One of the blessings of our London street is the market. When we first came to the area, it was thriving, a food market of the old sort, before the farmer’s variety had been thought of. Then came the decline. Many food stalls left, their places taken by sellers of cheap tat. Noses wrinkled (literally) at the presence of a burger van, much patronised by the porkier of the local school children. But this is not a tale of urban despair.
A year ago, the council changed the management company, and the transformation has been completed. The market now buzzes with cheerful cooks selling crêpes, goat curries, cheesecake, olives, fancy bread. The 17th-century Flemish artist Frans Snyders specialised in prodigal fish counters, on which every creature from the North Sea-eels, cod, oysters, octopus, skate-writhed in profusion. Our fish stall is very similar.
Life is difficult for stallholders: people living above the market complain vociferously about noise. But the revival shows that the cause of retail-with-banter is not dead. Mary Portas wants a National Market Day to bring life back into Britain’s dying high streets. I’m with her. Enough of the joyless consumerism of the out-of-town mall. Markets make shopping fun.