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9th June 2020

vegtables vegtables

It was last Friday, around midday, when I walked slowly along with heaps of fruit and vegetables piled up on either side. Basket in hand I dropped into it a fat, mat-green spring cabbage, a bundle of tort asparagus and another of astringent rocket, then my eye was caught by early peaches on the other side and the piled up early cherries with the anticipation of that sweet-sour taste. No not a meander in a Provencal market but at our very own one in Brackley. Here were also bunches of new carrots, baubles of radishes, lozenge shaped shallots and this year's garlic with tidily gathered herbs lying near the till. The assistant was help itself finding a cardboard box to put everything in which was not already wrapped in a brown paper bag; no plastic here. Whilst paying I noticed some raspberries and thought to buy some as well. I quickly added them to the pile of shopping only to have them removed by the stall holder as not being good enough. He ferreted in the back of his van to find some that were better. The current chore of shopping had been transformed into a delight and a delight that spread as far as the cost.

There is a market in the centre of Brackley each Friday, starting in the morning and going on till the goods are sold. Its stalls are in the shadow of the recently restored Market House built by the Egerton family for the town in the first decade of the 18th century. Surrounding it are the town's handsome buildings with shops that are mainly shut though I saw that Lloyd's Bank was helpfully open and that their cash machine was being well used. Soon we hope that The Old Hall Bookshop will re-open its doors and the coffee shops will be plying their trade. But for now, we have much to be thankful for in the market.

It was not just the fruit and veg but also the variety of other stalls. Adjacent was the cheesemonger. Paxton and Whitfield might well be jealous. Carefully shielded from the sun and the gusts of wind was the best Lancashire cheese I have ever eaten, a cabinet of different blue cheeses and a galaxy of British handmade varieties. The colours from pale cream to rich ochre were enough to get the taste buds yearning and the vendor was happy to provide decent slivers for one to try. I came away with three cheeses new to me and of course some of his Lancashire plus olives and biscuits. 

I then noticed that behind him was a fish van. Apparently, it has just returned here after a ten-week’s break. Thank goodness. I spoke to the fishmonger who buys most of his catch from his brother who has one of the last trawlers going out from Lowestoft. What would I like? What wouldn’t I like.? Dover Sole, Turbot, Bream, and Bass all with shining scales and twinkling eyes. How fresh? He had picked it all up first thing and then driven here. I couldn’t see crabs that were advertised on a board. Had they all gone?  No but he bought them from Cromer almost as they came out of the sea, cleaned and sorted the meat, and then deep froze. How many would I like to either defrost and have for supper or take home and pop in our deep freeze to await their moment? Being only two of us at the moment, I just bought a pair .... . 

Swinging round I then headed to the artisan baker with his bread, bread, bread but who also supplied Banbury Cakes, buns, tarts and the very best of Cornish Pasties. By this time, I had overrun my shopping list but had I wanted meat there was the Townsend's butcher Smith & Clay with its array of local produce open across the road. Then it came to me. I had forgotten that our dogs were without their evening biscuits. Help. Then I notice another stall with all sorts of THINGS from skeins of wool to odd piles on its counter. Can you believe it. Dog Biscuits. Thank you Brackley market.

Talk about safe shopping. People stood a couple of metres apart, enjoying the warm weather . One person to a stall at a time. The stallholders were selective as to what they produced and sold and so helpful. Having bought so much the fruiterer came up and asked to help me take things to my car. And my fellow shoppers were a delight as they found what they wanted, exchanging the smiles of new converts.

Do take advantage of backing this historic market which is there for you each Friday and bring joy back to your shopping, 

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