Had this clever woman at my stall yesterday.
‘Good Morning, my man,’ she says, in the way of a Roman emperor. She’s got a voice like an oboe, low and fruity.
‘I’m researching the importance of markets as social spaces in towns and cities.’
‘Come again?’ I replies.
‘Annual footfall levels in markets have reduced from six to five and a half million in two decades.’
‘Football levels? That’ll be because Millwall are so bleedin' useless these days.’
‘Footfall levels. The number of individuals that attend markets.’
‘I put it down to people not knowing the metric.’
‘Conversely, the number of farmers’ markets has increased by 250%.’
‘Posh folk who buy there wouldn’t know if it was sirloin steak or the inside of a cow’s backside they were buying. Stall down the road’ll sell you a plate of jellied eels for two quid – better than rump steak, in my view.’
‘We intend to examine different socio-demographic and economic contexts in local population profiles.’
‘Yeah, we do a lot of that down Brick Lane.’
‘We’re looking at both covered and uncovered markets.’
‘Well, my stall is uncovered when it’s dry, and I’ve got this bit of tarpaulin to drape over it when it’s wet.’
‘For a market to function well as a social space, there is a need to attract visitors.’
‘Look around my stall, lady. Bin bags and liners, sweeping brushes, tupper boxes, loo paper. Every community needs loo paper.’
‘But the unexpected?’
‘It’s all here, lady. Builders’ buckets, duck tape, sheets for the bottom of bird cages, thermoform dinner plates. You can’t get more unexpected than those.’
‘Thank you,’ she says. ‘You seem to be an imbecile. Where did you say the jellied eel stall was?’
I said to Charlie later:
‘If looks could kill…’
(C) R.T. Hardwick