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Thursday, 16 February 2012

On Johnny Onions's trail

  I am just back home in Brittany after a 5-days' peregrination around a large chunk of Britain, in search of traces left by the Breton onion trade. 

Stop I: London
  A journey of high & lows, my expedition started in the capital, where I expected a significant part of whatever information still exists to have been centralised. As it turned out, my main Londonian discovery was that there is, apparently, very little left to be found there.

  Walking from the small station to the Archives buiding in Kew, along rows of neat 1920s suburban little houses, I noticed that most front doors bore signs warning potential door-to-door sellers that they were not welcome. I wondered if the famously persistent Breton onion men would have been put off by such cautionary notices...

Stop II: Salisbury 
  After two rather disheartening days in London, I headed to Gloucester, to stay with Michèle Segura-Coz from Cléder, who had arranged a wonderful, action-packed programme for me. The first highlight in our tour was Salisbury. 
  There we met Ken SMITH, to discuss the inspiration behind The Frogband and the Onion Seller, the children's illustrated story that his father Jim SMITH had published in 1976 & which is now being reprinted, an event celebrated by the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, who held an exhibition of Smith's original artwork from last October to January.

Stop III: Pontypridd
  From Salisbury, we then drove to South Wales, to visit Gwyn Griffiths (, whose two books on Breton onion-sellers were my introduction to the subject & inspired me to explore the way the British see their seasonal visitors from across the Channel.

Saying good-bye, I couldn't resist asking Gwyn if I could take a picture of the pair of stickers on his car: one Breton, one Welsh!
Gwyn's present has now joined his other books in my collection.