All the worlds a matchbox
When ma femme et moi are in Paree, which we were last week, we like to go and hear a talk at that wonderful relic of a more authentic Left Bank,the Shakespeare and Co book shop. Last week it was Professor Gunn talking about the third volume of Sam Beckett’s Letters which he has just published. Sam Beckett, we know about and have seen Godot, we know his great lined face but not much else. Quelle hombre. This highly gifted and productive Francophone Irishman( I’d rather be in France at War than in Ireland at Peace) needs a bit of looking into. Not least his relationship with one of Clayesmore’s most noble sons, the Royal Court’s George Devine.
While we were waiting for the talk in the upstairs library, with its view of Notre Dame and the Seine, I picked up Ronald Searle’s 1950 Paris sketchbook. In one chapter he describes the Puce de Vanves the flea market in the south of the city. Here sixty years ago sad couples stood trying to sell the most pathetic of wares-chipped ash trays and cups, odd plates, random cutlery ,shoes, match boxes and strange boxes of biscuits.
Being a great collector of ephemera not least for the voracious Musee Festing, P de V is one of my favourite Parisian destinations. The sad ones with their marginal wares are still there,but now very much the fringe, more significantly there is also a very well developed, mile long brochante market selling everything from one euro badges to 1000 euro pictures, statues and art nouveau artefacts.
While there I bought some black and white postcards of 1950s Paris, a Pont des Arts without padlocks!, two key rings one with the Esso tiger,a plastic Baba the Elephant and something rather special . A metal matchbox bearing the proud brand of Le Monde and its old up market address, 5 Rue des Italiens.
The slogan of my musee is historic, iconic, ironic. This matchbox has them all. No doubt a keep sake given to suppliers and advertisers in a golden age when smoking was encouraged not frowned on. An age when even a very serious (dull?)left wing paper owned by its journalists could make money and cause waves. An age when my own career prospered with the great surge in printed media in the last decades of the last century. Then the matchbox was given away, last week I paid 15 euros for it-having beat the stall holder down from20.
Once the match box was a giveway, to some a piece of ephemera, fit only for throwing away. But for me historic,iconic and ironic. A darling pearl.