Tuesday, June 26, 2007

It's like love - you never know

All year our fellow traders have been talking excitedly about the summer. “You just wait,” they advised with eager almost salivating eyes. And so come the end of May, caught up in the increasing hysteria about the arrival of the tourists I put in a bumper order from our suppliers. The cave was full, June arrived, and we were ready to make our fortune - well at least enough money to see us through the winter.

Unfortunately the Gods thought otherwise. There are few products as dependant on blue sky as rosé. Give us bright sunshine and the wine shines an almost luminous pink, even tempting euros from the pockets of the Dutch. But under limpid grey skies rosé loses all its appeal. And for the first few weeks of June a Dulux palate of grey is all we got. Then, as if to remind us how lucky we are, the deities sent the mistral for a week. Toying with (as flies to wanton boys) they followed this with the south of France’s first ever twister, which descended on Lourmarin market 10 days ago and sent parasols and small dogs twirling into the sky like Dorothy and Toto from the Wizard of Oz.

So come mid June our sales ledger was far from healthy.

Finally, finally, this Friday, the skies cleared to a vivid blue and everything was set. The rosé bathed luxuriantly in a transparent ice-tub winking at punters like a whore on a street corner. My money belt was full of the change I’d need for the avalanche of cash that was going to come sliding our way. I checked my watch. 10.00am and the market was getting nice and busy. As I uncorked bottle after bottle, a gypsy vendor passed with his wares mounted on an old wheelbarrow. I shook my head. He was trying to make a living with one of the most ridiculous products ever - bird whistles. Long flute like pieces of wood which, so he claimed, could be manipulated to make any sound from the harsh cry of the hawk to the sweet melodies of the nightingale.

Who on earth would buy these things?

Two hours later I'd sold a solitary bottle of wine. Conditions were as perfect for us as seam bowler on the first morning of the Lord’s Test but nothing had happened. And then I noticed it, the market had been transformed into aviary. To my left the song of a parakeet, to my right a lesser spotted tit, there wasn’t a child in Lourmarin who hadn't cajoled his parents into buying a whistle. The gipsy came by again and I offered him a glass of wine.

“Ca marche?” I asked.

“Pas du toute” he said with a grin, looking for signs of the tax man behind the mountain of rosé on our stall.

Later, I was commiserating with another trader who’d had a similarly barren morning. She gave me a consoling hug, and said, “It’s like love,"

I looked quizically at her - "What's like love?"

"The markets - you just never know.”