Saturday, June 17, 2006
The Saturday market at Morlaix attracts people from all over our region. Up in the old market square are the food and produce stalls - fish, vegetables, organic bread, honey, cider and local cheeses - then a series of flower-sellers and buskers occupy the narrow cobbled medieval streets leading down to the imposing Hotel de Ville. Between there and the huge pink granite viaduct taking TGVs through to Brest the stalls are many and varied - clothes, shoes, bags, crafts and books. This is my patch, just past the bandstand, where I spend every Saturday morning, with one of the best views in the city, selling and signing books. It's an important commitment for me: some weeks it is the only time when I engage fully with others. It took a long time to win my place, to become part of the weekly pageant, but now I am an accepted member of this specialised community, embraced in the warm and humorous good cheer of my colleagues. It amuses them to watch me acting like a tourist office, giving out endless information to non-French speaking Brits who never think of buying a book, but I have lots of good customers too, including many French, and I enjoy all the stories, all the eccentricities, all the giddying range of encounters. An old Breton stops to tell me that Brittany was once a free state and ends by shouting 'Les Francaises sont voleurs' (the French are thieves) at the top of his voice for several minutes. A Frenchman stops to offer me a kitten and stays for a long time to talk about books and history. An elderly couple go by every week and make sure of catching my eye, to be acknowledged by a smile and a greeting. They are like old friends after all this time and I feel their absence on the rare occasions when they don't appear. Memorable today is the delight with which customers fall on The Five of Cups: to think that while I've been cursing and swearing over the refusal of that book to bring itself to a conclusion, some people have actually been looking forward to the moment of its birth. I hope they won't be disappointed.