Le marché paysan du Cours Julien © marcovdz sur flickr

Un Anglais à Marseille #3

Prof d’anglais et coursier à vélo à Marseille, Rory Launder livre son regard sur la ville tout en vous donnant une occasion de réviser votre anglais toutes les deux semaines.


Dans ce nouvel episode, place au marché bio.


Little pang of loss and sadness crossing Palud as I look left and see rubble and diggers. But I’ve got to push it away now, I’m done wallowing, I’ve dwelled enough. No looking left down the rue d’Aubagne.

The sun’s shining, and I’m sweating in shorts and a t-shirt having cycled up rue Estelle and then right, up towards Molotov. The Marseillais are now in unbuttoned winter’s coats and can’t help but comment on the shorts.

Buying pear and apricot juice I remark the week has passed quickly and it doesn’t seem long since I was last doing the same. The farmer guy says it feels like a week for him. I float the notion that perhaps I had dreamt about him in the week, and that’s why it doesn’t seem so long. He’s laughing heartily, but points out that that’s not the sort of bread he eats. (‘Not my cup of tea’ in English.) But where’s Kiwi-Girl this week! Why can’t she see what great jokes I’m doing with her colleague.

I remember being terrified as a child of these rambunctious sturdy men at the open-air markets in England shouting. The loud rhythmic patter confusing me, “Pound a pound a bananas, fifty p’ a pound a tomatoes, you alright luv, what can I get ya? Of course you can my darling.” The speed at which they sang out the prices and produce – multiplied by the regional accents – meant I couldn’t understand a thing. It was all very macho, and probably very sexist, but it was mostly housewives doing the shopping thirty years ago, and market traders mostly men. It was ‘80s banter I suppose. Any time a lady did give some cheek back – playing along in this flirtatious game – there would be whoops of solidarity from the grannies “Ooh! He’s a charmer isn’t he?” “Aww no, I wouldn’t bother with him much.”

The bread is expensive I agree, but a mini-mountain of radishes for a quid, good eggs for two… the juice is also a bit expensive but not compared to pints of Picon. And just to get up close and personal with that moustache is worth the price of €2.50 for a small but quality goat’s cheese. Better to have two or three of those a week than that shredded yellow gunge in plastic packets that squeaks as you chew. You just have to buy what’s in abundance. The strawberries will get cheaper as the weeks go on.

We’re not on the metro, eyes down. We’re not at our desks pretending to be professionals. We’re not in Paris or Lyon acting too busy or too polite to speak to our neighbour in the queue. I know many people are too timid to contribute to this public larking about, but shy little smiles and rolling of eyes are enough. Historically the market was your weekly trip out of your village to town! Your only chance for the week to meet people from other villages.

Argh, what’s that noise! There’s a monster below and to my left, red-faced, tears rolling down both cheeks, snot ebbing from both nostrils, wailing. His older sister is smirking, nonchalantly looking down her nose, disowning him. Mum picks him up (all he wanted) but he won’t stop because it hasn’t been long enough with Mum yet.

It turns out the handlebars of his trotinette have separated from the base. That’s what started this loud, liquid-based, lung-busting shit-fit. I’ve got tools in my bag and produce a Phillips and give it to Mum. With natural grace she balances the snivelling brat and tightens up the stem. Wunderbar, nothing to cry about now.

Then we have to go through the palaver of his thanking me. He’s acting all shy, but I know he just wants to hide his face in Mum’s hair a bit longer. So Mum’s going “Come on, the Monsieur fixed your trotinette, you should say thank you”. Then out it comes “Merci!” now everyone’s happy: Monster’s stopped crying and has a fully functional trotinette. Mum can put him down, and procure vegetables. Sister is impressed with Mum’s handiwork. I’ve done my good deed for the day, and have peace and quiet from below and to my left.


Rory Launder