Operation Village Market

Last Tuesday was Operation Village Market, which sounds like a World War II Allied offensive. Although well stocked with food, we were running short of fresh fruit and veg. The French government cancelled open-air markets about 10 days ago but were prepared to allow some to continue by order of the Préfet, if they are necessary for local people and the local economy. Our village has two markets per week: Tuesday and Saturday. These were deemed necessary.

I feel a bit like an SOE operative about to be parachuted into enemy territory. Only with this particular enemy you don’t hear the tell-tale twig crack as they creep up behind you. ID card: check. Travel permission form: check. Camouflage (old coat, shoes and gloves): check. Repellent gel: well, sort of: home made from alcohol and disinfectant.

Not a gendarme is to be seen on the way to the village and back. Presumably, they have bigger fish to fry on the main roads and in the larger towns. I even manage to get a parking space in the main street, usually impossible on market day. It’s a bit tight, but thanks to having lived in London, I can still park on a sixpence.

Market hall in happier times

I walk down into the market square, usually thronging with folk. I don’t take my camera, since I don’t have enough hands. This time, they have cordoned off the halle, and you have to queue to be admitted. Two ladies from the Mairie and a Police Municipale officer, who doesn’t look old enough to be in uniform, supervise the operation, handing out instructions to market-goers: keep your distance; no kissing or shaking hands; cough or sneeze into your elbow; don’t touch the produce; go home as soon as you’ve finished.

They have chalked out squares on the car park to indicate how far you should stand from the person in front. Friends and acquaintances surround me – at a distance. Monsieur A is in front in his carpet slippers as usual. A friend is three ahead. Another friend joins the queue at the back, having taken photos of the proceedings.

Villefranche-de-Rouergue market: cancelled, as I understand it

The atmosphere is muted but friendly. For French people, not being able to greet others physically is a hardship, but everyone respects the regulations. We wave greetings to one another instead. It’s chilly but sunny. The previous day it snowed.

We shuffle forward as each person is served in turn, a bit like the queue for security at the airport. Nobody is in a hurry, since we don’t have appointments to keep or anywhere else to go. Six stalls have been allowed to set up. The lady who sells quiches and cakes; the fruit seller; the large fruit and veg stall; Daniel the Wine Man; the Chicken and Egg man; and the cheese van.

Normally, you choose your own produce at the fruit and veg stall. Now, they do it for you. Laeticia and Philippe are masked and gloved, but they are smiling beneath their masks, helpful and good-humoured as always. I thank them for what they are doing for us, as I have thanked all the commerçants since this began.

How it was, not so long ago

The Chicken and Egg Man has been doing a steady trade, but he still has plenty of eggs left. They have been in short supply here recently. What do people do with them? I buy a dozen, six of them for friends, but they have found another source. It doesn’t matter; we can use them.

I dodge the lengthy queue for the cheese van and walk back to the car, thankfully not far away, since the bags are groaning with produce. On the SF’s orders, I have also bought two wine boxes from Daniel the Wine Man. I heft all this into the car and head for home.

On my return, I disinfect everything, including myself and my clothes. Mission accomplished. Not a Bridge Too Far this time. We can pull up the drawbridge again, until the next shopping trip beckons.

One day we might go back to this

You might also like these:

Villefranche-de-Rouergue Market

Winter Market

French Markets

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About nessafrance

We moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I'm fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs. I also write historical novels and short stories.
This entry was posted in French life, Places and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Operation Village Market

  1. Great that you were able to visit your local market – the traders need our support badly!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. MELewis says:

    Sadly we have no market near us that is deemed ‘essential’. But we do have an organic farm a 15-minute drive away with a storefront. They also take your order over the phone or email and have it ready so you can minimize your exposure in the shop, which I really appreciate. And the produce, while limited to seasonal veg and fruit, is so far beyond anything else in terms of freshness and flavour, it is well worth the stop. Enjoy your local market — it certainly sounds like an essential link to your community as well as a lovely place to shop.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      We are fortunate that they have re-opened our village markets – both of them. There are also organic farm shops that will deliver, although I don’t know of any that would come as far as us. I am discovering Leclerc Drive, which is a way of avoiding the store itself and thus cutting down on the risk of infecting or being infected. Stay safe.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It reminds of my forays to shop for ‘essentials’. Turning away as someone passes on the pavement, my scarf bunched over my face. Leaving the shopping untouched for as long as possible before wiping everything with diluted bleach, stripping off my clothes and sticking them in the washing machine, spraying my shoes….the Lot has been barely touched so far but it can only be a matter of time. Thank goodness for good weather, a large garden and a lot of books. This spring has been the most closely photographically documented ever! Thank you for your posts. The internet may bring scary news but, more importantly, it keeps vital contact with family and friends.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      I do wonder if we’ll all suffer from agoraphobia once this finally ends. Or maybe it will be the opposite, and we’ll hug complete strangers in the street. The latter probably not a good idea for some time to come. I don’t know if my precautions make a big difference, but at least I feel I’m doing something against it.

      Confinement has the effect of making one more observant, looking more closely at the small things. And, as you say, the internet is so important for keeping in touch. Mind you, it can also be a depressing place to be, so it’s best taken in moderation. My visits to Facebook are sparing at the moment! Bon courage.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Osyth says:

    Nessa, your writing literally transports me to the market. The feeling that you are being parachuted into enemy territory, the respect shown and the restraint and the difficulty for French people to refrain from les bises, so ingrained from infancy. The stall holders, the masks, the spirit of dogged determination to get through this to the other side. Not the market. This crisis. This un-natural way of being. I am reminded that it is almost Easter. I remember the people in our village in the north of the Cantal who hugged when the bells rang out. Who joyfully embraced. Easter will be muted. But the bells. I do hope the bells will still ring. Courage la France. Courage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      It is a very unnatural way of life, and I could sense the frustration beneath people’s resigned acceptance of it last week. Easter will certainly be different this year, since there will be no church services. Like you, I hope the bells will ring. There are signs that the rate of increase in infection in France may be starting to slow, but that’s just the moment to redouble vigilance and not to slacken. Hard though it is. Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Osyth says:

        Absolutely, this is not the time to relax. I am heartened that the rate of increase in numbers of cases may be slowing. But I certainly hope everyone will take that as a sign that more of the same, probably much more, is required.

        Liked by 1 person

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