My mother went to the Christmas Market in Lincoln (U.K.) last Saturday (5th December) and she said she had never seen so many people in one place in all of her life which, considering she’s getting on a bit and is a Londoner, is saying something. She said, when she arrived, there was such a sea of people, it looked like the moment when all the fans suddenly emerge from a stadium after a football match. It was necessary to observe a one-way system to walk around the market as it was virtually impossible to go against the tide. It was impossible to get to the front and see any of the merchandise on the stalls so, after a 3.5 hour car journey, she neither saw nor bought a thing. What fun. Luckily, my niece has just bought a house in Lincoln so she got to see her and spend the night so it wasn’t a complete waste of time .
I haven’t lived in the U.K. for 5 years now and sometimes I forget how it was necessary to plan Christmas shopping with the precision you might use if you were about to invade a small country. If I still had Christmas shopping to do by 1st December, I would despair – where would I park? Would I find what I wanted? How long would I have to queue up to pay? I must admit that, a couple of years before leaving England, I had already resorted to internet shopping even for the groceries. I suppose it is what happens if you live on a heavily populated small island – everybody heads for the same place, at the same time, with the same purpose.
France, being a much bigger country, with a much less concentrated population, is a different story. In fact, it’s only been the last couple of years that the shops have started stocking Christmas fripperies before the start of December – at least, where I live, in the back of beyond. I think it’s a shame. I don’t want to get back from my summer holidays and find the shops selling big tins of Quality Street or Roses – which has become as much the first sign of Christmas in the U.K. as a snowdrop is the first sign of spring.
Anyway, this year, I was all set to do a Christmas market in a local village. I had visited, as a buyer, the two previous years and found the goods on offer sadly wanting. I have some things I make which are too large to post and thought it would be a great opportunity to lighten my stock. Ha! To sell anything in France, it seems, you must have various papers testifying that you are truly the offspring of ancestors whose long forgotten names you will be asked to enter on numerous forms, pay quite large sums of money, go and see numerous disinterested yet power crazed officials in soulless offices miles from where you live and have a degree in something or a 20 year long proven apprenticeship (I exaggerate on the last point, but you get the idea). And this, after they have made it ‘easier’ to run a small business in France. It’s all very well but I do miss turning up at some village hall in Lower Piddington (or somewhere), handing over a fiver to ‘the committee’ and setting up a little table with a few bits and bobs on it and coming away having made, ooh, a couple of quid profit but having had a bit of a laugh and a chat and a bit of Christmas cheer. Ho hum!
I think I’ll stick to Etsy and give away my larger items to my friends and family as gifts. Bah!!