I mentioned recently that when we visited Birmingham the other week we had a wander round the Bullring Market and were left extremely impressed. We got there at the end of the day but the market was still vibrant, with plenty of folk around looking for that last minute bargain.
Years ago this would have been a scene repeated in every town across the country, but whilst some places have held onto that tradition others seem to have let it go without so much as a whimper. Walthamstow in North East London has it's famous street market - not quite the mile long that myth would have us believe but stretching the full length of the town's High Street, it rightfully holds the title of Europe's longest street market. When we lived there we used it weekly for our fruit and veg, along with the excellent Parsons Butchers shop for meat - it was from there that we first got our taste for mutton. Having somewhere like that on the doorstep was not only useful, at times it was downright vital, as when money is tight there is no better place to shop than a market. I remember a few occasions when faced with the task of feeding two of us for a week on under £10 I managed to do so with relative ease thanks to that market - and we ate well, too!
The first noticeable thing about a good market should be the way everything is beautifully laid out - in this case it's tidily stacked bowls, in others it might be immaculately built pyramids of fruit or veg. The signage too is now a classic style - often along with a few spelling mistakes or misplaced apostrophes which a greengrocer once told me weren't actually mistakes - but instead were designed to attract attention - clever eh?!
If you have a market locally - USE IT, otherwise you will sure as anything lose it. If your local high street has also - like ours - lost its Greengrocer, then this is all the more important. On the continent they cherish and celebrate their markets - they are fantastically laid out and people will do their entire weeks shopping there - fruit, veg, meat, fish, cheese, milk, bread.....the whole lot. Over here, shopping on a market can have a slightly shameful air to it - even somewhere like Walthamstow where for those of us who grew up there the market has always been part of life, people still sometimes look askance at you if you refer to doing your food shopping there. It's sad really - to my mind, that sort of setting for people to shop in is exactly how it should be...