Walking along Murray Road to Preston Markets yesterday, I was pulled up by a furious donging bell. It was, as it turned out, a Chinese lady cycling lackadaisically on her bike towards the markets. I moved out of her way and she sailed lackadaisically into the markets on her bike, probably donging the bell all the way. (I'm not sure if she planned to stay on her bike all through the markets. I wouldn't put it past her.)
The Preston Markets are an impossible place, a contradiction in terms. I remain unconvinced that anyone buys anything there, since the main capital they stock are nick-nacks that make you go 'oh' in surprise, but don't convince you that you'd want to buy them. There are cooking pots without handles, and handles without cooking pots, and egg flips that are made out of plastic (would you like your egg sunny-side up, or polystyrenised?)
Also, they only open on Saturday. But walking past the various cafes in the markets, I noticed fat Italian gentlemen sitting around drinking coffee and opening out their newspapers. Do they get their papers home delivered the rest of the week and then saunter into the markets? My theory is that the chubby Monsignors come with the place; that, along with the rest of the cafe, they are locked up early on Saturday afternoon and, folding up their copies of Il Monde, lie down to hibernate. Last week, I noticed an ancient Chinese grandmother waddle out of the supermarkets pushing her wheel-bag along the ground. A little kid was standing up in this wheel bag, looking up in faint surprise at the world. Did the Chinese grandmother get him from the markets? Or was it the other way around? (I can remember thinking at the time, "I hope he's remembered to validate his ticket.")
In various forays into the market, I have also run into gangly Vietnamese lads hawking shonky coffee pots, bepimpled teenage Lebanese selling greasy German sausages, portly Greek grocers with almost all their teeth missing grocing away, and a group of Sudanese either carrying a bag of bones, thinly covered with raw meat, into the train station out of the markets, or out of the train station and out of the markets. I might have made a few of those up, it's impossible to tell as far as Preston Markets are concerned.
Faced with such a varied concourse of humanity, what can I do but retreat hysterically into my own individuality? Everytime I enter into the markets, a wave of panic sets over me, and I am beset with unitary personality disorder; I have a 'reverse epiphany' and encounter 'the opposite of enlightenment.' In my crazed non-schizoid state, I suffer from hallucinations about the Preston Markets three hundred years ago, a place known amongst the Indigenous people as one that was haunted by spirits, fat white creatures that shook weird rectangular objects and drank steaming cups of hot black liquid...
As a great man didn't say: if the Preston Markets did not exist, it would be necessary for them to exist. Or, to put it another way: you can't take the Preston out of the Preston Markets, and you can't take the Markets out of the Preston Markets either. Or, to put it another way: neither the chicken nor the egg came first. You can buy both from the Preston Markets. Probably on a stick, and with a side serving of grease.
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