One of the many upsides of living in a smallish market town is, well, the market. Louth in Lincolnshire has three a week: Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. So on Wednesday, I was mooching through, about not-doing-much-writing business. Once you get to know the market, you know the people and the regular stalls; new arrivals and no-shows are cause for comment.
So, there was some chit-chat about the rumour that a new tea van would be pitching up soon; the lack of a consistent tea van has been an ongoing source of much grumbling since Stan hung up his apron a few years ago. Other talk centred around the lack of development of the market square pub, the Mason's Arms, which has been dark since August Bank Holiday, despite assertions of a refit and a swift reopening.
A few purchases: a loaf of cheese-topped bread, some bacon. No DVDs today from the music and movies stall though. And then a browse over the books. The fella on the book stall does most of his trade in Lee Childs and in Cooksonesque sagas of rosy-cheeked millowners daughters done wrong by the wastrel son of the local landowner, though one end of the stall is given over to historical-related stuff. It's always worth a look. On Wednesday, he had a copy of a 1991 publication called Land, People and Landscape: Essays on the HIstory of the Lincolnshire Region.
It's gold. Articles on the Green Man in rural churches, enclosure systems, abandoned villages, playground skipping rhymes, medieval pottery finds, imports into the region, on pan tiles, 17th century gravestones, Regency wanted posters for the Grimsby area and the like. Naturally, I bought it.
This is part of the thing about having a mind that is attuned to possible sources of inspiration. There's a lifetime's folklore and local story stuff here potentially. And as I'm a 17th-century nerd, articles titled "Rural furnishings of the seventeenth century" are like catnip.
This isn't the kind of book I might have bought online, but having had a chance for a quick outdoor browse, I was hooked. All the "look inside" pages on Amazon in the world, handy though they might be, can't really compare to a riffle through the index on a blustery February morning. Anyway, I went off, purchase in hand, got a coffee and spent the thick end of an hour cooing at the pictures. Here's a few by way of example.
The last one's my favourite, I think. The bed's a roll-out; it fits back under the four-poster. Think of the implications of that. The fella's taken his hat off, either to show some manners, to get in closer, or else to hide trouserly fluctuation, the impetuous fool. On the left-hand side, look close. There's a little face poking out from under the covers.
Plus, you pick up little bits of language. A brandreth, for example, is another word for trivet. Who knew?
Records exist of household good not least because probate inventories from the time record what was in the home at the time of the householder's death; something like a third of householders of the time have extant records, so there's scope to make some generalisations about what folk had. However, small items are generally not recorded, except as "things seen and unseen", "trumpery" or even "lumber".
Lots of good stuff, then. And all from a market stall.