Chapter 9 - Pig at Market

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Bleary eyed, Valentina unpacked her products. She was never really completely awake until 10 or 11 am. The cold morning air helped clear her unresponsive brain. She had managed to cram an unbelievable amount of stuff into the little two-seater Mercedes sport and its equally little luggage compartment in the back. After she had already removed quite a lot, as if by magic, she lugged a double-tiered plant stand out from behind the little space behind the seats. The pretty, little, ivory coloured classic car had seen better days. It had a recent, mysterious dent near the back wheel (more noticeable than the other dents) and it had started making a high-pitched whirring noise that was both very embarrassing and very annoying. It was also embarrassingly dirty; it was spattered with mud (even on the windows) and had bits of hay and straw in the wheel wells and all over the carpets inside from Valentina using it to haul farm essentials. On the way there she couldn't help but notice two boys on their bikes, who were pointing and laughing as she stopped at the traffic lights... It might have been more humiliating if that she didn't have real worries to concern herself with.

She tried carrying too much and ended up walking into her market stall, banging her knee sharply. She needed to hurry and finish, but wasn't very skilled at the packing or unpacking part. She was good at the presentation part however and the small stall, looked very charming, complete with a vase of local wild flowers and a grand Louis XV style framed chalkboard that displayed the prices in scrolled writing. She sold a variety of things she had collected or made herself from the yield of the tiny farm: goat's cheeses, greeting cards, flower cordials, eggs and soaps – all with pretty handwritten labels on coloured torn paper, or little tea stained luggage tags.

She endeavoured not to be fatalistic about the day ahead, but she didn't expect to sell much. Things hadn't gone too terribly in summer when the high season tourists were around, but now that they were gone, there were mainly budget goers on last minute breaks. The place was filled with time wasters looking for mass produced tat – if they were looking to spend money at all. There were many local people with distinguished airs out on their weekly shopping, but they preferred to patron those whom they had seen around for many years (and weren't any more willing to pay premiums for 'strange' artisanal products and pretty hand written labels than the budget tourists). What was worse: a large French producer of 'artisan' cheeses and all sorts of other condiments and savouries had opened up just a little way away. Valentina thought the packaging and containers they were taking the 'handmade fare' out of (and indeed the goods themselves) looked remarkably like they come from a large factory, but no one else seemed to notice this. There was nothing to do. Their prices were much cheaper, they had a huge selection and the gregarious owner and his two vigorous looking sons (who were all clearly seasoned pros at the charms of market trading) had fabulous rapports with the mature local ladies – the main customers for such things at the market.

Valentina cleared her head of defeatist thoughts, exhaled and breathed in, filling her lungs with the chilly--

{petrol fumes.}

She coughed. The butcher had his new, spotless, white Renault van parked up on the sidewalk with the engine running its exhaust right into Valentina's stall as he unpacked his wares. He did this nearly every week. His triple stall was several metres away in a more central section of the market. He wasn't supposed to unpack from there, but it was easier for him, so he did it. Occasionally Valentina would confront him over the fumes, but they would just end up in an argument where he would tell her she should 'go back to her country' (or make some other implication that he had more rights to do as he pleased) and she would end up seething for several days. The market did little to enforce their own rules against him and anyway, he would do the same thing the following week no matter what she said, or whom she reported him to. He barked orders at two of his current bunch of illegal Polish workers unloading the van, while he chomped on a sausage baguette, before setting off for his 9 am bottle of beer and sit-down at the market bistro. He stopped short to hike-up his trousers and looked over disparagingly at Valentina's stall. Valentina glared at him hatefully, but he just laughed.

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