The Village Fair

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September 16, 2018 by lucieromarin

Today, between the world’s best coffee and one of my local churches, I found our village fair.

My suburb is the strangest mix of coffee, pollution, Greek, Lebanese and Portuguese elderly, artisan foods, children, vagrants, and roaming mentally ill, ecology, pub cheer, yoga, making and thrifting, generally overlaid by friendliness, and somehow without any of the drugs, satanism, entitlement and rudeness which afflicts our cousin suburb, which is only half an hour from us by foot or ten minutes on the train. It’s the only place I’ve ever been where so many groups of apparently disparate and irreconcilable differences seem to co-exist with no trouble at all. It’s as grubby and as kind as anything.

That happy mixture was all present today. In addition to the obligatory Gozleme stand (you can hardly have a market in Sydney without one, these days, and really it is a near-perfect market food) was the kransky, the seafood paella, a cake stall, and gelati. The local stalls were the most interesting. While I can’t imagine what sort of business the lawyers thought they were going to get, the pollies, tutors, martial arts schools and purveyors of sports jerseys made sense in the context. The Visual Arts school displayed and sold ceramics, jewellery and zines made by their young students, and I almost bought a shiny ceramic pink scoop of ice-cream. I settled for some zines instead; a pretty small price to pay to give a budding teenage creative the thrill of a sale. There was a stall offering tea-towels printed with images of local buildings, and there were the variations on local ecology: the community gardeners (somewhere for me to compost!!), the group who taught about the identification and care of wildlife, and the group who make totes out of donations of old fabric and then give them to the local shops to reduce the use of plastic bags.

Markets are transformative. Those things at which I would never look twice suddenly become so enticing, just because they’re outdoors on a sunny day, on a market stand, surrounded by the hum of an interested crowd. I loathe sugary-plastic white rolls and cheap sausages, but who could resist a sausage sandwich from a local real estate agent’s stand, when it’s right next to a stage full of ethic-dancing local students and assails one with the scent of onions? (I ate my sausage sandwich while I sat on a white plastic chair and watched a group of Tongan students play ‘Yesterday.’ I have to say they were very good. A tot in the next chair grinned at me and held up her arm in mischievous imitation of my attempt to block out the sun.) $20 for three bars of soap that look like lumps of organic matter left out in the rain? A bargain! – especially when they’re made by hand out of cinnamon, orange zest, and fair-trade coffee grounds, and, like the onions, disperse an irresistible scent. (Admittedly, I didn’t buy the soap, but it was a struggle!). Seeds? Of course! I could totally garden, right?

While I looked at blackboard chalked with the prices of artisan condiments, I suddenly remembered someone telling me that I think too much, and I realised I was simultaneously reading the prices, feeling the sun, wondering if my godson would want to come up to the fair, praying for Hungary, and wondering what had happened to the victims of Boko Haram and how their sufferings could exist in the same world and at the same time as my standing in the sun choosing condiments. Then I thought that to live in the grace of the present moment (or mindfulness, if you like) could not be consistent either with indifference to those sufferings, or to a blithe faux-spiritual fob-off (oh, God/someone will take care of them), yet it meant, at the same time, accepting that all the goodness around me was still good. That those women and men around me chose to use their free time to garden, to sew, to volunteer for First Aid, to train the young in music and dance was a goodness that commanded my attention and gratitude just a much as do the evils which drive me to prayer and sacrifice. It’s so strange that both are real and both are necessary, at the same time.

My profound thoughts were over by the time I reached the final stalls. I ran away from a woman who tried to make me taste olive oil. A heath-and-wealth stand gave me a Keto bar. Now I’m at home, I can read the ingredients on the label. It reads ‘FEEL GREAT, BE HEALTHY’. The first ingredient is protein powder (soy, whey), and the second is chocolate coating (sucrose, milk solids, cocoa butter, milk fat, emulsifiers [soy lecithin, 476, flavour.]) FAIL! I don’t call that food. I’m going back for the artisan gelato. At least it promotes itself honestly – ‘Delicious’!

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