I happened to be wandering upstate Galway at about 8am this morning, and don't jump to conclusions, I hadn't been kicked out of some fiery goddess's bed for wearing her out, no, I had been dropping some random teen of mine to the bus. So I ended up strolling through the Galway market early enough that most stalls were just being set up, and it had that buzz about it that I love so much more than when it's in full swing. Planks and poles being carted along on makeshift trollies made of old prams, stall holders fighting over inches of precious space and the smell of second-hand, home-grown and incense merging, to create that smell that you only get at the Galway Market.
There's a guy eating oysters as fast as Mike, the Oyster & Egg man, can slice them open. I decide that it's not every day of the week you get the opportunity to have fresh native oysters for breakfast, so I ask Mike if I can have just the one, and as he hands it to me I realise I have no money on me. Mike says to get him next time but in the end I manage to route out a few coins and we're quits. Behind him, Gillie, vendor of all little things that make you feel good about life - over the years I've acquired a rainbow coloured teapot, some funny fridge magnets, worry dolls - a little set of Mexican matchstick figures in boleros. You tell them your worries, put them under your pillow and next morning your worries are gone. When my worry dolls didn't work after I told them about my love and financial worries three nights running to no effect, I returned them, and Gillie gave me my money back. I've also bought masses of photo frames, kilos of incense, eco friendly washing nuggets and soya candles.
I greet Gillie who's standing with Daniel, the do-nut man, a skinny Noo Yowk dude who transports his do-nut business week in, week out by bicycle and a strange looking homemade trailer.
Then there's Mick, who sells the crepes. Mick, who feeds all the Galway hobos for free with his fresh organic ingredients. Mick, who just seems to know by the look in your face that your broke and throws in an extra or makes up a price that he thinks might suit you better today. Mick, who used to be Mick and Susanna, and who I used to have on my check list of people who I'll give an envelope with a few grand in it when I win the lotto and start publishing my best sellers. Last year Susanna lost the fight. If you could fight cancer with a lip on you and a sean-nos voice that would make a tinker cry, she'd still be around. But you can't. So I'll just have to remember Susanna getting kicked out of the pub but insisting on climbing back in the window to sing just one more song.
I chat briefly with Gillie about what a godawful place Galway is, and while I do, the egg man and the do-nut man, who she'll probably have an argument with within ten minutes, are putting up her stall. I wonder if they're doing it because they know how ill Gillie has been but how you can't just stop trading, there's no safety net. But I decide that they're the kind of guys who do nice things anyway.
You see, this is the stuff the market is made of: people, real people, making Galway be Galway. The traders have it harder than any other kind of retailers, they are the kind of people who the banks didn't help even when they were throwing money at people, and yet, the customers tend to believe that they should get everything for tuppence because it's not high street robbery land.
After my breakfast I stroll back down the market. It's in full swing now. Americans are taking photos of the Hare Krishna man and buying nothing. At the very end I see a camera crew. They're taking the usual carrotscape and romantic 'day at the market' swing on things. I bump into a friend who is just back from Australia and Thailand, she's not finished travelling yet, she's due to go to Seattle in another month. She's giving me a pain, and I glance around, noticing that the old farmer couple are here today, the ones who just set up the one small table and sell eggs, along with whatever amount of apple tarts she managed to make this week. The flower seller is annoying the passing traffic. He's too far out on the road.
As I walk back to the car I realise that I haven't travelled the world at all, but at least I see it.