The Delights of Quincaillerie

I had to try and replace a light bulb yesterday. There’s a rule in life which states firmly that however many spare light bulbs you carry, you never have exactly the one you need. And in the wacky world of EU directives on energy saving, you’re lucky to find a replacement bulb which does the job half as well as the one which has gone.

The only bright side to the task was it gave me a good reason to turn a simple errand into an expedition to one of my most favorite shops on the planet: BHV, the Bazar de l’Hotel de Ville in Paris.

When I lived in Paris in the mid-eighties, this emporium pretty much became my second home. In those days, it boasted the best fabric and haberdashery department and the best fine art supplies department to be found anywhere. Sadly the chaotic and abundant allure these departments once had hasn’t really survived a quarter century of modernisation and refurbishment efforts, but the basement area still retains a trace of the mystery and magic.

The basement is the refuge of the quincaillerie department. I suppose ‘quincaillerie’ is best translated as hardware or ironmongery, but in BHV it has always seemed so much more. It’s the sort of place which makes me wish I were a DIY addict. Wandering the aisles, I am inspired to want to make things that I don’t even have a name for. And it has an extraordinary section of EU-compliant light bulbs which gives me hope that we are not necessarily condemned to a future of dim orangy-yellow light.

Take the castor wheels section pictured above. As I peered at the piles of wheels and marvelled at the variety and range of options, I actually began to wonder how I might use these in my art. I had to hurriedly move on. I have no time for this sort of distraction to my working life at present.

In the end I had to satisfy my consumer desires with a special type of rubber drains plunger/unblocker which came in four sizes and four colours, and promised to blast up to 28 kg of gunk to kingdom come.

Oh yes. The light bulb. The irony. They were out of stock.

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