As I’m first on the scene I pick the best one, with lots of buds. When this variety was introduced, plants cost about £20.00 each, so I’m pleased. New geranium stowed safely in the car, I make my way inside and buy a new-old basket to replace the ancient one which is becoming a barbed menace to fellow shoppers. The seller says gallantly that he will tell his wife the basket has gone to ‘an equally lovely lady’. He reduces the price, too.
The Saturday market has a mixture of regular traders and occasional sellers. There are greetings rituals, very old men hailing each other ‘Hello, young man’; the correct response is to ‘Hello-young-man’ him back. You see groups of men, totally absorbed, around the stall selling old tools, lengths of wire, potentially useful rubbish. Then there are the philatelists, waiting for their man. When he arrives with his little 'ttache case and sets his albums out on the table, they draw up chairs, produce tweezers and magnifying glasses and begin a morning’s study. It reminds me of the pub scene in Billy Liar, from which Billy feels so excluded: ‘Have you got them theer, Charlie?’ – ‘’Aye, they’re up in our garridge.’ – ‘I’ll come down for’ em tomorrow morning.’
I’m soon glad I bought that basket because one of the occasional sellers, a house clearer, is there with his usual chaos of boxes. And he has a lot of books, all unsorted. Patiently, with some other hunters, all men, I sift through and select what might be useful. Then there’s a buying ritual to be got through. ‘Are these books Nick’s?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Where is he then?’ Nick appears, cramming jam tarts into his mouth and chatting to a chap who used to deal in books but has switched to china. ‘How much are your books today?’ ‘They’re cheap, very cheap.’ The onlooker intervenes, taking one side and then the other in the bargain. I’ve picked twenty books, a mixture of children’s paperbacks and some early romance novels with lovely period dustwrappers. Nothing worth much. ‘That’s gotta be a fiver.’ ‘Too cheap’, cries the chorus, ‘Even you (me, that is), can’t get ‘em for that.’ I do, of course, and stagger off. It’s fun.
When I get home it’s still raining, Sounds of the Sixties is still on the radio, it’s just like always except that someone who used to make me a cup of coffee when I returned with my booty is no longer there.