Well ladies and gentlemen, here we are again. Christmas is over, your friendly neighbourhood hobbit has ended his period of solitary in Salisbury, and a little bit of what passes for sanity has descended upon this small part of the world.
A lot has happened since my last post, pretty much all of it spent at Salisbury Christmas Market. This is how it went.
Day minus 1
Arrive at WCF and stare at the pile of crates that need to be loaded into the van. Stare at it again. And again. Think of the phrase ‘quart into a pint pot’ and just get on with it. Amazingly it all fits, as well as the tools and shelves that we’ll need.
The van handles somewhat sluggishly once fully loaded. Braking distances now measured in miles, not feet. Driving style amended accordingly. Bends avoided where possible
Day 0 – set-up day
Get to Salisbury early to survey the market, find my chalet OK and attend the traders briefing in the Guildhall. Meet up with Jamie and form a plan of attack for kitting out the chalet; shelves are not an issue, the display table is – Jamie’s preferred option is to construct a table across the front of the chalet and for me to crawl out/in as necessary. I remind him that I am an old git and refuse. Quick trip to B&Q ensues, material bought to construct a counter that can be placed on the veranda and brought in each night. Bond arrives to lend his extensive DIY knowledge, and half a millisecond later is told to shut up. Complete setup of the chalet early evening. Hopes are high.
Day 1 – first day of trading
Arrive early in order to complete the set up and test things out properly. Realise that the counter we built yesterday is not going to be stable enough, so extra bracing is swiftly attached and it seems much better. Even so, it’s not the free-standing triumph I have in my head so I pull it back to rest against the door frame. Seems to be stable enough.
Set up display and start trading, good enough for day 1. Late day today as it’s the lantern parade, don’t finish till 8:30pm. Hopes are high.
Decide that the counter is still too wobbly as I have fears my fatness will knock the whole thing over at some point. Further bracing is the only option so construct a very simple yet effective way of doing so – basically a length of wood screwed to counter at one end and door frame at the other. Much more secure.
Trading is good, slightly lower than day 1 but shorter trading hours so still better than anticipated.
Day 3 – first Saturday
The setup is now pretty much defined, and I’m ready to trade bang on 10am when the market starts. Unfortunately customers start milling around at 9:30 as it’s Saturday, but I cope. Trading is epic, never sold as much in one day.
Go home tired but exultant after my best single trading day ever. Beginning to plan for early retirement.
Steady today, but after the epicness of Saturday I can cope with this. Get to chat more with my chalet neighbours Heidi, Mo, Camille, Debs, Rachael and Terry and form a support group of bewildered traders.
For a ‘short’ days trading takings are awesome, and I get home to my microwave meal happy in the knowledge that I’ve picked a good market.
Monday. Urgh, it’s Monday. Things seem really quiet, but after the bedlam that was the weekend I’m happy with that. Gives me a chance to unwind a little.
Chat more with Camille, Rachael and Terry. They all seem to lead much more interesting lives than me, but then I think about my ex-IBM friends who look jealously at what I do now and remember that it’s all relative. I could have been an astronaut you know, I just chose not to.
Have time to listen to the music being piped over the speakers today. Realise that Michael Bublé is on repeat. I hate Michael Bublé.
Trading is slow by Christmas standards, but still better than a regular market so very happy.
Charter market day. Billions of cheeky cock-er-knees selling watch batteries, dodgy DVDs and dubious pork products in the Market Place. This means a different kind of clientele is around today, lots of single units sold and less box sets. Still, decent numbers so who’s complaining?
A sad day. Today is the funeral of a cricketing friend, and as I cannot be there I put my bat out a la Philip Hughes in his honour. I have to take a moment at the back of the chalet a couple of times during the day.
Am left in the dark – literally – as some of the light bulbs in my chalet decide they’ve had enough and go to sleep. Luckily it wasn’t all of them, so have enough to see what I’m doing for the remainder of the day.
Light bulbs procured via the ever-resourceful Mo from Tumi across the way, I can now see what I’m doing. And that is a steady day’s trade. Last 6pm finish today until Sunday. Treat myself to a takeaway in place of a microwave meal.
More Michael Bublé. Kill the Bublé.
Cats rebel against expensive food and decide that Asda own brand is all they will eat, which is a problem as there is no Asda within easy reach of my regular commute.
Back to the long trading days, and I’m beginning to feel a little tired. Still, trade is brisk and in fact better than the first Thursday. The war with Winchester is hotting up – am now in a daily contest with Bond to see who sells more.
Espresso happens. It’s not something I do much of, as excess caffeine can make me a bit twitchy, but I feel the need. And it works – it wakes me up enough early doors to engage with customers cheerily and get into the swing of things.
Chris Rea is Driving Home For Christmas for the ninth day in a row. Never buy a used sat nav from Chris Rea, it’ll be bloody useless.
Another good day, I am ready for whatever Saturday can throw at me.
So many customers…coming at me…coming in from the sun…no time to breathe…you weren’t there, man…
Another busy, busy day, not quite the same as the previous Saturday but excellent nonetheless.
Go home happy but exhausted.
A pattern emerges. Sunday’s not quite as good as Saturday, but is still a decent day. Realise with some horror that this market is not even half way through, yet already I could sleep for a week. Start looking at ways to ease the pain by maybe spending a night in Salisbury. Then decide that I’m a skinflint and hotel prices are too expensive.
This is Debs, Rachael and Terry’s last day in the market as they’re only doing the first half. Sad to see them go as they’re been terrific fun.
New neighbour Nick moves in. Camille and myself take an instant dislike to him simply for not being Rachael and Debs.
Quietest day of the market so far. After the chaos of the weekend it feels dead, but numbers at close of play show a decent return.
Half way through. It’s all downhill from here.
Another steady day, fuelled almost entirely by espressos and chocolate. Really am beginning to feel the strain now, both physically and mentally. Not just the trading but also the stock collections, the commute and of course the extra trips to Asda to get bloody cat food.
We decide that we’re just going to deal with Nick by taking the p*ss out of him. He responds in kind and is accepted into the support group with open arms.
A soggy day in Salisbury. This keeps the customers away, which makes it almost impossible to stay wake. More espresso. More chocolate. Nick starts to show tendencies to leave his stall for a 9-minute wander every 10 minutes.
First sub-par result of the market, but given the weather that’s to be expected.
Being exhausted is the default setting now. Am thinking of digging an escape tunnel.
An owl called Bella comes to visit. I don’t think I’m hallucinating, but there is that possibility.
No sign of the owl.
Steady trading today. After a brief hiatus, Bublé is back. Tensions rise in the hobbit community.
Camille the Dogsnatcher is captured in action.
The busy day of the week, and the first signs of panic present-buying behaviour start to emerge. Am introduced to the acronym ‘DLM’ by Heidi – the Desperate Lone Male – often seen at this time of the year. In our case it’s more of a DLS (Desperate Lone Shopper) thing – men are often the quick purchasers, the conversation going like this:
Customer: What’s the hottest thing you have?
Me: Is it for someone who says that nothing’s ever hot enough?
Customer: Yes – I want to see him cry.
One bottle of Slayer later, job done.
Excellent business again, on days like today you get to speak to no-one other than customers, with traders emerging like badgers from their setts in late afternoon to compare notes.
Disgruntlement is high, there have been words exchanged between traders and stewards. Tempers are fraying, especially in those of us who are doing every single day. No sign of Stockholm Syndrome here.
Slow, slow day. Batteries fail to recharge. Bublé is on repeat. Not helping. The prospect of four days of 6pm finishes is very welcome though.
How do you get stock to the chalet when there’s a charter market on and you can’t get the van on site? Simple – employ the Hobbit All-Purpose Stock Transport Solution (patent applied for). What d you mean, it looks like a suitcase? This is a highly specialised piece of equipment you know, not just any old piece of kit dragged out of the loft…
Energy levels still not high…until lunchtime when I get the news that I have become a Granddad again! Instant happy hobbit syndrome, photos shared with chalet holders and customers alike, can’t get the grin off my face for the rest of the day 🙂
Trading? Who cares? I’m a granddad again!
Just push through it hobbit, not long to go now.
Finish the day off with a visit to see my new granddaughter. Lifts up my spirits no end 🙂
Starting to wonder if this will ever end. What did I do in a previous life to deserve this? Did I volunteer for this? Goddammit, I paid for this! Pull yourself together whinger, just get on with it…
Am now beginning to run low on stock. Starting to shuffle the display round to promote stuff I have most of. Doesn’t work, a very slow day, but it is Wednesday so not surprising really.
3 days to go. Am buoyed by Jamie saying he’d be down on Saturday to help break down.
And not in a fun, biological, squelching proximity of body parts way either. This is the cycling version of bonking, akin to marathon runners hitting the wall. It’s what happens when you completely run out of energy, and is not the same as being tired. I’ve never really experienced it before, even when running (sort of) the 3 half marathons I’ve done in the past, which were about the most knackering thing I’ve done. I just hit a wall at about 6pm, and couldn’t think, speak or do anything other than just stand up. Camille in the chalet opposite told me that I’d visibly turned into Zombie Hobbit, though I think that’s doing a bit of a disservice to zombies as I think they probably have more energy than I did right then.
A swift ingestion of calories – in the healthy form of Twix bars – helped rectify the situation, though I was still running on fumes for the rest of the day.
Penultimate day of the market. Stock is looking patchy, but I’ll have enough to get me to the end. Decent numbers sold, hopeful of reaching my revised target figure for the whole market.
A decent day and we finish up with a support group night out at Anokaa, which is a fantastic Indian restaurant in Fisherton Street. Top, top food – not your normal curry-house fare. Vegetarian Heidi is so baffled by the excellent veggie offerings she asks me – a ravenous carnivore – for help. To be fair, some of the veggie options do look nice. Not nice enough to stop me choosing a fabulous rack of lamb dish, though. We all have great food, great conversation and I get home very, very late, but content.
Day 24 – last day of the market
Get to the market early, as always, though that’s not easy after the late night yesterday. Set up early, ready for the rush, and sure enough for the last Saturday before Christmas there are lots of people about.
More espresso, more chocolate and yes – more Bublé. I thank every deity known to humanity, and quite a few I’ve made up myself just to fill out my own personal pantheon, that I don’t have to listen to him again after today.
I bonk again, shortly after Jamie tells me that he won’t be down to help me break down the chalet. This news drains any scrap of energy I have left. Official close of the market is 7pm, but we’re all ‘tidying’ behind the scenes from about 5 o’clock.
7pm comes and we all get handy with drills, screwdrivers and hammers in dismantling our chalets. Not much stock to pack away, but I have to get a bit primeval on some of the screws as they’re embedded in knots in the wood and simply won’t come out, even with the heavy-duty borrowed drill from Nick next door. Hammer comes to the rescue.
Say emotional goodbyes to Heidi, Camille, Mo and Nick – it’s been a blast and we all promise to be there next year and reform the support group.
And the music playing when I leave is…thankfully not Bublé. That would have been a bit much.
Day 25 – market day + 1
Prize pillock that I am, I’ve agreed to be at Swindon Designer Outlet today. I have bugger all stock and it’s chucking it down. I’m so tired that I completely misjudge things and have a bollard v. van incident. Bollard wins, van loses. Dammit.
Ghost my way through the day and sell a decent number, especially given the weather. Every last box set that I have has sold, I end up with a crate of stock that goes back to the Farm to keep Bath going for the last few days up till Christmas.
And that, folks, is why I wasn’t terribly communicative over December. I have worked out that with travel I was working 90-hour weeks for the duration of the market, and I know that there were times when I unravelled ever so slightly. I did learn a few things though:
– Trading for 25 days in a row is bloody exhausting
– Salisbury likes it’s chilli sauce
– Chris Rea may not yet be home for Christmas
– There is a special place in hell for Michael Bublé
– Salisbury has some cute PCSOs
– It is possible to live for a month on microwave meals and Tesco bargain bin sarnies
– 5pm is Wispa time
And will I do it again? I certainly plan to – I met some lovely people, sold lots of stuff and made it to Christmas more or less sane.
And now…it’s all over – the Festive season, and New Year to boot. That means it must be time for the WCF Christmas Party. Stocks of aspirin have been replenished in preparation.
Normal service will be resumed in the very near future. Whatever normal is.
Welcome to the Year of The Spinning Mouse