I am in love with Saturday mornings. They carry a raft of meaning built up from sixty years of anticipating 4000 Saturdays; days in which the weekend beckoned like a an "olly-olly-oxen free" bellow after a week of school drudgery or a difficult and exhausting week at work.
Before I met Les I cherished my Saturdays which always began the same way: up at 6:30 AM (this was sleeping in for me), every other Saturday I allowed myself to linger over two cups of freshly ground and perced coffee with fresh ground cinnamon in it, and the all American breakfast of fried potatoes (sliced round or half cut like steak fries, or shredded for hash browns), two slices of proper crispy brown bacon, two eggs over easy, and a slice of freshly toasted homemade bread with butter and jam. Two Saturdays a month I left right after a brisk morning walk or thirty minutes working in my garden, driving nine miles to the Moscow, Idaho Farmer's Market. I liked to get there just before the trading bell rang at 8:00 AM. I would pick up a double Irish Cream latte at Bella's drive thru, find a place to park near the market and wait on a bench until the bell rang. Then I would stroll leisurely but with purpose to my favorite stalls: I hit the bakery stall first for freshly baked cheese pockets (a delight made from leftover croissant dough tucked into a muffin tin, filled with a cream cheese, egg, sugar and vanilla mixture, and topped with various fresh fruits and berries before baking). Then I stood in line for my weekly organic greens: fabulous, fat red radishes which I cleaned and kept in a bowl of ice cold water in my fridge for a delicious crispy late night snack), beautiful fresh tomatoes of different varieties, bunches of green (spring) onions, fresh bulbs of garlic, gorgeous thin skinned English cucumbers, plump red, yellow and green bell peppers, and whatever else took my fancy: Oregon Sweet sugar snap peas nestled in their pods, earthy Yukon gold potatoes with their delicious yellow flesh and thin skins released from the cool soil only hours previously; Haricot Verts lying snugly in rows with their deep dark green tips where all the vitamins are stored, and finally in line for fresh chiles!
|Les standing under the Moscow Farmer's Market sign, 2011.|
Once I married Les and moved aboard NB Valerie, Saturdays were no longer distinguished from other days in the week for the most part. Every day was a lovely, leisurely day knocking about with my Best Beloved. One thing became a constant: my need for a Saturday edition of the Daily Mail paper--not for the news of which most was garbage, but for the Telly magazine. Of all the TV magazines out there, the Daily Mail's is the largest print, most comprehensive and often included good character articles about upcoming programs/actors and a recipe section from which I garnered many of my favorite British recipes. Les delighted in getting me my Saturday paper while I tidied up the boat. When he returned we sat and read the telly magazine together, marking every program that caught our interest. Once our weekly TV viewing was sorted we were on to other things like cruising.
When Les died, Saturdays changed forever.
It has taken me more than a year to figure out a new routine but I have it now. I visit the nearest village town or city's Saturday market for here in Britain nearly every one of them has something going, especially in spring, summer and autumn.
Yesterday (this actually occurred four weeks ago) I was up early, enjoying the amazing warmth of the sun which is usually absent from British skies. Up at 6:30 AM, I washed up, dressed, opened the windows for air circulation, made a grocery list, had my coffee and a bowl of steel cut oats with whole milk, butter, dried blueberries and maple syrup, and I sorted myself out for a trip on the bus to the Nantwich Saturday Market. I arrived shortly before 9 AM as vendors were just finishing setting up their stalls. I took an outdoor table at the Nantwich Bookshop which also serves food and beverages. They are ideally located at one corner of the old village green and it is the perfect vantage point for people watching. As I sipped my latte I spotted a crow perched on the chimney of one of the buildings across the green. It too had a perfect vantage point from which to look down on the bumbling human activity with avid and avian curiosity.
The air was fresh and warm, a spring morning at its best. The sounds of voices hummed and echoed gently in the air as vendors chatted each other up and locals began to gather to view the various stalls, stop for a cup of tea or coffee, nip into W. H. Smith's across the way for a paper, and gather in small knots of threes and fives to bid their friends and neighbors hello and catch up on the local gossip.
A variety of folks strolled past me: elderly of all ages and dispositions, some on their own with canes in one hand and trolleys in the other, and long married couples whose gnarled hands clasped one another lovingly as they walked hand-in-hand to the market. There was the self conscious thirty-something woman on a mission--out to pick up a pint of milk all tricked out in make up, hair carefully coiffed, every bit of her appearance carefully planned; and the forty or fifty-something couples, also in "good" casual clothes making a not so subtle statement about their finances, she carrying her Stella McCartney handbag clutched close to her side. These couples do not hold hands and in fact look more like business associates than a loving husband and wife.
There were young mothers with children of varying ages stumbling and jumping, running and laughing, chasing the bubbles created by a bubble machine across from the bookshop at the entrance to a toy store. I spotted no less than twelve young men on their own, pushing baby strollers, out to grab a latte and perhaps a paper, or maybe they were meeting their partner at a nearby stall in the market. This always amazes me because American men do not do baby duty on their own unless under duress. In fact I don't recall ever seeing an American male on his own with a baby in a stroller or any other form of conveyance. As I looked closer I also spotted young dad's with toddlers in tow or in their arms, heading for the market stalls and a morning of unbridled bliss in the curiosity and delight their youngsters display as they engage with the vendors and clap tiny, chubby hands in surprise at all the goodies on display. One sound that is missing, thankfully is that of children crying. Perhaps it is too early in the day for that, but the general good cheer of one and all is blissful and made my latte taste all that much better.
There are dozen upon dozens of dogs passing by--all on leads and being gently controlled by their owners and only one makes a damned nuisance of itself barking shrilly at passing children. I saw Bassett Hounds, Beagles, a Suluki, two Greyhounds, a conceited looking Airdale terrier prancing along beside his owner, and a half score of small dogs of no particular breed. The air was filled with happy murmurs, punctuated by an occasional laugh which echoed against the cobblestoned courtyard.
Amongst all this human activity there is one person out of sync with the crowd; a man with ear buds in his ear talking loudly on his phone. While the old cobbled lanes which converge around the village green are pedestrianized, cars are allowed to come up if they are driven by handicapped individuals of if they are vendors loading and unloading their wares. A handicapped driver was inching along slowly behind Mr. Ear-buds-I-am-talking-here, but he of course could not hear the engine and was completely oblivious to everyone and everything around him. He was also the only person I saw in an hour of people watching, who used technology. It was such a joy to watch people interact with each other instead of their bloody phones and pads.
|Just outside the Nantwich Market Hall.|
|Inside the Nantwich Farmer's Market building|
|View of some of the interior market stalls.|
|Delicious fresh fruit and veg for sale inside the market hall.|
|Out door market stalls set up in the old Nantwich village square.|
|The Little Italian Van.|
|A plethora of outdoor stalls on a sunny Saturday.|
|Alderley Edge Apiaries. I get my raw honey from them.|
|Delicioius freshly baked breads, scones, and rolls.|
|Cheshire Pies! The traditional British fast food, filled with pork.|
|Nantwich Flower Market.|
|These metal clock tiles are embedded in the brick sidewalks throughout town .|
|This building is a fine example of the 16th century buildings that make up most of Nantwich's old village square area with a plaque of thanks to the Queen for her assistance in rebuilding the town.|
|The Nantwich Bookshop. I sat outside just to the right of the sign...|
|...which offers tongue in cheek instruction on keeping one's dog and/or husband under control.|
|A Google map capture of the cobble walkway that leads from the village green and market square to the church of St. Mary on the right, across from the Indoor Market building.|
|Standing on the same walkway shown in the picture above, looking back in the opposite direction. The church is on the left just out of site. The walkway veers left through the village green and the town square.|
|St. Mary's church from the village green.|
|Nantwich bus station. The building in the background with the clock on the wall is the community library.|
The Cheshire East Council budget cuts to the local bus routes which began April 1st, were certainly telling. On a busy Saturday morning in a vibrant market town of 17,000 people, with a canal passing right through the western edge of town, the local Arriva 84 no longer arrived every twenty or thirty minutes on its route from Crewe through Nantwich and on to Chester. Now it comes only once an hour and it is no longer a double decker either. So the line of passengers snaked out of the shelter and down the sidewalk past two other bus shelters also filled with people. When the bus finally loaded up and set off towards Chester it was rammed and people were standing in the aisles and still it picked up at three additional stops through town before passing a full bus stop of waiting folks in Acton just outside Nantwich. I was never so glad to disembark, cross the A51, walk down to the canal bridge over the LLangollen and turn off the road onto the shaded path through a tiny margin of woods which leads on to the towpath. Left under the bridge and there is NB Valerie waiting in the sun for my return.