As things start to slowly open up after COVID-19 lockdown, it’s interesting to see what people missed the most.
From media coverage it appears everyone was gagging to go to boot camps, but that’s not something that has ever been on my radar. Nor footie. I haven’t been to a beautician for three months and my skin seems just fine. I’ve learnt how to do my own pedicures and I’m rather good at it.
Turns out I don’t need a lot of what I considered essentials, but there is one thing I am desperate to return to, and that is markets. I adore them. I remember taking the train Paddy’s Markets with my grandmother as a little girl, when I was just tall enough to peer over the top of the table and she bought me a gorgeous Chinese doll. All the people, the smells, the jostling, the idea that you simply didn’t know what treasure could turn up next was so intoxicating. I was hooked.
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I began a lifelong love affair with car boot sales, farmer’s markets, country co-op’s, vintage and antique markets, roadside stalls and, of course, school fetes. Oh, the thrill of the lucky dips, the tables with pre-loved goods, the cakes and toffees, the hand sewn tissue box holders and pot mitts. Markets are such a vital part of everyday life and add so much vibrancy to a community.
You shop differently at a market. It’s none of this ‘No thanks, I’m just looking’ as you scurry out of a high-priced shop.
At markets, customers engage and interact with the stall holders, have a conversation, a laugh, maybe haggle. I held a stall at Kirribilli markets last year and sold a lovely 85-year-old woman a jewelled cuff for $5. She told me she was a pensioner and saved her money to buy one trinket a month at the markets. “It’s such a wonderful day out” she told me. I hear you, sister.
It’s not that I’m horribly materialistic. I often won’t buy anything, it’s the colour and adventure, the act of buying and selling goods in a bustling central marketplace that has existed since the beginning of time. It’s the opposite of a mall.
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I’ve been fortunate enough to live next to Portobello Road in London, and the Clignancourt flea markets in Paris, and to have shopped the vintage clothing markets in Rome, the souk in Marrakech, the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, the night markets in Shanghai, wet markets in Bangkok, the food markets in Milan, the Christmas markets in Vienna, the shell markets in Fiji, and blown snow off the diamante jewellery for sale in the outdoor markets in Moscow in 20 degrees below.
I love a hippy market, you cannot keep me away from Glebe, Mullumbimby, Bangalow, or a stand in Bilpin with homemade jams and chutneys and hand-knitted socks. A weekend market ignites a sleepy suburb, and has a lovely unifying feel to it. I cannot wait until they re-open. It been months since I found that fab ceramic camel at Gordon markets for $20.