It’s 11.45pm Sunday night and it’s time to get ready for my trip to the market, first task, music for the journey.
Tricky one this, nothing to dreamie like Spiritualized’s Ladies and Gentlemen we are floating in space but on the other hand you don’t want to be racing down to Prodigy’s Invaders Must Die. So I plump for The White Stripes Elephant.
With heavy jacket and flat cap donned I turn the ignition to start the journey as Jack and Meg smash out Seven Nation Army and I get on my way.
I make my way down the pitch black A12 only illuminated by the glow of the big towns like Witham and Chelmsford, then off at the junction for the M25. Yes I know the A12 leads all the way to New Spitalfields but I hate speed cameras, traffic lights mixed with empty roads so I take the 6 mile detour.
The M25 is lit like a race track and empty apart from the odd lorry and vans going to the market. Next off the M25 and onto the M11 and back to the pitch blackness until I see the red dots of the Docklands skyline appear, I’m almost there apart from a quick hop back on the A12.
As I arrive at the market I glance at the giant digital timepiece on the gate house as I enter, 1.30am not bad time I think to myself and drive to the back of the market and park up. As I drive round to the back of the market it hits me for a place purpose built as a fruit & veg market this place is chaos, lorries delivering and vans picking up mixed with forklift trucks loading and unloading its crazy!
I walk into the market through Gate 3 to a swarm of activity, I bustle past the No Smoking and High Viz vests must be worn signs into cloud of cigarette smoke coming from a Turkish looking man in a shiny suit. Rules mean nothing at this time of night.
The first thing that hits you is it’s a Mans world down here the only women you see, seem to be the Eastern European coffee girls who rush around with trays of hot drinks and sandwiches from the cafés to the stall holders. I have seen a few women buyers but not as many, it’s a man world alright!
I make my way to the stalls that know my face as this helps with the prices, you build up a relationship with certain people and they’ll tell you what’s good and what’s not. You’ll be lucky if you can get all your stuff from one stall, some sell only fruit & some only veg.
The English Firms are the first port of call, now I know this may sound a bit iffy ” THE ENGLISH FIRMS” but what is meant by this, is the firms that sell what you would call your everyday fruit and veg from mushrooms, cabbages, apples, potatoes and sprouts etc and they have been there for donkey’s years!
Then I’m off to explore the more exotic stalls and there are loads Indian, Chinese, Turkish and many more and I look to pick up a box or two of something a little different, something that you might not find in our local supermarkets it’s what makes us a little bit special.
A few years back we started stocking Flat (Donut) Peaches from one of these stalls and they flew out off the door but eventually everyone started stocking them and as they are a tough fruit to keep, the big stores started to chill them and this affects the taste so slowly people started going off them, we still sell a few but not as many. Some of the stuff I see just wouldn’t sell in our little town although we thought that of Medjool dates but they must be one of our best sellers now!
Hmmmm what shall I buy?
I head back to my vehicle with a milky coffee from the café and a couple of boxes of ravaya aka baby aubergines and the porters have delivered my pallets of gear. Every stall has to employ porters and the porters have to have a porter’s license, they bring your goods out to the car park for a Portage fee which is added to your bill when your pay by card at the stalls.
For more about information about the porters see http://spitalfieldslife.com/2011/12/16/jimmy-huddart-spitalfields-market-porter/
I said rules mean nothing at this time of night early in this piece but the one rule that does mean something is you don’t touch someone else pallet of gear. They can stay out in the car park on their own for hours and they’re quite safe no one will touch them. It shocked me at first that there was so much trust but it would be more trouble than its worth so nobody does.
I load up and head off back up the same route and arrive back in Brightlingsea around 4.30am and unload. I’m knackered but am very happy with the gear I’ve got. Then it’s home where I sneak back into the house and into a warm bed safe in the knowledge our little shop is well stocked for the new week ahead.