When I first arrived in London on a bitterly cold January day, I spent three days literally living on the couch. As someone who felt chills merely from sitting in an air-conditioned car, arriving in the thick of winter was something of a shock to the system. And if it wasn't for the gentle nagging of my concerned mother, I might have spent those three days shaking underneath two duvets, even with the heating on at full blast, and kept very questionable hygiene.
On the fourth day when my mother announced she was going to the market, something approaching excitement filled me. It was about time I ventured out into London society. And that's how my first ever outing in London was a trip, not to the London Eye, Buckingham Palace or the usual suspects in the sightseeing game, but to Dalston Market. The second was to Finsbury Park and the ethnic shops that line the Stroud Green Road. So..a pattern was emerging. It appeared the only thing that could get me to leave the warmth of the couch was food. No surprise there.
But, obviously acting in tune with the fashionista that I am (*cough*), the following day saw me cloaked with false bravado, and a determination to see the shops on Oxford Street. But the thing about false bravado is that..it IS false. You see, I never made it to Oxford Street. I decamped to a Macdonald's on Regent Street - not for the fries, although that smelled divine - for the warmth inside.
So I have something of a bond with markets. The better part of yesterday, for instance, was spent haggling at Walthamstow Market. And on this, and many other trips in search of home food comforts and bargains, I have learnt (in no particular order) that:
- pervy market men are the same everywhere - they will lick their lips and address your chest whilst talking to you
- some men in the Ghanaian-owned stalls will assume you were born here and do not speak your mother tongue, but will learn to their shame that in fact, you DO speak it, and what's more, you know your proverbs and 'kasakoa' (idioms) rather well
- you will have to fight the urge to jiggle your hips as you hear Praye's 'Angelina', or some other catchy hiplife tune blaring from a Ghanaian music shop
- there is a wierdly natural tendency to bat your eyelashes at the market men in an attempt to get them to shave off £2.00, and an instinctive feeling that you must tread cautiously where the market women are concerned. They are not easily swayed by your eyelashes you see
- it will be at the tip of your tongue to bargain over the price of something in a Ghanaian-owned stall, until the steely glare from the woman behind the counter reminds you that this is NOT Ghana, so just buy the damn thing and get the hell out of there
- you will smile at how old bargaining habits die hard. If you're skilled at it, of course
- you will overhear an intriguing conversation in Twi about a cheating pastor, or the mildly amusing antics of a Jonny or Jonniwaa-just-come, and you will want to ask questions, but you mustn't let them know that you understood every word spoken. How else will you continue to eavesdrop unnoticed?
- you will come home with a trolley case of tomatoes, fresh fish, mixed peppers...and at least two marriage proposals
T'is truly an experience that brings new meaning to the word 'marketing'!