We carve out a living. As one of the few remaining stallholders, in what was once a thriving market, we’ve a sense of loyalty not to jump ship. If it wasn’t for our pitch on Columbia Road Flower Market (in London), we couldn’t afford to buy the stock to sell here in the first place.
Our stall has been here for fifteen of the twenty years we’ve lived in Harlow. Even during that time there has been a noticeable difference.
Sadly, it’s a struggle for newcomers to make setting up a new stall worthwhile. With one thing and another, their takings don’t amount to much – especially when you’ve taken pitch rent and insurances into account.
Part of the reason we haven’t called it a day is the interaction with our regular customers. I’m sure some them deliberately make a journey into town on a Tuesday to coincide with our stall being here. I’m a people person, so they drop by and have a chat (I love to chat), buy a couple of quids’ worth of primroses and leave happy. A conversation, no matter how short, helps break up their day – better still, it gets them out of the house.
I don’t know many of my regulars by name, but it feels as if I know them well. I’ll see someone coming through here that I’ve not seen in months, but I’ll remember them – I never forget a face. I’ll give them a genuine welcome and a ‘how are you?’ – it’s a small gesture that costs nothing. Just them knowing that someone cares makes the world a less lonely place for them. As mad as it sounds, it often makes their day. It’s a sense of relief when a regular you’ve not seen for a while makes a reappearance – otherwise you start to concern yourself over their wellbeing. Myself and husband take pride over the small part we play in the community; it’s all about giving something back. I love what we do, it’s a good life. Especially being out in the fresh air – I couldn’t be doing with working in an office all day.
I’m from a long line of market traders: dad, cousins, uncles, sons and daughters. Our stall on Columbia Road has been in the family forever and a day; many of the other stallholders are family – literally and figuratively. Those who’ve strayed from market life often return – tails between their legs – it’s in their blood.
Yes, the town’s a little bit poorly – but it doesn’t have to be. It just needs something. I don’t exactly know what – just something to give it a push in the right direction. We forget how lucky we are in Harlow. Open spaces on our doorsteps; woodlands and fields – that’s beautiful.
You don’t get that in Enfield – the place we moved from all those years ago. Maybe if people were more strong-minded and positive? Or perhaps it’s just a case of what goes around comes around – well, I hope so.