I’ve been clipping a few old roses in the evening sunshine. They’re not real roses of course…bit early for that. I can’t tell you how long I’ve been searching for some vintage silk roses. No luck whatsoever: they’re either too ‘new’ or too expensive for my meagre budget. Within minutes of disembarking the park & ride bus that, for a voluntary contribution, transports a person from the hospital car park into the fantasia that is Frome Independent Market, I’d spotted them resting in an old pudding dish. They weren’t ‘falsely retro’, they were the real thing – an old faded silk collection which, I like to think, had been saved from the demise of some stately home. A young woman was trying to sell Mrs Adler an upcycled pine dining table. Mrs Adler was, as ever, dithering.
‘How much are those flowers’, I intervene? Young woman looks around vaguely and spots said blooms. ‘Well, they’re not really for sale. They’re for decoration.’
‘If they were for sale’, I press, ‘how much do you think they’d be?’
‘Ten pounds’, she says vaguely. The price ends with a question mark which leaves the way open to some bartering. And naturally, in view of the question mark, the price had to be lowered. I love them. And I loved my first foray into this exquisite market and lovely day with my friend.
We traversed all things vintage, all things edible, all things musical, all things floral, all things arty and crafty and found LilyGrace and her amazing jewellery. And we both fell in love with the same pair of earrings. Trouble was that the clasps were made from the wrong sort of metal for Mrs Adler’s delicate ears. Further, the clasps were too small for mine. When did I get so fat that even my ear-lobes are too big? These are desperate days.
Clutching my cherished roses, I follow Mrs Adler into a pleasantly scented emporium selling who knows what. She metamorphoses instantly into a woman intent on discovering everything there is to discover about pleasantly scented goods. I listen to a woman dressed as Morticia Addams who begins to recount a sorry tale regarding how she’d experienced the ‘other’ world’s longest labour. It began, apparently, on 4 December and finished on 10 January. The years are indeterminate. I resist the temptation to suggest she might be confusing birthing with wind. After I’ve gone through every horrid contraction with her, she recalls all the many and various musical tapes which had accompanied her feat to enter the Guinness Book of Records. After the first two, I leave, nauseous. On the way out, Morticia’s lacy robe becomes entangled in my vintage silk roses. I curse her, silently, as I shed a few leaves.
LilyGrace is more than happy to alter the backs of the earrings that I purchase. This takes some time but there’s still no sign of Mrs Adler. I return to the scented emporium and drag out Mrs Adler with her sack of goodies. I recount various tales of what had passed since she first went into this shop of despair. She has the cheek to inform me of her view that I inhabit a parallel universe. On the bus back, I sit behind a woman I used to work with. ‘Is that you’, I asked as we stumbled off? ‘Of all the buses, in all the world’, she replies as I shake hands with Humphrey Bogart.
The Melbury Abbas road being still shut after a year, Mrs Adler and I follow all the other crooks and take a flight from the airfield where, at the beginning of this long and satisfying day, we’d enjoyed an al fresco breakfast. And I loved my first foray into this exquisite market and lovely day with my friend.