The first themed market of the year is here. It's 6.40 am on a fresh, dimly lit Sunday morning in the Creuse and my alarm has just gone off, time to get to work.
The St Cochon festival is a celebration of the humble pig, and across the country events take place at different times of the year, there is no specific date. Each festival is different, for example in Mazirat, Allier where they celebrate for two days in March - the event features a pig race, a demonstration on how to butcher a pig, lots of pork products, traditional bands and a concert which lasts into the early hours of the second day, and many other attractions, although to our great disappointment, no pulled pork!
At 7am after making Saffron's morning milk (as quietly as possible so as not to wake the sleeping beauty) I sit and drink my coffee, listening to an array of songbirds as daylight begins to break over the village. Albeit an overcast day but at least the forecast for fog has not been made good on. I prepare myself for the morning ahead, making sure I have packed the last minute additions - going through the checklist in my mind.
I say a hushed goodbye to my husband before setting off for the short drive to Jarnages, 5km from Cressat to start the day, wondering if the market place will already be filled with stallholders? or if I will find the place deserted? and will there be any live pigs?
Shortly after 7.30 am I arrive in Jarnages market place and ask the placier which space I can have today. The majority of stallholders have already arrived, those that have already set up their stands help the others who still have lots to do.
My space is next to the main marquee and opposite the plant seller. There is a vacant space where I usually have my stall and I wonder who will arrive to take it as I begin to assemble the gazebo and unpack my wares.
By 8.30 am my stall is ready and I pause to take a few photos and confirm there are no live pigs at the market today. A friendly face arrives in the market place - our friend James is out and about putting up posters and handing out leaflets to advertise his and his partners venture - a newly opened tea room on the outskirts of Jarnages.
Before I know it it's 10 am and the market place is beginning to buzz with customers, the radio is being broadcast over the speakers throughout the village and all the stall holders are anticipating a good morning whilst speculating on the chance of rain as grey clouds gather in sky above us. Thankfully we are only met with a few spots of rain.
At 10.30 the star attraction arrives and parks in the vacant space opposite me, La Ferme des Trois P'tits Cochon (fresh pork products) and a queue starts to form as he sets up the stall. Before long the queue is at least 30 people long with a wait of at least 20 minutes to be served, and all the while clients wait patiently in line, greeting friends with the obligatory kisses to each cheek and chatting to the next person in line. By noon or midi everyone has been served and the queue has almost completely disappeared leaving just a couple of late comers to be served.
As the morning progressed I met some more friendly Brits, some I knew and some I met for the first time today. It always feels good to meet other expats from the local area and I love to surprise British visitors to the market when they browse the stall and watch their faces as they are met with a very English "hello", or "good morning". I also get to meet some interesting locals too, today I met a photographer who was browsing my greetings cards and explained he produces post cards from his photo's and how he aims to produce something a bit different from the traditional post cards stocked in the shops.
Another photographer stopped by the stall, he was taking pictures for future publicity material for the market (which is aiming to have a facelift by the end of the year, but I'll tell you about that in another post). He liked my knitted pigs and stopping to take a few shots, mentioned he might use one in the marketing material for next years St Cochon market.
You can always tell when lunchtime approaches on the market; the number of people has suddenly reduced, only a few stragglers remain and the stall holders start to pack up and slowly leave. I too begin the task of packing away my stock, folding up the tables and cloths and packing it all into the car, before saying my goodbyes to the regular stall holders and exchanging more kisses on each cheek.
It takes only minutes to drive home and I am greeted by my husband Phil and Saffron with a big hug and become Mummy and wife again.