The exotic is everywhere, it comes to us
before there is a yen or a need for it
wrote Amy Clampitt in one of the best ever shopping poems (‘Nothing stays put’).
Last weekend I was down in Bath visiting family for the weekend. On Saturday morning we went to Green Park market which is next to a big Sainsbury’s. We had a divide and conquer approach and while one member of the family did the weekly supermarket shop the rest of us browsed round the market.
Green Park station is a grade 2 listed building. It was once an important railway terminus but now the market is held under the arched glass roof of the old station. It’s spacious and there’s a relaxed atmosphere about the market. People walk slowly, looking and chatting. There are small children and dogs and no one seems stressed. We sat and drank our coffees at the market café. Music from the LP shop in a waiting room of the old station spilled over into the market. There was a stall selling knick-knacks of vintage silver plate – items which one’s great granny might have possessed, such as sugar tongs (remember sugar lumps?). Little time-capsules of curios. Nearby was a stall selling home-made soap – beautifully scented from flowers in the stall-holders’ garden.
But most of the stalls were selling food, home-grown and, in some cases, home-cooked. As a child of self-sufficiency parents (John Seymour’s book was frequently consulted in our house) I greatly enjoyed visiting this small-producers’ market. On the list were strawberries and jam (from the same stall) – lovely sweet juicy berries in all shapes and sizes. A giant punnet and a jar of jam for under a fiver. We resisted the wild meat man (will [grey] squirrel ever catch on?) but treated ourselves to some dry-cured smoked bacon (from Gloucester old spot pigs). Such bacon was to us haute cuisine (we had bacon butties that night with a glass of red wine).
It was impossible to rush round the market because the producers were so enthusiastic. There were lots of free samples and the stall holders needed no prompting to talk passionately about their food. The bread was particularly good – we tasted the rye bread (from locally grown rye). It was as good as anything I have had in Germany.
My daughter-in-law had requested some flowers. We found a local grower’s stall selling dahlias – confident pompoms and mop-heads in mother-of-the bride colours – lilac, orange, peach, white tinged with mauve, lemon yellow with golden centres – not a curl out of place (like something out of Philip Larkin’s ‘The Whitsun Weddings’). Freshly picked that morning, two bunches for five pounds.
Dahlias, native to Mexico, eaten by the Aztecs, grown in Somerset.
Nothing stays put. The world is a wheel.
all that we know, that we’re
made of, is motion.