Tuesday, 15 May 2012

To Market- To Market

A market is a place to both hunt and gather. There are endless possibilities, you might find nothing, but maybe just maybe... the next stall will have... something completely unique.
Even the other words for market are evocative: how could you not be drawn to a flea market, a bazaar, a fair, a car boot sale, or a souk...

light shades for sale in Kahn el-Khalili

My first souk was Kahn el-Khalili in Cairo, a maze of ancient little sellers where I spent a very nice evening with my cousin. She browsed and bargained tirelessly and I walked about, mouth watering, trying to simultaneously take it all in and keep my Egyptian pounds in my wallet. It was early in my trip and I had many days and nights to stretch my pennies over. 

Rover on the street in the souk- Cairo 2011

The retail lure tugged at me, but stronger than that was the delight of looking at so many exotic treasures, the intricate lights, the fabrics, the jewellery, vintage snaps of Egypt in postcards, jewelled scarab beetles, hookahs, ornate enamelled cups... and on and on. Eventually we had to stop to eat- braving the local food before heading back into to maze for more.

meal break at the souk, Cairo 2011

In one of my favourite books, Tirra Lirra by the River by Jessica Anderson, the main character travels from her small town in Queensland to London. There she makes a life for herself as a dressmaker and on weekends she wanders about the many markets, trawling through boxes of bits and bobs- maybe taking home a buckle, some sparkling buttons or a broken piece of jewellery. I can’t recall the scene precisely, (and have no access to a copy of the novel) but the mood of it always fired my imagination to want to do as Nora did; wander about at a London market, trawling through one of those boxes massed with a miscellany of beads, odd earrings, cuff-links, belt buckles... looking for that particular piece of buried treasure, that was dirt cheap and absolutely perfect.

Not to say that I haven't gotten a kick out of searching amongst similar boxes of bits at Australian markets and antique shops, but although the Kongwak market is pretty hard to beat- getting to do precisely as Nora did IN LONDON has tugged at my heart- something about the power of fiction probably.

Before I got to London my mum forwarded a picture of a a vintage flamingo print dress her friend had picked up at the Spitalfields Market in London – they knew I would get a kick out of seeing it. 

Alison's Spitafields market buy

I couldn't resist the recommendation, there are so many markets in London, and only so much time, so I followed the flamingo pointer once again. As luck would have it I had some Australian buddies (who love a bargain hunt) to drag along with me. Spitafields traders vary from day to day and we got lucky with our day because the very first stall we came to exactly fitted with my imagined London market scenario. Boxes and boxes filled with shiny objects of dubious worth set out for us to run our fingers through.

boxes of bits!-Australians at Spitafields, London 2011

I was still a backpacker at this point and had been restraining myself against purchasing anything much for months on end, but I was happy to look, just in case a perfect (little) trinket caught my eye. Mostly the looking was reward enough. But... in amongst the jumble I did find a very nice, very kitsch thimble to add to my collection – and a perfect British souvenir- a Royal wedding commemorative thimble... for Andy and Fergie.

Is that a badger next to the boobs?
You never know what you will find.
We eventually dragged ourselves away from the first stall and explored the rest of the market- it did not disappoint, and although my thimble was my only purchase for the day I loved looking through all the stalls laded with steam-punk jewellery, taxidermied foxes, animal skulls, records, stamps, more thimbles, vintage frocks, cameras... and some pretty characterful market vendors as well.

Spitafields treasure

More recently J and I were the vendors at a Car Boot Sale in Edinburgh. You arrive early to the underground car-park, line up to get yourself a trestle table, and then wait for the buzzer to sound before you can unload your goods. Everything is strictly regulated. Early sellers will be asked to leave. Early buyers at these markets have a determined agenda. Rushing from stall to stall searching out their quarry: handbags, mobile phones, particular clothes brands all get snapped up early- presumably to be re-sold some-place else.

Car Boot Sale buyers and sellers
Our little stall had some house clearing miscellany – a pair of gum boots, speakers, CD's, tools and other boy toys. Nothing much that would draw me in, but plenty of people came to look and we re-homed most of our stall. I must admit that on my breaks from the stall I spent more than we made- but that's all part of the market fun. My haul was some coloured cotton reels, DVD's and a packet of stamps for my stamp collector friend- which were featured in her blog.

more treasure in Edinburgh

Pretty restrained I thought, even though there were many to choose from though I resisted the thimbles that day. You don't want to over do it- best to leave a few pennies in your pocket and the heart yearning for something I say. The next impossibly perfect something might be just around the corner.

my little market bits and bobs for the last 12 months

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Esky Esky Who?

The start of May saw me going on a last minute camping trip to Swanage on the south coast of England. This  involved a road trip down from Edinburgh and right across the UK. We camped at the Tan Hill Inn, the highest pub in England and I pranced about admiring the baby lambs at Arbor Low, bronze age standing stones, long since tipped over by pesky puritans in the 1600's. The stones were pretty amazing also.

Early morning patrons at the Tan Hill Inn

Arbor Low

New life at Arbor Low

And pleased I was to be exploring new corners of the globe I still found it mighty odd to simply leave our groceries in a carry bag day after day.

Some old habits die hard. Like enjoying an ice cold beer and wanting to refrigerate your food when you go camping.
Both the times I have been camping in the UK it has made me just a little uncomfortable to pitch up in a field with the tent, sleepingbags, coffee, milk, bacon, booze BUT no ice or esky: for non Australians an esky is otherwise known as a cool box, cooler, ice box ect.
There are reasons for this, for one thing the Brits don't drink their beer quite as cold as Australians, for another, thus far in my camping experience it has been perfect refrigeration temperature in the car.

Nevertheless camping with no esky is still a struggle. I have been on some cool camping trips in Australia, once camping in the mountains in Far East Gippsland we got up in the morning to find the night befores dish water frozen solid, and Easter in Malacoota was frequently chilly – BUT we still packed our eskies- in fact the bigger, more fancy your esky was the cooler you were. Some mates had wheels and a handle attatched for easy movement, and the sturdier they were the better- that way they double as seating around the campfire.

True, our May Bank holiday weekend camping trip was not overly warm. My thermals got a good work out and our exploring on the first day involved walking wind swept coastline and muddy fields between pubs. 

Dorset coastline
We were motivated by the views and the lure of warming ale, cider and pasties in some very pretty country pubs.

I am pleased to say that the sun did come out on the second day, and it was timed perfectly to encorage us to stay out of the pub and do some more strenuouse adventuring on the edge of the English Channnel. A good part of the day was spent rock climbing on Dancing Ledge in weather that was even warm enough to let me climb about bare foot.

Setting up the climbing rig on Dancing Ledge

Rover barefoot climbing

The sun sparkled off the sea and the blues were set off nicely by the verdant rolling hills leading down to the limestone cliffs. After warming up scrambling about on the rocks we eventualy got ourselves together to take the plunge and go Coastering.

in the 'washing machine'

I did not know there was such a thing as coastering before Sunday- but it is a thing where you scramble about exploring the coast, jump off rocky outcrops and generally get buffetted around by the power of the ocean. A wet suit is essential, as is a helmet and boyancy aids are preferable. I am a pretty eager ocean explorer so when a wetsuit became available a happily put my hand up for the challenge.

Saying yes was the easy part, actually taking the plunge was where things got challenging.

You know you are alive when you plunge into a very cold ocean and although the sun had warmed us all morning it had no effect as we bobbed about like corks and let the waves have thier way with us.

Coastering rover waiting for a wave to lift me up

Five went in and five came out and despite a few hair raising moments we were all happily exhilarated by the experience, slightly numb but absolutely buzzing. A few hardy soul's went on to continue climbing- but my whole self knew I was done for the day so J and I went back to the camp site to begin the BBQ.

Even after a sunny day as soon as the sun had vanished from our campsite the temperature plummeted- but the thing I learned from my first week in Scotland is that you do not let the weather stop you from getting out and doing whatever you want to do. If you did you would never leave the house. The evening stayed dry and we happily huddled around the cooker getting smoke in our eyes and re-telling stories of our days daring.

Funnily enough even without an esky the bottle of Prosecco I stored in the car all day was a perfect drinking temperature- and I used it to toast my mother who turned 60 this week and my Grandma Ruthie who sadly passed away. Cheers.