The ferocious wind blasts straight off Table Bay, over the tangled grey concrete dolosse , doesn’t even pause at the barrier, roars into the market ground, driving a stinging curtain of sand, that patters on impact and abrades exposed human skin. No wonder the vendors are dressed in long sleeved shirts and windcheaters, despite the blue skies and sunshine.
The wind tears at vendors’ hats, but they’re secured by elastic under the chin, regardless of appearance or fashion. So the wind swirls papers and plastic bags up, up and away; it thrums through guy-ropes on gazebos, and whistles keenly around the corner of bakkies. It whisks playfully around the blue flames on the gas braais, but doesn’t quite succeed in extinguishing the flames. The mounds of onions are browning in the frying pans, teaming up with the aroma of sizzling boerewors on the braai grids. Oom Chris ‘s khaki fishing hat is jammed low over his ears, his red face a study in concentration as he guards his wors against over-cooking. Tannie Marie is flitting between the onion frying, and scraping minimal marg onto hotdog rolls. The smell is intoxicating.
Down the line the Muslim ladies are setting up their stall. No spicy daaltjies today, worse luck. Only sweet, sticky, pink coconut-coated koeksusters. Next to the foodstalls there’s a display of shiny silver pressure cookers, obviously new, laid out in a neat row on a tarp spread on the ground. Did they fall (conveniently) off the back of a lorry, into enterprising hands?
Another suspicious display is an entire stall of branded cleaning products – no wonder those red, white and blue labels look so familiar, they’re well known products that are standard supermarket merchandise. Hmmmm. How did they arrive at the market … perhaps best not to enquire.
Many of the vendors have rickety trestle tables piled with bric-a-brac, rusted cake tins, baking tins, tarnished egg beaters, odds and sods: in a word – junk. There’s mechanical junk laid on tarps at ground level:assortments of nuts, bolts, washers, rods, rusty tools, lengths of piping, angle-iron off-cuts, bits of this and that. Most of these items are beyond second-hand, and only fit for the scrap heap. Maybe that’s where they came from!
A man picks up a battered pick-axe, and bounces it experimentally up and down on the ground, over and over. Donk-donk-donk. What’s he testing? The strength of the handle? Or to see if the metal head is cracked? At the rate he’s going, it soon will be! His actions are driving a nearby Jack Russell absolutely nuts. The little dog is straining desperately against his collar and the rope that’s attached to his owner’s bakkie wing-mirror. The dog is dying to race over to the man and do something – anything – about that bouncing pick-axe, but even his manic terrier strength cannot break a nylon rope. But the wing mirror strut may well break before the rope does!
Striding through the market is a lady in full purdah get-up, with only a narrow slit for her eyes, and they’re hidden behind dark glasses. She’s even wearing black gloves but surprisingly, white ankle socks and cream coloured shoes. Tall, black and mysterious, she’s a complete contrast to the shopping couples – the men in shorts, tees and shades; the women in strappy tops, cute short skirts, flip-flops displaying varnished toenails – summer holiday gear for the shoppers, but not for the traders who have to withstand the buffeting wind all day.
The Parking Attendants are all senior citizens – weather beaten and tanned to an inch of their lives, puffing gamely on their cigarettes, despite the gale force wind. Two sunburnt, wrinkly women are sheltering behind a big double-cab 4×4 having a smoke, and engaged in a dramatic recital of a complicated family saga that is punctuated with So I said, Charmayne, you can’t do that! And she said … but the wind blows away the tale of woe, along with streamers of cigarette smoke.
Two young guys roar away on their motor-bikes, spinning up loose gravel as they plunge onto the R27. The noon gun booms from Lions Head. Seagulls are squabbling over a discarded boerie roll. Time to get out of the wind, go home for lunch and come bargain-hunting again next week!