis.
In Portugal there is Ikea, Moviflor, Jom. All chain stores, not very exciting. They do not make my head spin with inspiration. I am sure with the fullness of time we will find the equivalent of the brocantes, the furniture auctions, the stylish independent homeware shop to inspire me, I just haven’t found it yet. We have bought all our furniture so far from ‘Jom’.
Last week we headed for ‘Jom’ in Cartaxo. We had driven past it many, many times. I toyed with looking up the location first but frankly, once I get on the computer the morning is gone. We had sat nav and ‘Jom’ in other cities is usually well signposted, a bright green sign glimmering above Bricomarche (DIY) and Intermarche (supermarket). We had both seen it. Cartaxo (pronounced something like ‘Cartashoo’) is small, it wouldn’t be that difficult to find….you can see where this is going.
‘Jom’ wasn’t on the sat nav. It didn’t come up on the phone’s google search. We drove around, no signposts for it. “I’m certain it’s near the train station”, I said to Zed, who was keeping calm, under the circumstances, just a slight frown crossing his face as the temperature outside rose with the midday sun. We headed for the train station which took us down a beaten track and into little back streets. We toyed with asking an old guy standing by the road for directions, but we probably wouldn’t understand his reply.
We stopped and had coffee. Drove around again. Put in petrol. The cashier smiled at me. I pounced on her for directions. “Jom?” I asked. “Onde esta Jom – mobiliario?” Actually, that may be closer to the Portuguese language than the words I probably stuttered out. Nevertheless she understood.
“Santarem”, came back the reply.
“Ah. Muite obrigada”.
For those of you who live in Portugal you will know that Santarem is the town twenty miles or so up the road and there is no ‘Jom’ in Cartaxo. Our memories had played tricks on us. I like to think Zed was laughing under his frown when I told him. He certainly gave me an odd look. We drove back into town. Not directly into town because I turned left instead of right out of the garage so we did an interesting tour around the tiny back streets of Vila Cha de Ourique, a village full of old, prettily painted houses on the outskirts of Cartaxo, cut up by the route national.
Cartaxo is a neat little town with a park, a Chinese restaurant, quaint buildings. Driving around Cartaxo I’d spotted a tiny furniture shop. We went there instead. It looked like the sort of shop that would have interesting stuff inside, maybe some old pieces with history. We were disappointed. Bland beds and chests greeted us, perfectly adequate of course, but uninspiring. The owners were polite, in their seventies, they put the lights on for us in the backroom to let us see more tables, followed us around the shop in anticipation of a sale. I so wanted to buy something from them but….selling neither shabby nor chic but a safe inbetween….we came away empty handed.