PUBLISHED: 17:48 29 September 2011 | UPDATED: 20:04 20 February 2013
South Molton farmers' market, Saturday morning, dead early. My stall is set up and I'm waiting for the rush – crush barriers and police horses standing by in case the crowds get too overcome by my produce.
South Molton-Simon Dawson
South Molton farmers market, Saturday morning, dead early. My stall is set up and Im waiting for the rush crush barriers and police horses standing by in case the crowds get too overcome by my produce.
Officially the market opens at 8am, and stallholders are encouraged to have everything up and ready by then. Im always the last, but its done now and I sip strong black coffee, lots of strong black coffee and watch the people go by.
A lady, pretty but looking very tired rushes past. Behind her walks a guy, scruffy with short hair and following him another guy, this one walking with a swagger its a bit early in the morning to feel so good, isnt it? Then a young girl walks by, shes about seventeen, maybe eighteen. She walks past at the same time each week. Shes very glamorous, almost too glamorous for the surroundings. I cant put my finger on what it is because her clothes arent over the top. Neither is her hair. Its more natural than that, like its her shining through the clothes rather than the clothes making her shine. Shes very lucky. I wonder if she works in fashion? She smiles at me and I call a cheery, Morning.
I sip more coffee and hope Im going to have a good day and lots of people will buy from me.
Toby goes by next, arms loaded with boxes. He works on the fruit and veg stall. Hes always smiling, always kidding around. Hes at collage now but hes going to be a sports teacher when he leaves. He works with Justin and Jenson Jenson, the man with the coolest name in South Molton.
This time in the morning its still quiet. Around ten itll start to get busy. Thats when the regulars and locals come through to do their shopping. South Molton is a small farming town in North Devon just off the A39 with a population of around four thousand, but for a small place theres a lot going on. It feels bustly with something always happening. Every Saturday and Thursday, the thing thats happening is the market, and most people in the area wander through at some point or another.
Stand behind my stall long enough and its like having an entire town parade in front of me (with the more discerning ones pausing to buy something, of course). I dont know their names, but I know snippets about them and guess the rest, like whether the glamorous girl works in fashion or not.
Theres a guy who has long curly hair and looks as though he should be in the music business, maybe as a record producer. Theres another guy who sometimes wears builders boots and a short pleated skirt, and I wonder if hes in advertising. Then theres the beautiful mother with two very pretty daughters who are always in party dresses, are they always on their way to parties?
There are grubby farmers with muddy wellies, women in tight jodhpurs and riding boots with their hair scraped back into ponytails, families with noisy children, elderly people on mobility scooters, people carrying newspapers, or books, or flowers, and always everyone carrying heavy bags.
And theres Jim. Hes 81 now, but in his prime he was Mr Universe. Im serious. He once brought in a photograph of when he was in his prime, posing, oiled and pumped up with muscles like Arnold Schwarzenegger. He looked incredible. I handed the picture back and he rested his walking stick on the side of the table, grinned and waved his hand down his side. Look at me now, he said, and I realised the grin held little humour.
Not everyone stops and talks, but lots do. Sometimes they buy, but sometimes they just want to catch up. I like that about South Molton, the fact that people feel comfortable enough to chat to the stallholders without feeling under pressure to buy, even though Ill occasionally drop my eyes down to the neatly tied pork joints in the chiller in front of me just in case they meant to pick one up but got so carried away they forgot. Theyd only kick themselves when they got home, and I wouldnt want an injury on my conscience.
All the stallholders are friendly. Its in the remit of being a stallholder to smile and talk about their goods. Im Hidden Valley Pigs and I sell rare breed free range pork from our smallholding on Exmoor. Sarah next to me sells handmade pies, pasties and game from her farm. On the other side of me Chris sells cakes and biscuits and crisps. Down from him theres Coombe Farm who sell all different meats. Were in the main entrance.
The main body of the market is a massive hall with forty or fifty stalls running in four rows from top to bottom. Theres a fishmonger behind boxes of shiny wet fish, and opposite him the fruit and veg stall, the biggest stall in the market with masses of, well, fruit and veg. On from there is Keith with his smellies, Stafford with his flowers, Celia with her olives and Megan with her dried fruits.
Lisa runs the most colourful stall in the market, the Indy stall with bright scarves and pashminas, silks and sarees, velvets and woollen smocks, and sweet smelling oils and incense and bits and pieces from India and Tibet.
Theres a shabby chic home and garden stall, Chris with handbags and Tracys accessory stall with coloured scrunches and hair bands, bangles, beads, bracelets and bows, and of course Philip and Seonee with fabric and jewellery.
For food theres West Country cheese, fresh ground coffee and fresh baked bread. Theres even a W.I. stall selling homemade cakes and sausage rolls. Were a friendly farmers market, mainly because we want to have fun while were working too. Pop in and say hi and dont forget your purse.
South Molton Farmers market is on every Thursday and Saturday 8am-1pm throughout the year.