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Archive for August, 2012

Salutations To The Dawn

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Dear Rachel,

‘Each morning when I wake here in Spitalfields’, writes the Gentle Author at one point in Spitalfields Life, ‘I lie for a few minutes contemplating the squirrels gamboling in the yew tree outside my window before climbing from my bed to start another day’. If you don’t know the Gentle Author or Spitalfields Life, the latter is the creation of the former and documents people and places in and around the Spitalfields area of east London, including the famous market there. The Gentle Author and I live in very different worlds, although we both write about market life quite often. I have had plenty of time to consider these differences recently while at Greenwich Market, in the quiet couple of weeks between the various Olympic Games which are being held next door. Well aware of what they have done to Greenwich, I have been fond of referring to this pause as the lull before the calm.

Not having the opportunity to listen to squirrels playing in trees, I started last Sunday by cycling to Greenwich from Tooting Bec, via Clapham, Brixton, Peckham and Deptford – as is my habit on trading days – and walked straight into an argument between Danny and Keith. This broke out because of the way Danny started his day, which was by pouring Marshall’s water bowl over Keith’s chair, as part of an on-going attempt to convince him that he is incontinent, and therefore eligible for the forthcoming Paralympics. Marshall, needless to say, is a dog. Marshall started his day by eating some money, which as you can imagine did little to cheer Danny up. Be that as it may, Danny has been routinely pouring water over Keith’s chair in this manner for several weeks, but on this occasion Keith’s counter measures caused little short of civil war.

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All The Lonely People

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

Dear Rachel

Of all the different groups of people that co-exist within the haphazard ecosystem of a London market, none are more different than weekday and weekend traders. They are barely the same species, and nowhere is this more evident than in Greenwich Market, and attitudes towards dress sense and cats.

For example, I’m not sure that grown women should really be wearing polka dots. However, as I spoke to a weekday trader doing just that at my stall recently, I decided not to bring the matter up. You shouldn’t judge a book by the cover of course, but then again you are in charge of your cover, and if you want it to make you look like an eight year old at a wedding reception, you shouldn’t be surprised if someone gives you a paper plate with sausage rolls on it. As luck would have it, I actually had a paper plate with sausage rolls on it handy, and she took one while discussing a detective novel she was reading in which all the characters were cats. They had names like Mr Neatwhisker and Milady Pinkpaws, and reading it made her sound lonely. I asked if she would have liked it as much had they all been humans, and she replied no, definitely not. Finishing her sausage roll, she asked what I was reading on my Kindle. It was Geoffrey Hosking’s History of the Soviet Union. I felt this would be difficult to explain via cats, so I just said ‘Football’ and left it at that.

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The Gift That Won’t Stop Taking

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

Dear Rachel,

Anyone who has been here for a very long time may recall that I once saw a man demonstrate the durability of a chopping board by firing a gun at it in an abandoned railway building near Acton. As a result, I consider myself largely beyond surprise. I was, though, as enthralled and entranced as the rest of us by the Olympics opening ceremony, not least because I’d always thought that the only way the Jam, the Who and the Sex Pistols would feature amid such proceedings would be if I choreographed them myself. It was a lovely thing, and successfully masked the fact that the Olympics have declared war on London, and I don’t know what we did to provoke them.

Indeed, throughout the ceremony, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Battle of Fontenoy – one of the great comedy battles – and in particular the actions of Lord Hay as he lead the Grenedier Guards against fortified French infantry. This is a tricky thing to do. Ordering the Guards to halt, he drew them up in a line and, waving his hat, lead them in three cheers for their opponents. The French responded with three cheers of their own, whereupon Lord Hay, showing a keen sense of the opportune, ordered his men to open fire. Anyone with a business anywhere near an Olympic venue feels like one of those French infantrymen, thinking ‘Well, this is a lovely moment, by why are they pointing guns at us?’

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