Perpignan market on a Saturday morning is a delightful place. It is in the beautiful Place de la Republique, a large open square full of bars and restaurants. The stand holders are a mix of organic producers, organic bakers, honey makers, cheese makers and a bunch of vegetable, charcuterie, and cheese resellers, and of course our organic herbs are there. Those of us who don’t sell much before 10, honey, seafood, cheese and plants, have an apperro organised by the wonderful cheese reseller Patric. Red wine and freshly grilled gambas along with pate and cheese at 8.30 in the morning may not be to the taste of everyone but I love it. There is a second apperro at 11.30 for the vegetable sellers and bakers.
There is a friendly rapport between most of the stand holders, with just a few miserable vegetable resellers, who keep their distance. I think they are convinced organic producers are mildly deranged, they are probably not mistaken.
I have a wonderful bunch of clients, ranging from students to mad old girls. I usually start yabbering at 9am and barely draw breath until about 1.30. A friend wheels by every week to collect his bottle tops from me, apparently for every two tons of plastic bottle top the producers buy a new wheel chair. I had a vision of my mate living in an apartment stuffed with plastic bags full of bottle tops but it turns out there is a collection point at the foot of his building.
A couple of events recently have been a bit disturbing. Firstly there is the case of my “Little Mistress”. Every two weeks this woman comes to our market in her totally illegal bashed up car. She sets up her speaker and microphone and proceeds to sing, solidly, for 4 and half hours. She is not busking, she does not solicit money, she is simply singing for her pleasure and allegedly ours. She is known as my Petite maitresse by my mates because she usually sets up close to my stand and gets me to lift up her speaker and place it on its stand. Now there are a few issues with her, not least is that she can’t really sing, and the longer she goes on the worse it gets. This fact is not helped by her tendency to turn her loudspeakers up a bit too loud. Four hours into this racket your ears do start to ring and at times you lose the will to live.
But live and let live, she has been in the market as long as I have been, which is now six years. Yes there have been a few incidents, she does get shouted at if she is too loud. She does turn her music down if asked politely. She has rushed off in tears to call her Mum if the request is not so polite, which has happened a few time.
Recently we have a new organic vegetable producer/reseller that has migrated over from the Place Belgique market. She has taken real exception to our singer, about three weeks ago she started screaming at her. She rounded up our local Frontists, a couple of over muscled under brained bullies, and between them they decided to make the singer’s life unpleasant. Constantly shouting at her, reducing her to tears, playing with her mixing kit, and generally bad mouthing her to their clients, fellow stand holders as well as the guys from the Mayor’ office responsible for our market.
And now they have got their way, our singer has been thrown out the market.A great victory that they are very proud of.
The problem is the market is a poorer place for all their bullying. A fragile old woman has been needlessly upset, yes she was a pain but she was our pain. If we can’t find a place to support a mentally unstable person who got immense pleasure from singing once every two weeks then we have lost a bit of our humanity.
The second event that pissed me off a bit was a new organic cheese producer. They came down last week with their paper work and were reluctantly admitted. I suggested to the man from the Mayor’s office that they could go next to me, after a bit of huffing and puffing he agreed.
His partner came down again yesterday, and, after numerous phone calls between the Perpignan officials, she was turned away. So she had come down all the way from Soulage, a village even more remote than us, only to be told to await proper authorization. This is the first time I have seen a seller turned away when there are places available. Yes I have seen people turned away from markets before. The usual reasons are not unreasonable, either they do not have the correct paper work, company details and insurance, or there simply are not any free spaces.
One of the fore mention muscled morons, who happens to be a cheese reseller was quick to get in with the officials to try and ensure that the producer was permanently turned away. Some of his arguments were not unreasonable, he sells cheese, Patric sells cheese, the Italian stand and the Spanish Catalans also sell cheese, Will sells cheese from his truck, and we have two other organic cheese makers, there are two cheese shops just off the square and a mini market a few streets down also has a cheese seller. Just how much cheese do the people of Perpignan eat? Well yes but the difference is that these were producers that were turned away, from a producers market. If we need to start limiting the number of cheese sellers lets start by looking at the poor quality cheese resellers, particularly those that will leave our market and do the beach markets once the tourist season starts.
Now that I have that our of my system I can get back to enjoying my Saturday mornings in Perpignan, and the last glass of rose I have with Janet, George and Patric at the end of the morning’s work.