St Albans Market in the chill

Gosh it was chilly in St Albans market this morning. All the stallholders were blue with cold, coriander was virtally frozen solid, clouds of breath from shoppers' mouths. But it was cheerfully dickensian, people stamping their feet, rubbing their hands, and the Abbey Tower peeking over the roofs.

How lucky we are to have the market, and my sense is that it has regained vitality over recent months - in contrast with the shops behind where an empty Woolworths adds to the gloom. Our key objective was vegetables - so much cheaper and more appetising looking than shrink wrapped in a supermarket. We have our favourite stall - which is clearly everyone else's too given the length of the queue waiting patiently to be served. Pleased to see that Peter Trevelyan of the Civic Society shares our opinion! We staggered away with the frozen coriander - but also apples, bananas, seville oranges for marmalade, onions, flat-leaved parsley, celeriac, sprouting tops, multi-coloured peppers etc etc.

No problem getting our five-a-day and all at prices far cheaper than in the big stores. Then fresh sprats and squid from the fish stall and mouth-watering cheese from the Italian cheese stall where before Christmas we had bought simply the best olive oil I have ever tasted. Bread from Simmonds and the thought that I would be proud to take any foreign visitor on a similar culinary odyssey.

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