I don’t mind going to shopping malls or even shopping strips, but as I’ve been getting older, I’m beginning to draw the line at market-shopping.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the occasional wander around, but when I contemplate ways to spend a lazy Sunday, I’m less likely to be the little piggy who went to market and more likely to be the little piggy who stayed at home nursing a hangover on the couch, happily reading the newspapers or watching some ‘chick flick’ on the TV.
Because, let’s face it, when your mum played ‘This Little Piggy’ with you when you were a kid, she never mentioned that the little piggy would end up spending most of the day bartering with hippies and coming home with a whole load of useless crap like driftwood picture frames, and garden gnomes made out of old coat hangers.
But I digress.
In my experience, your average market shopping trip can be broken into three categories: arts and crafts, clothes and food.
First cab off the rank, arts and crafts markets tend to consist of handicraft stalls, woodcraft stalls, incense and perfume stalls, and of course the stuff-we-found-lying-around-our-house-but-couldn’t-be-buggered-taking-to-Cash-Converters stall.
For some reason, these markets always seem to be populated predominantly by people who make their own candles – probably because with the money they earn at these markets, they can’t afford electricity. There are stalls filled with coloured candles, scented candles, and candles that remove all the wax from your ears – to which they add a wick and make more candles.
The candle cavalcade is only rivalled by the hippies flogging home-made soap. Sometimes, these guys look like they should spend a little more time using the stuff themselves, and a little less trying to sell it to unsuspecting strangers. The soaps always seem to contain ‘essential’ oils, which makes me wonder if they are indeed so essential, how come I’ve survived for thirty-one years without them?
But at least these products have some practical application as opposed to the myriad of stalls run by people whose ultimate dream is to be Martha Stewart. I’m referring to the collection of ashtrays, wind chimes, doorstops and assorted knick-knacks created by people who clearly got their inspiration from watching egg-cartons, toilet rolls and pipe cleaners assembled to make things on the TV show ‘Play School’, thinking, ‘wow, this could be my next career’.
Next we have the clothes sellers. While you can often find some awesome stuff, most of the time it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack, or a funny joke in an Australian comedy.
For starters, there are the handmade clothes – mostly hand-dyed hippie pants and tie-dyed T-shirts that you could only really wear if you were running a stall at the markets.
Then there are the second-hand, or third-hand, or fourth-fifth-sixth-hand clothes that often smell like the last owner stopped wearing them when they were removed at the morgue. These are usually sold in stalls with no mirrors at all, which seems deliberate to me: they don’t want you to realize how bad you look until you get home; either that or their main clientele are vampires.
And while we’re on the topic, when did the words ‘vintage’ and ‘retro’ replace the word ‘old’? These days there’s no such thing as an old or second-hand piece of clothing at the market, it’s all vintage or retro. If you want to know the difference; when something is ‘old’, it means you can buy it for around half its original price, but if something is ‘vintage’ or ‘retro’, you can usually get charged double. It’s pretty clever marketing if you think about it. I mean, no-one would ever buy old wine, but call it vintage and it’s suddenly a collector’s item.
Maybe others could take this advice on board. Old King Cole could reinvent himself as Vintage King Cole; the Bible could relaunch the Vintage Testament and I’m sure your parents wouldn’t be as annoyed if you shipped them off to a Vintage Folks’ Home.
Last, but certainly not least, is my favourite kind of market – the food markets. I don’t know what it is but, in my opinion, food always tastes better when it’s prepared by a sweaty guy in the back of a caravan using implements most illegal speed labs would consider most unhygienic. Plus, I have to confess there’s nothing like scouring the fresh food markets for perfect organic produce that you can then take home and watch rot in your fruit bowl for the next two weeks.
However, the food market is no place for anyone with a nut allergy, as there are guaranteed to be more hot nuts than there are in the loincloths at a Sumo tournament.
But the great thing about a food market is, it’s one of the few places left in the world where you can buy juice off a grumpy person – as opposed to the franchises where the kids are so happy, you suspect the secret ingredient they boost their juice with is …. Well let’s just say, an illegal ingredient.
There are, of course, some things that you are guaranteed to see at all markets, regardless of category. At every market there will be someone painting kid’s faces, which means that, by the end of the day, the market will resemble a midget version of “Braveheart”.
At every market there will be some hippie in the corner selling “How To Grow Your Own Pot” books, homemade smoking paraphernalia, and assorted knitting patterns for bong cosies. Every market will have at least one kid playing a musical instrument extremely badly and hitting notes that only local dogs can hear. This, in turn, means that every market will also have a group of confused punters torn between tossing some coins in the busker’s hat and not wanting to reward mediocrity.
And finally, at every market you’ll ever attend, you’ll find an incense stall, which is perfect for covering the smell of most of the people selling stuff – and a great place to stand after visiting the curry hut, Hey Hey, it’s Satay Day. Don’t you just love that name?
In fact, I think it’s time we paid tribute to those small business owners who aren’t satisfied to simply start a business, butt also aim to bring some much needed joy to the world by giving it a pun name.
Looking through the phone book, I picked up – If your car breaks down, who are you going to call? Boring old road assistance? Or will you pick up your phone and call “Lord of the Dings”? If you need a bed, are you going to pop down to Capt’n Snooze, where even the name puts you to sleep, or to a place called “Back to the Futon” – and then pick up the bedding at “Holy Sheet”?
If you want to help the environment by installing a water tank, why not save the planet with a smile by popping into “Tanks A Lot” or “Tanks for the Memories”?
I hope you never have the misfortune of getting stuck in a lift, but if you do, who are you going to call? The police? The fire-brigade? I don’t think so. Not when you can call “Schindler’s Lifts”
One of the best pun shop names I have ever seen was a souvenir place in Edinburgh called “Thistle Do Nicely”. Also in South Australia hey have/had a shoe shop called “R. Soles”.
Asian restaurants are also famous for giving it a good crack. From “Thairiffic” to “Thai Me Kangaroo Down Sport”, plus “Wok and Roll”. But maybe Asian food isn’t your thing, and you’re in the mood for some old fashioned fish and chips. You’ll have to pop into “The Codfather” or “A Salt and Battery”. Even better “Lord of the Fries” in most centres.
What if you’re pining for a simple pizza? Pizza Hut? Dominoes? No way. Not when you can call “Pizza the Action”.
If you want to buy some plants – “Aloe Aloe”. Or if you want a bunch of flowers, simply pop I into “Florest Gump”or “Petallica”.
I love these people.