“So where is this market then?”
Pa’s enthusiasm for souvenir shopping has never been a patch on that of the girls – even less so under the blazing Spanish sun. I wasn’t actually there, you understand – this was all reported to me later, but I’m imagining an attractive little town: flamenco dancers on the corner, castanet players frolicking on the lawn, El Nombre and his mates having a kick-about; that sort of thing. The bus had left them in what might have passed for a market square had it not been worryingly uncluttered by markets.
In a shady corner café, a couple of elderly Spanish ladies were quietly having the elderly Spanish equivalent of tea and scones. Pa started to head towards it as the girls fretfully argued the case for continuing to look for the market. It was in the guidebook. It was definitely on today. It was a major attraction of the vicinity. Pesetas were burning holes in their pockets.
“Why don’t I ask someone?” suggested Ma, brightly.
“Because,” everyone chorused, “you don’t speak Spanish!”
“Oh, I’m sure I can make myself understood.” And with the innate confidence of a Brit abroad, she honed in on the supping ladies, took a deep breath and shouted at town-crier volume “MARKET?”
Every telling of this story has increased the shock and awe on the faces of the señoras, the rattling of their cups, the fear in their eyes. Mind you, it has to be admitted that they did point to the direction of the market.
Had I been there, Pa would have had a companion in the café. I’m rubbish at markets. It’s not the actual goods, you understand: I’m as partial to a straw donkey as the next woman. It’s the bartering. I must have been off sick the day they taught bartering at school. Or perhaps it was part of the Cooking O-Level which passed me by. My school organised its curriculum on the basis that if you had enough Latin, someone would do your cooking for you. The prospect of having to barter reduces me to jelly even quicker than the Nonsense. It’s so jolly awkward and unpleasant. I’d rather just pay the price asked and go and have a cuppa.
Unfortunately ActorLaddie went to the same school.
Last summer, for instance, we found ourselves in Florence and urgently in need of a pair of those wheeled things onto which you can strap suitcases. I don’t know the proper name for them. We call them Bunters.
Our suitcases did originally come with wheels but they were worn out in the course of a manic haul across Gare de Lyon when it turned out that the station had two Platform Ms and the sleeper to Florence was about to leave from the other one.
Fortunately, just outside Santa Maria Novella station in Florence were several market stalls selling Bunters. Unfortunately, they were pretty pricey.
“You’ll have to barter,” I told ActorLaddie.
“I’ve got Parkinsons,” I retorted, pathetically. “I’m not allowed to get stressed.” I might have added a pathetic cough for good measure.
As we bartered over the bartering, one of the stallholders slipped off somewhere leaving a young woman to mind the patch. ActorLaddie skipped over, held out some euros and pointed at the Bunters.
“OK,” she shrugged and we were off down the road before she had a chance to change her mind. That’s our kind of bartering.
Unfortunately, the bartering involved in moving house is of a different order. There are serious amounts of noughts involved.
After the bungalow viewing last Sunday, there was plenty of time for us to mull while we sat alongside GrannieBorders in the Casualty department waiting for test results. The bungalow was just what we wanted and where we wanted. It might be some time before the orange and brown wall tiles come back into fashion, and the teak radiator covers don’t speak to our condition, as the Quakers say, but we would have the rest of our lives to make the place our own. The decision as to whether or not to try and buy it was a no-brainer. But we had really had no idea what Bill and Pam wanted to get for it. We could just hope it was a figure we could afford.
That evening, ActorLaddie phoned Bill. We really liked the bungalow. Would Bill accept an offer of … ridiculously large amount of money which would buy you a mansion in anywhere but London?
“OK,” he said.
I think we’re getting the hang of this bartering lark.