12 November 2011

Ode to Uppingham Market

It's a good place to be on a Friday, even in the freezing fog. Its name is fitting: 'the town which is up'. The market square is the highest point of the hill that Uppingham sits atop and there is a devilish little alley connecting the hill and its wind directly to my stall. Yesterday, on the eleventh of the eleventh in the year eleven, there was nowhere I would rather have been. My 'pitch' is next to the Church in the corner of the square, and the bells rang out and the market place fell silent. People had gathered round the church entrance and they looked up at the steeple or down at the ground. It felt disrespectful even to look sideways. During the day aged soldiers walked about in their regalia and there was no one without a poppy.

Although I am not at the front of the market with the essentials (cut flowers and fruit) I have passing trade en route to the Post Office, Church and pub. There is also a barber and a Chinese takeaway, so all the world is here. All the people, often delightful, sometimes mad and occasionally grumpy are here too. A woman dressed in tweeds looks through my hand-printed cards, which she wants to buy, before fiddling with my oiltreated oak nail brush from Sweden, which attracts attention every week. 'This is a lovely nail brush,' she says. 'I'll just find my other half.' My heart sinks. Husbands are fine on their own but are not persuadable when accompanied by wives.
The browsing woman pulls a similarly be-tweeded man over, amongst protests of 'Don't be ridiculous!'
They stop and she points. 'Not even as a present for you?'
'No! don't be ridiculous! How much is it? That's ridiculous!'
'But you normally spend £4 on a plastic nail brush... '
'You're being ridiculous!' he shouts before hurrying away. She follows him and later they pass by again, still arguing.
A thick fog descends on the square up on the hill, and it's not even one o'clock in the afternoon.