A walk to the market in the early morning. Low autumn sun after the overnight rain. Children waiting for the school bus. One boy stands alone wearing an extravagant leather cowboy hat while he studies his phone. Other boys, a few yards away, are laughing and punching each other, delicately and affectionately as if a gentle punch is the only way they know, or allow themselves, to express their friendship. Affection even. They do this for a few minutes every morning while they wait.
Some of the market stalls are still setting up. The baker is grateful for the sunshine after the torrential rain that fell on the last Market Day. He is on his own today, no sidekick to banter with. No three-way joking with customers and his young assistant, that is reserved for Saturdays, which are always busy.
There are no cut flowers today. The weekend’s rain will have torn the Dahlias and Gladioli they usually sell at this time of year. There may be some on Saturday. Who knows, though the forecast is good.
An older man in country tweeds walks away from the square carrying his two jute bags. Wellies, shooting breeches, gilet. He doesn’t live in town. People like him are always early to the market, driving in from the villages in their Range Rovers and then heading home before the crowds arrive.
The customers change throughout the morning. There are always early town people too, visibly less well-off in cheap clothes and trainers. Older people too, probably awake for hours already, nipping in to shop because that is what they have always done. And dog people, of all classes, combining a visit to the stalls with a walk for their pets. Dogs of all sizes as well, with seemingly no correlation between human and hound. How do people choose their dogs?
There is water all over the floor of the newsagent, but it’s not a leak in the ceiling it seems. The assistant goes to fetch her mop after I’ve bought my paper and looked at the pooled water with her. It looks as if someone has brought the water in on their feet. Has a swimmer been in, we joke? I wish her a ‘have a good day’ and leave the shop.
Cheese is next, but it’s not in its usual place. The stall has moved across the square, so I retrace my steps and buy Cheddar for cooking, chilli-flavoured cheese for my boy’s packed lunches, Brie and goat’s cheese for desserts. Strange how some stalls stay put for years on end, while others pop up in different places. Who decides where they go, or is it ‘first come first served’?
Finally, the game-butcher. Pigeon breasts for a quick supper and Guinea Fowl to pot-roast on a cool, autumn evening later in the week.
Shopping done, I walk back towards home up the hill. When I left the house it was still chilly but now, carrying my bags and walking up the gentle inclines, zigging and zagging through the crossword-grid of streets, it feels warm. Too warm for the sweater and corduroy jacket I felt I needed an hour ago.