with Hilda Cochrane

Our Prades Market is waking up. It is nearly Easter and stalls and shoppers are becoming more plentiful and varied. La Place and surrounding streets are bursting into full colour and sound. Vendors entice passers-by, focussing on those who look like tourists. Performers are making an appearance. There is a juggler and further along a craftsman is weaving leaves into exotic birds. Best of all are the musicians.

A young woman with an accordion stands in a niche singing folksongs. I drop some coins into her tin. The juggler seems to be an enthusiastic novice. He is not very successful at keeping his balls in the air (no jokes please). Most of the time he is scurrying around, gathering up his wayward balls from among the shoppers’ feet!

In prime position close to the centre of town, a five-piece jazz band is playing. They are very good and a crowd gathers. The hat set in front of them rapidly fills with coins.

In the narrower streets there is congestion. Here, visitors trying to concentrate on stall goodies, are bumping into each other. Pushers of buggies and wheeled trolleys struggle along trying not to knock legs and receive black looks.


I navigate through with mishaps ever a possibility. In this mix of local folk and visitors, there can also appear either lines of chaperoned school-children on a cultural experience, or groups of disabled people, some in wheelchairs, with carers guiding them. They wander through and one either side-steps out of the way or squeezes past!

Then I spot a friend further ahead, eager to greet her and forgetting the golden rule of ‘be watchful’, I move to the right. It is an error!

One of the disabled group, a young woman with learning difficulties, moves to the left – and we collide! I nearly fall and hastily correcting myself, manage to upset the tables and chairs of a food stall which, in turn, causes the display board to ominously wobble and teeter.

My concern, though, is the girl and I turn to her, touch her arm: ‘Are you alright?’… tout va bien? … she is doing likewise to me! Meanwhile, the display board has given up! It crashes to the ground. Frank Spencer could not have done it better!

We look at each other and burst into laughter. It was a nice moment.

Hastily, I bend to lift the display board but the owner has beaten me to it: ‘desole’, I say. He is smiling: ‘de rien, de rien’ and waves me on my way. Both sorry and pleased that I had this experience, I go and chat to my friend



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