Collapsible Crates and Clingfilm... life as a Market Trader

Charlotte de Silva One New Change Market

Sometimes in life, you just have to laugh. There is nothing left to do other than laugh at the sheer madness of situations. Situations that you don't even find yourself in, but that you actually put yourself in...

Having launched myself headfirst into the life of "market trader" last month, I have had quite a few of those moments. And I can only predict that in the coming months, there will be many more.

My house - my beautiful, elegant haven in Notting Hill - is now littered with unsightly bits of 'kit'. Trestle tables peer at me from behind the distressed, hand-painted banquette next to my desk.  My desk, a lovely family heirloom - dark mahogany topped with green leather - desperately tries to disguise a set of flat-packed boxes rammed behind it.  And if I dare glance to my left whilst sitting at my desk, I can see nothing but the wheels of a collapsible trolley. And don't get me started on the collapsible crates stashed under the marble topped dining table...  

All of these items will have to come out of their hiding places and be put immediately back from whence they came a total of 22 times this month. I have 11 markets to go to and at each one I learn something different... 

Obviously I learn about my all-important customer, about demand, buying habits, the psychology of display, the rules of 'tasters' (don't put anything out at a small-child's eye / hand / mouth level unless you want to watch your profits get guzzled at the speed of light). But I'm also learning some tricks of the trade. The hard way, mind you. Like the time I was at an outdoor market in the rain.  I thought one just had to suck it up and deal with the fact that you and your stock would get soggy and icy cold.  But no, one does not have to deal with that. If one was prepared, one would have brought a commercial sized roll of cling film and wrapped the side of one’s stall in said cling film to prevent the driving rain from drenching one's livelihood.  I watched as all of the traders reached for their rolls in synchronization and I just stood there. Feeling like a total amateur.  As my mother said - "did no one offer you some of their cling film?" No, they did not. It's a cut-throat game this. 

I've had some fascinating conversations with the wonderful general public as well.  My favourite being with a 'vegetarian' lady who was interested to find out if my cheeses were vegetarian.  

"Actually madam, some of them are - these two are made with a thistle rennet rather than animal rennet. So, yes.  They are vegetarian cheeses."  

As I turned to another customer to answer her question as to which was made from sheep's milk and which from cow's milk, the vegetarian demanded how these cheeses could possibly be vegetarian if they're made from sheep and cow...

“That's not vegetarian” she proclaimed, indignantly. “It can't be vegetarian if it's got sheep and cow in it” …

And there are times when the general public choose to ignore that you are even there.  You, with your beautiful products that you are so proud of and that you are relying on to support your new life as entrepreneur and passionate Portuguese foodie.  One after the other, they race past you, sometimes glancing at your carefully laid out stand, absorbing absolutely nothing and focusing solely on getting to Pret a Manger before the crayfish sandwiches sell out… I know what that’s like.  Because I used to be that person, so wrapped up in my busy corporate day that I had no capacity in the middle of it to discover new things or engage with strangers. I knew where I needed to be and nothing would come in the way of me getting there.

But now, I find myself standing in the cold behind a trestle table full of items that represent my new life and ambitions. And when no one seems to care, I just have to laugh!  I mean, it is quite comical. From property broker to market trader.  But it’s all part of the journey, and life is about enjoying the journey. And so, that is what I am trying to do, with a smile on my face.