December 2nd, 2014

A day in a life of this market stall holder

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Seven am. I always set this time.
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That’s the time when the alarm tone from my iPhone goes off, but five hours of sleep isn’t enough (I typically finish work around 2am on Friday nights) so almost every time I struggle to wake. Every morning I hit the snooze button & sleep for ten more minutes. That ten minutes feels so prescious somehow… 
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It is around ten past eight that we leave our kids to the grandparents & make our trip to the market. As Mr D drives, he sticks his hands out of the window & manually pulls out the radio antenna on the car roof. We start to listen to the Frank Skinner Show on Absolute Radio. The witty light hearted talk makes us smile & it’s a great way to start the day. After a while though, we think that the adverts inbetween are so frequent & obtrusive (why are radio adverts so shouty & the jingles so horrible?) that we switchover to BBC Radio Four in the meantime. I love it that there are no advert breaks on this one. Its pure solidness on this station, tackling a more serious subject matter. Sometimes we forget to go back to Absolute if the subject interests us.
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When we do arrive at the market, around ten to nine-ish, Mr D does several rounds of carrying the large cake trays from the car to my stall while I spread the table cloth amongst other tasks. I am so happy that he’s doing this – the cakes are actually rather heavy – & coming to think of it, it would be wouldn’t it when on a typical week I use about 5kg of butter, 5kg of sugar, 4 kg of chocolate, 1.5kg of almond powder, 1.5kg of cream cheese, 1kg of cream, & amongst other bits n’ bobs.
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By the time we arrive at my pitch, my neighbouring stall holders are already there – the French cheese boys, Miss.K from the next stall, Mr.R the meat seller, Mr.H the honey-man, Mr.M the artist who sells his prints. We all greet with a smiley hello & whilst setting up, we touch-base with how our week’s been folding out. 
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In the morning, Mr.M the artist bought two large tarts. Mrs.S the ladybird book seller bought another, & Ms.I, the gloves n’ bags seller followed suit with yet another large tart. Selling to fellow holders (especially in such a succession!) is a rather affirming moment, & it feels great. We all burst out in a guffawing laughter about how, having a stall near me is a curse or a blessing! Over the years, they come to me for their cake needs, & I am ever so grateful. 
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Despite the great start to the day, my spirits started to dampen as it began to rain. The damp air melts away the icing sugar that is sifted over the fruit tart & it doesn’t look so good anymore. And, when it rains so early on in the day, I worry that people would change their mind about coming to an outdoor market like ours. 
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Notably, in the mornings, I see the local customers out shopping before the maddening crowd descends on to the market later on in the day. They also know that they get first dibs with cake choices too, especially the large whole cakes which I only bake a limited number of. 
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One by one, the regulars start to drop in. 
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Always first is the shop owner who’d been purchasing a slice of ‘flourless chocolate cake’ from me the past nine years. Yes-yes, I didn’t type it wrong, nine years, & that is every single week without fail! As much as it is a ritual for her, it is a ritual for me to sell to her. 
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The ‘flourless chocolate cake’ has its own fans. There are two more notable customers who buy whole 8 inch ones at the pace of once-every-two-weeks. I’m guessing these men have also been purchasing like this for the past four years or so? – One of them, a man who, I guess is slightly younger than my dad, drops by. This week is the ‘no purchase’ week. Regardless, he stops by & makes a point of saying hello to me which I appreciate. The subject we talk about is always sports & fitness. The man is a rigourous excerciser and goes to those super tough spinning classes (fitness-cycling to pumpy music) too. When we talk, he gives me great advice on my fitness quests & how to stay motivated. 

The carrot cake couple is next. It’s always a slice or two of carrot cake for them. Although once, they took a whole one all-the-way to Italy! In their hand-luggage, being careful to keep it upright. :)
I joked “hello stranger!” to them with a cheeky wink as I hadn’t seen them for a while. It happens they were on holiday! Lucky them…! 
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After that, it’s Mr.Xmas, who is so tall that he has to crouch slightly to peer through the bunting that is hung on my stall. Why’s he called Mr.Xmas? It’s because he is the only customer who gives me a Christmas card! Two years in a row now! What a sweet guy. – Almost every week he drops by. I used to ask “The usual?” which are two fruit tarts, but now, after 3 years (?) of the same selection, he also buys a slice of carrot cake.
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As I was cutting a whole chocolate cake in to slices for the biker who wanted to fit it in to two tupperwares, a lovely blog reader Mrs.R dropped by too. Her opening line to me was “I came from Manchester to this market to see you!”. Woooooowza! Thank you!!! Afterwards, my stall neighbours all clammer to find out. They simply can’t believe how a small-scale cake-seller like myself can receive visitors coming from all over the place, & to be honest, me too, it’s such a wonderful wonder.  
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Around four pm, it starts to get dark & the kebab shop opposite turn their shop sign lighting on. It’s using strip lights so it gives off a bluish white hue. The cheese stall behind me has their own lighting using tungsten light bulbs, & it’s a warm yellow hue. Both sources of lighting shed enough brightness on to my stall, & standing between the two is sufficient to see me through until the 5pm closing time, by which time it is completely dark.
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Pretty much bang on four thirty pm, I consider an end-of-day sale depending on how much cakes/ truffles I have left. I would obviously like to say to you that I sell out every single week but the truth is, some weeks are great & some weeks not. That is the name of the game. It could be that the weather was not great, or that it is a week before people’s payday.
– Having a sale brings a different type of crowd. And a crowd it is at times! It’s a speed-talk of “Yes, who’s next please?! Yes, you’ll be next.” as people clammer in front of the stall. Psychology seems to go that if there’s a crowd, it is more desirable. The people attract more people.
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By five pm, I have packed up & it is leaving time. If I have any cake bits left, I give them to nearby stall holders. Mr.R the meat seller gives me steaks in return & Ms.V from the fish stall gives me beautiful salmon. The cheese boys give me good discounts in their shop too, so in a way, it’s not all wasted. 
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Mr.D comes to collect me, sometimes with the children. They all help with carrying the bags to the car. And in the car, we talk catch-up with how our day had been. How the kids did at the Japanese Saturday School, how Mr.D did with his swimming & how I did at the market. I tell them about special blog visitors, & about some friends if they have visited. 
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If there is no Arsenal match on, we manage to get home before six. But no rest for the wicked as one says (but what have I done?), & I get back in to the kitchen to cook dinner. Saturday night’s menu is often Mr.R or Ms.V’s exchanged goods, with Japanese rice & a few veggies on the side. 
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For the rest of the evening, I just plonk myself on the sofa like a sack of potato. Full from dinner, in the comfort of home, with no more immediate duties to do, I finally relax. I desperately mean to stay awake & make use of the time, like watch a film for once, or read an article I’ve been meaning to read, but it’s not ever like that. Given a chance, my body says sleep! & so I end up napping on the sofa… After a while, I make my way upstairs to bed. On my way though, I pass the kitchen & I remembered that I bought a jar of English honey from Mr.H. It’s the same brand as the spoonful he kindly gave me when I was suffering from a cold the other week. – With a sleepy mind, I think to myself ‘tomorrow morning I will have honey on toast’.
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18 Comments »

  1. This is beautiful! The morning radio session, your stall friends, the lights… Thank you for your time writing this. If I ever come to London you will be the only person I will have on my mind and will surely pay you a visit.

    Comment by Minik - December 2, 2014 7:50 pm

  2. I enjoyed reading about your busy market day and if I ever visit London from N.Wales, I too will make a point of coming to see you.

    Comment by Jeannette - December 2, 2014 9:01 pm

  3. Hello Minik! Absolutely lovely of you to leave a comment here – *thank you*!
    I’m glad you enjoyed reading it – I wasn’t too sure as I hadn’t attached any pictures with it!
    – – Please do pop down one day! :) x

    Comment by tamami - December 2, 2014 10:54 pm

  4. And Jeannette! So you’re from North Wales! ;) If you ever come to LDN, please do pop by! I think you’ll love the market. And I would absolutely love to see you! Your comments have been a source of strength to me, did you know!? ^^

    Comment by tamami - December 2, 2014 10:54 pm

  5. phoo…if I worked that hard on Fri/Sat napping on the sofa is how I would end up as well :)

    Comment by jonquil - December 4, 2014 12:32 am

  6. Jonquil, ha ha!! :) :) Yes indeed!! xx

    Comment by Tamami - December 4, 2014 10:59 am

  7. Such a pleasure to read your post and get behind the scene of your wonderful stall, the market’s loveliest one!
    Every time we came, we had magical moments tasting your fabulous desserts and were always greeted by the warmest smile…
    Wish you the best with the Christmas sales!!!

    Comment by Caroline - December 5, 2014 3:29 pm

  8. Hello caroline!!!!! Lovely to hear from you again! :) :) :) Well, every time you guys visit, it’s a smiley moment for me! :) :) :) Have a great winter hols with your lovely family!!!! x

    Comment by Tamami - December 5, 2014 3:53 pm

  9. Lovely post! And sadly, it’s made me realise I won’t make it to your stall before Christmas this year. :( (I’m going back to the States early.) So best wishes for the holidays (and the pre-Christmas market days!) and I’ll see you in the new year! xx

    Comment by Rachel - December 7, 2014 9:46 pm

  10. Yay!! Rachel~!!!!! Lovely to hear from you!! xx So you’re off to the States again? Have a great/ awesome/ merry Xmas holiday there!!! And I very much hope to see you next year!!!! Bon Voyage!!! xx

    Comment by tamami - December 7, 2014 11:32 pm

  11. i really loved reading this post! :)

    i visited your stall back in the late summer of 2009 when i was couchsurfing through europe after graduating from college..reading your post brought back so many exciting and yummy memories of that flourless chocolate cake. i remember finding an empty spot on the sidewalk curb and savored every bite!

    Comment by connie - December 8, 2014 4:17 am

  12. O.M.G! Hi Connie!!!!! It’s so awesome that you’ve left a message here! I remember you so well – so was it really 2009? Jeez, time flies by so fast…!!! How are you nowadays? How was that trip at the time? I remember you telling me about the couch surfing at the time & I remember the complete surprise I had, as I never heard of the concept before! :) xx

    Comment by Tamami - December 8, 2014 9:15 am

  13. Hi, remember me? It’s been a while. Such a wonderful description of your day. I’ve been keeping in touch with you life reading your blog. Life is so busy, we must meet and catch up. Are you doing the market on 21st Dec? I’ll call you to order a cake, I can pick it from you on the 20th. I have succumbed to the temptation of reading about your flourless chocolate cake. When reading your blog, I am always tempted but I don’t think I have the patience to put the same amount of care that you do into baking a cake.x

    Comment by Judy - December 11, 2014 9:00 pm

  14. HI JUDY!!!!!!!!!!!
    o.m.gosh, yes, it’s been a while alright!? How are you? Yes, would love to meet & catch up!!! I’m choka-block this month & I’m sure you are too, what with Xmas so close now, so how about in January, soon as the kids go back to school?? :)
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    I’ll be at the market on the Saturday 20th. So, if you like, collect on 18th or 19th! Or we can always drop it off in the evening of 20th after market by car! xx

    Comment by Tamami - December 12, 2014 12:31 am

  15. Yes, definitely meet up in Jan. Thanks Tamami, I can come and collect it on 19th in the morning , while kids are at school.x

    Comment by Judy - December 12, 2014 9:49 pm

  16. Hey Judy! Will call! xx

    Comment by tamami - December 13, 2014 7:03 pm

  17. Hi,
    My name is Julia, I live in Switzerland but regularly go to London once a year for a long weekend or two. I discovered your cake stand in Broadway market in 2012, where a friend and I had the most incredible Japanese green tea sponge / chiffon cake I’ve EVER tasted. I have been craving it ever since. Now every, time we go back to London we always make it a point to come by Broadway market to see your stand and to buy your cakes. The past couple of times we were in London, unfortunately I think you had not made sponge cake or it had already sold out by the time we got there. Luckily we got to try your incredible carrot cake and caramelized banana cake which I have also been craving! All of this to say, that we are coming to London again this weekend (23-25 October 2015), and I was wondering if by any chance I could order a chiffon cake for Saturday?? Could we also order a caramelized banana cake?
    In any case, I look forward to stopping by your stall again on Saturday!
    Julia
    A big fan from overseas!

    Comment by Julia - October 20, 2015 4:13 pm

  18. Hello Julia! This is an absolutely awesome message! Thank you very much!!!!! It fills me with pride that you have made my stall one of your destinations in London.
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    The Japanese green tea sponge is actually an “on & off” item, as I often can’t get hold of green-tea powder. (I rely on friends & family to bring it from Japan, as it’s too expensive if I buy in UK). And unfortunately…, I won’t be making it this week either as I have no stock… Oh so sorry… …
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    On the other hand, the banana cake, yes! I can make! The price for a whole one is £14. Would you like to go ahead with the order? Please let me know, and then I will make sure I keep one aside for you this weekend.
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    PS: I also still make the carrot cake you mention!
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    I’ll very much look forward to seeing you this Saturday! Best, t x

    Comment by Tamami - October 20, 2015 4:46 pm

 

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