Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Species of the Wholesale Market: a Zoology

Listed according to the pecking order, top to bottom:

* The rubbish trucks - huge beasts, real mammoths. They rule the market. Roaming the three main avenues, they suddenly charge at the one big skips, lift it up in the air, and swsallow its contents whole. It has a huge belly, and anything that goes into it is gone forever (to a landfill). After devouring the waste, they put the empty dumpster back on the ground , make a roaring belch, and move on. Don't mess with these creatures: they're dangerous when they're angry.

* New Covent Garden Market Authority people - these creatures drive in white vans with their genus printed on it. They are harmeless most of the time, but every once in a while become aggressive and territorial; they hunt the skippers (see below) and the Chinese ladies (ditto) and throw them out of the market. Observations so far (three years of field research) have not established a pattern in this behaviour, and it might be connected to the Thames tide and the position of the constellations. In their aggresive mode, they usually wear their security captain hats.

* Delivery vans - coming in, going out, always driving very fast. Mostly herbivores.

* Fork lifts - they drive around warehouses and the skips frantically, moving palletes, boxes of fruit and veg, and various rubbish. These species make a beeping noise when they reverse; their behaviour is erratic and they can be dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists, since they move so quickly.

* Market workers - from the suit-and-tie office people, through the warehouses workers, to the cleaners. Most of the time they ignore the people who skip in the market. Some are nice, and offer you good stuff that they're about to throw. Others can be mean, esp. to the Chinese ladies (see below). Other times they ask you: why are you coming here to take food from the rubbish? why don't you get a job?

* Skippers (latin name, Dumpsterus Diverus) - mostly scruffy looking squatters, punks and minks, who move around the market with bicycles, and collect wasted fruit and veg into their red bellies on their bikes (aka panniers). They do not operate in packs - usually come as one or two - but they seem to belong to some bigger clans, as they usually exchange information about good locations of food (similar behavoiur has been observed in bees).

* Chinese Ladies - they come on foot in groups of 2-4 to collect the wasted fruit and veg from the floor and around the skips, and they can be seen in the market most of the day. They are sometimes abused by the other animals (see market workers, Authority people), possibly on racist ground.

[p.s: I thought of making this into a computer game: the player would be a skipper, the aim being to collect as much food as possible before it is gone. More points for exotic fruit and veg (they travel longer to get to the market). A complicated algorithm would imitate the erratic and random behaviour of all the elements of the market (nice/nasty, lots of food/no food, etc).]

* * *

Today at the market, in season:
Christmas Trees!
Frozen Lobsters, Canada (no i didn't take any)
Passion fruits, Egypt
Figs, Israel
Melon, Brazil
Spinach, France
Cherry tomatoes, Belgium
Bananas, Domincan Republic
Green Peppers, Spain
Clemetines, Turkey
Green Beans, Maroco

1 comment:

mink said...

S told me off for originally putting the punks and minks below the Chinese ladies. 'you just love to think of yourself as bottom of the list'. S was right, of course. We're on bikes, we can carry more, and we get less shit from the cleaners/security. I changed the order now.

Today I had an encounter with the Chinese ladies in the market. They asked me (in chinese with hand gestures) to pull some stuff out of the skip for them - a box of chinese cabbage and and pok choi (me being tall, they being rather short). Then they snatched it all very quickly; there was almost none left for me.
They're not really into the skipping camaraderie.