After lunch on Sunday Amelia and I escape outdoors. We are both inhabitants of the borderlands of age; she, at eight, just moments beyond a very small child and me, at twenty whatever, too well travelled and not well dressed enough to be taken seriously. It is a glorious afternoon and the need for some adventure is acute. At the bottom of the field we forge our way through blackberries until the mud claims one of Amelia’s brown suede boots with the sucking dripping sound known to explorers everywhere. We retreat.
The marsh has us pinned and so what to do but have a sword fight and then a jumping competition and then to collapse on the couch with colouring books and knitting and the lay of the land more surely known than before.
The river this morning is glossy in black and white. The bottom edges of the clouds bleed down into the brightness of the horizon. Like a watercolour hung too soon to dry. I am glad these days that most people like the warmer places of the world. The smoke that rises above wooden houses and the muddy shoulders of country roads are not pictures to put on postcards home. But they feel like home to me.
I step into the market with soup in mind. This is the trick to a winter market; to dream of berries and plums on a day in August (south, think south) is to risk missing the squash and cauliflower, the bounty of a different palette. I buy carrots the size of my wrist and the man calls his young daughter over to look at my eyes. Like jewels, he tells me.
From an old couple with no teeth I buy a bunch of celery three feet high. From its perch in my backpack the leaves reach over my head, around my shoulders. With a machete their neighbour cuts me two kilos of bright orange squash. For you, mi reina, and he slips two mandarins into the bag. As I walk away the old women teases him. Next week, she tells him, ask if she’s married.
Two stalls down with hands twice bigger than mine, the young man tosses eggs fresh from the coop from one hand to another, juggles until I laugh. Next week, he says, you smile first and then I’ll juggle.
It starts to rain lightly and I walk the length of the market towards the way home, my hands full of apples and fresh cheese. With my crown of celery greens, I am the queen of the Tuesday market.