I had been wondering what would happen to the market when the bad weather hits but recent experience proves that the market stops for nothing.
Last week, the rain was teeming down all night and it was blowing a gale, but the vans started rolling in to the square as usual, and were setting up in the dark, after 6am. Farmers and market gardeners in this part of the world are clearly made of stern stuff, even if the punters aren’t.
In Quillan both the Wednesday and Saturday markets continue throughout winter, albeit in diminished form.
The Wednesday market is still centred on the Place de la République, with its emphasis on food, predominantly fresh fruit and vegetables. One or two cheese vans, and a charcuterie van round out the mix.
This is the one day of the week when the square can be guaranteed foot traffic and the cafés steady custom. If the weather is good, the café tables and umbrellas come out, and the locals catch up on the week’s business over a coffee or two.
If the weather is bad, the market struggles. On the first really wet, cold day of autumn, a few hardy market traders turn up. No one is enthusiastic or in any hurry about setting up. They huddle under umbrellas and trade depressing predictions. Another arrives and is in two minds whether to stay. Ah well, since I’ve made the drive, I may as well get started, he concedes as he kisses his neighbouring stallholder on both cheeks.
By 10.30am customers are only straggling in and the wind strength is increasing. It’s the infamous autumn Tramontane.
As a few of us huddle over coffee and pastries under the relative protection of the Fleuve verandah, a great gust of wind topples a whole stall sideways.Like something out of a slow motion film, the neighbouring stall falls in a domino effect that was entirely predictable, but just as unstoppable. Clementines roll over the cobbles in orange rivers, to the sound of smashing honey jars.
There’s much muttering as everyone pitches into help. Ca va aller, says the stallholder gruffly as I prop up a pole and offer to collect fruit. But I get the feeling he’s quietly thinking the opposite. Mike from the Fleuve appears with broom and shovel, and it is back to business without fuss, albeit much subdued.
After the market, laden with fresh produce, there’s nothing more pleasant (on a fine day) than ambling home and rustling up a simple salad lunch or trying out a new winter recipe for dinner.
Market day remains my favourite day of the week, and I can see the appeal of the market town over the smaller villages for the colour and company in the cold dark months.
I think we are slowly narrowing our criteria for a house purchase…