I spent the last two Thursdays standing up for ten hours remembering what it used to be like being a market trader.
My first job when in London was working on Borough Market. It was cold (or hot, but mostly you remember the cold), early mornings, hard graft, and huge amounts of fun. I stopped because I wanted to focus on studying and needed my weekends back for play, but I have a huge fondness for it, and have been told that when I talk about those days I light up.
So when I was offered a guest pitch on the Covent Garden Real Food market for two weeks this summer I jumped at the chance, just as I did two years ago. I couldn't believe that someone would be kind enough to offer me my very own little pitch, and trust me to fill it with my preserves.
It was hard. Schlepping everything on the train took two of us, a bit of help from bemused businessmen ("what an earth is in this?" "jam" "..."), some apologetic looks at the commuters who wondered why on earth their train was suddenly full of suitcases, a trolley and bags, and the use of some muscles I didn't even think I had. But we got it all there, and after an emergency coffee and pastries run, set up the stall. Week one was really wet to start out, and involved some quick thinking as to how to lay out the stall. I fortunately had my wonderful Mum on had to help out. Week two I was on my own to set up and it was warm but windy. Fortunately I had the Jacob's Ladder people on the stall behind me to help me with coffee and moral support and Lady J arriving to give my afternoon a well needed boost.
Once I was fuelled up with coffee and had the stall set up it was just a case of waiting to see what the day would bring. No matter what, a day on the market will always feel long. You stand the whole time and must somehow keep up your morale and smile and try not to punch people who make stupid comments about your produce (these people are rare, but somehow always manage to appear at the point that for some reason - rain, cold feet, hunger etc - you are at your lowest ebb).
It's rare that you get that genuine and spontaneous a response to something you've done. Of course you have to take the good with the bad, and accept that not everyone will like what you produce, but for those moments when someone does and chooses to buy something you have produced it is worth all the hard work, cold feet, and midnight labelling sessions.
I love the markets, long may I get the opportunity to sell on them. Thank you so much to Covent Garden Real Food, I hope I did you proud and that one day you might invite me again.