I was a salesman for a print company. I got myself a proper job after over 30 years as a freelance cartoonist. In my new role I was tasked with finding customers that were new to print or those starting new businesses. It occurred to me that if I went along to the local Farmer’s Market the marketeers would fill the profile very well, and I could easily engage with them, even better if I bought something from them. I generally liked the stallholders, there were few of them that I did not take to, or thought it worth my while talking to or even buying something from. Anyone selling fresh meat would generally be a no no. One particular bloke who was a pork farmer, looked like he had permanent indigestion, no smile ever crossed his lips. There’s a thing about butchers, must be the hormones in the meat, they seem to me to exude aggression.
The lady who sold cheese was a different matter. She looks like she’d just come out of the drawing room of a grand house and was being obliged to stand on a street corner. She’s been interrupted reading her Daily Telegraph, so she took it with her. Occasionally people would come by her stall and buy a cheese or two, more likely one, this was Gloucester and the inhabitants are not likely to fork out eight quid for a piece of brie and some local cheddar. If one approached her with a cheery “Hello, how are you today?” she did not seem to mind one interrupting her reading. It took a lot of cheese from her to get her to buy some leaflets from me.
The couple selling eggs made a fine pair. He strutted around like a handsome cockerel and she fussed and pecked around the stall like a nervous chicken. They looked like fine examples of their workforce. The eggs were great too! I think they generally did quite well at the market, but were not really interested in what I was selling.
The couple running the Indian Pickle stall were utterly charming. Him, gracious and smiling, and his tiny wife with a beaming smile, were a pleasure to meet on a Friday lunchtime. He hand wrote every label in beautiful handwriting. They never bought anything from me. I asked him one day if he’s always done this. “Oh No” he said “I used to a government educational adviser to the Prime Minister of Pakistan” Oddly, I was not in the least surprised. “We retired over here to be near our children and we did up the house, then got bored, so Tilly started making chutneys and pickles and we made so many that we started to sell them” Their garlic pickle was sold in very small jars and a quarter of a teaspoon put into a roasting chicken gave it the most delicious taste. One small jar could last a year.
The lady selling fresh chickens was one of my success stories. She and her husband sold chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys from their farm close to the Wye Valley. I helped design her label for her. It’s even had one of my drawings on it, which I did for free in exchange for the business. They used the design for years!
So why a sunflower?
Stallholders at the market used to come and go. There were regulars who came every week. Some tried their businesses at the market before launching in a big way, or just giving up. A French bakery became successful and expanded into a bigger operation in Cheltenham, some people who sold superb products simply disappeared. This sunflower was for sale at the market on a bright sunny day. I asked the stallholders if I might take a photograph of it, and she was quite happy for me to do so. To get the right effect I took my black sweatshirt off and put it behind the flower. I’m ashamed to say that I did not even go ahead and buy it, and I never saw her again.