Market Day

Friday is market day in Sideng. Villagers from all over the valley come wending their way along the narrow paths down the mountains, in-between the terraced fields, walking single file with woven baskets on their backs to fill up with a week’s purchases, or herding along quick trotting pigs, dainty-hoofed donkeys.

They remind me of the shepherds walking to church in Samuel Palmer’s pictures. South China is a world away from Palmer’s visionary Kent but there’s something similar about the sudden round hills and steep narrow side valleys of Shaxi, the courtyard farms and wayside shrines, the clouds of white blossom, the long golden light of evening that seems to coat everything in dust and honey.

Back they go from the market, their baskets full of pea sprouts and pigs trotters, giant radishes and miniature mangoes, green canvas shoes and bright stripy skirts, mouldy tofu and flapping fish and fat pink incense sticks and whirling windmill toys for children…

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4 Responses to “Market Day”


  1. 1 anne mullane April 1, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    Sounds idyllic and a long way from Willesden High Road. Did I tell you that they have knocked down The Spotted Dog, and that the library centre is due to be demolished and re-built because they reckon it’s too expensive to repair it and cheaper to knock it down and start again? Due to close in January and open again in 2014. That’s if it goes ahead, locals are not in favour, and Zadie gave an impassioned talk on Radio 4 asking them to save libraries and mentioned Willesden Green and Kensal in particular.

    We went on the march for the alternative and managed not to invade Fortnum’s or get kettled, so no doubt that’s that all sorted now, watch this space for regime change…

    But OMG, back to the wonderous world of dust and honey you inhabit at the moment – ducklings in a basket! I may never eat crispy duck again.

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  2. 2 rambutanchik April 3, 2011 at 5:36 am

    hmm, yes, knocking down and rebuilding sounds suspiciously like an excuse to close and then, oops, forget to re-open… Do hope that doesn’t happen (and where will the WGWG meet meanwhile – back to the Rising Sun? and what about the bookshop?)

    Roll on regime change!!

    re crispy duck – I could have posted a lot of pictures of cute piglets for sale at one end of the market and severed pig’s heads for sale at the other…

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  3. 3 anne mullane April 4, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    I don’t know where we will meet – the library is due to close in January, and they say they will find everyone who uses the building a temporary home, but I don’t believe them! The offical report on the Libraries Strategy will go to the Executive on April 11th, so we will be picketing the Town Hall.

    Steve has his Willesden Herald short story competition event at WG on Thursday with Maggie Gee and Liars League actors reading the shortlisted stories, should be a good night.

    Are you going to publish your blog as a book if/when you come back, I’d buy it!

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  4. 4 rambutanchik April 9, 2011 at 6:50 am

    how was Steve’s event? good luck with the picket. I’m off to Hong Kong in a few days and the thing I’m most looking forward to there is the wonderful library full of English books…

    Hmm, would be nice to publish if it helped me finance more China travel!

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