Monday, 13 June 2011

Markets (of the flea variety)

Markets are fascinating places. A market is any one of a variety of systems, institutions, procedures, social relations and infrastructures whereby parties engage in exchange. So, given this definition, we can conclude that markets have been around since human interaction began, or at least since the benefit of mutual exchange was realised. Of course, there are numerous kinds of market, but I am quite fond of what I guess we describe as the flea variety. I love to wander around aimlessly - rarely buying things it has to be said - people watching and admiring the skill, with which many of the arts and crafts have been produced, and at the many ways in which people try to make a few bob.

I recently visited Panjiayuan in Beijing. It struck me how similar flea markets appear to be in all of the major cities where I have come across them. There are numbers of interesting characters in all of them; either working, or just simply hanging out. This lady was doing a bit of touch up work, whilst people ambled past her. What the picture doesn't show is how hot it was in there. It was 36C outside, and although in the shade, it was sweltering inside too.

When I look at this picture I think you could probably move her stall next to that of this man's in New York:

The conditions, however, couldn't be more different - not least in terms of weather and climate. In NYC it was around -8C on a January morning. The market was near Central Par just down from Dakota Buildings. Although some of the lucky few got inside pitches, much of it was outside in the elements. It was beautiful and sunny outside though, despite the snow on the ground and the below freezing temperatures.

I have tended to find similar goods on sale in most of the markets I have visited. For example, it's suprising how many of the old Soviet Zenit cameras I have come across. Anyway, below is a collection of the offerings I have most recently found. Looking at them I even wonder if people would be able to point to which country I found them in?

Finally, with all of the markets I've been to, I love the subsidiary action that takes place in their surrounding areas. Food, music and generally a good vibe tend to fill the streets. Long live the markets, wherever you are!

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