I just love Cambridge Market – even on a chilly November day, it’s full of wonderful stalls selling practically everything. Yesterday, we ( three of us) I decided to treat ourselves to a day in Cambridge. We met at 10 am at the statue of Sir Nigel Gresley (famous steam locomotive engineer) by the ticket office at King’s Cross station. I was waiting by the statue, when a man came up and gently patted Sir Nigel’s arm before bending down to explain something to the small boy with him, and gesturing towards Sir Nigel. Obviously a train buff. I understood how he felt. I love steam engines myself and, as a child, I used to wave at Sir Nigel’s elegant trains as they flew past, smoke streaming from their funnels. I usually got a ‘toot’ from the engine driver.
Sir Nigel Gresley (1876-1941) by the King’s Cross ticket office
For me, seeing the statue of Sir Nigel Gresley brings back childhood memories of going somewhere exciting on a train.
My friends arrived and we headed off for platform 9: the fast train to Cambridge took only 45 minutes. On arrival, we headed straight for the Fitzwilliam Museum, first for an essential cup of coffee and then to see the Dégas: a Passion for Perfection exhibition – terrific – before heading to Market Square for lunch and a look round the market. There are take-away food stalls a-plenty: Vietnamese, Indian, burgers, you name it, they are there. But we needed to sit down (culture can be tough on the feet), so we found an Italian restaurant and had a pizza.
We didn’t have long at the market, alas. Winter days are short; it would be getting dark in a couple of hours and we had to walk back to the station. So we had to visit our favourite stalls fast. A market has been here since the middle ages and it is open seven days a week, from 10am-4pm. I got out my camera.
At one corner of the market there was a plant stall selling cheerful pink cyclamen and pots of lavender, with cut flowers in pails of water round the side. A Japanese couple were discussing which pot of rosemary to choose.
Nearby was a scarf stall with a whole rack of colourful scarves. As you can see, none of them are very expensive; I’ve bought scarves myself here before and they are excellent value; I have gradually acquired four different coloured silk scarves (crimson, white, silver-grey and royal blue) from this stall. You can wash them in the washing-machine and all they need is a light iron. The only problem is one of choice.
Glenysself Cambridge stall
The Glenysself hand-made stall has been here a while, too. She specializes in silver, glass and semi-precious stone necklaces, earrings and bracelets and she sits at the back of the stall, small tweezers to hand, making her beautiful jewellery. You get something unique here for no two pieces will be exactly the same.
Fruit and veg stall
But this is a market for ordinary food, too. The fruit and veg stall I passed is large and occupies several stall spaces. I photographed it from the apple and pear end, but there is a large box of broccoli on the right, and salad vegetables on the shelves at the back.
This is a stall I haven’t seen before, selling hand-made hats and blankets. (The last time I was in Cambridge was in May 2016, which may account for it). I love the vivid colours – just right to cheer you up on a cold winters’ day; and, as they are hand-made, you won’t meet anyone else wearing the same hat.
Pearls of Polish Craft stall
Also new to me is the Pearls of Polish Craft stall. I really liked the unusual balsa wood Christmas tree decorations with stars, reindeer, Christmas trees and various Polish folk designs. They are in the natural wood but you could, I imagine, paint them different colours, or add a little glue and sprinkle them with glitter, if you wanted.
Emerald Foods stall
The Emerald Foods stall looked wonderfully Christmassy with the shiny glacé fruits: apricots, pineapple, orange and French angelica. Behind were shelves holding dozens of jars containing all sorts of nuts and spices. This is just the right place for a deliciously, finger-licking sticky Christmas treat.
Paul Neeve’s books
Last, but certainly not least, were Paul Neeve’s books, stretching over several stalls. We all zoomed in like homing pigeons. There are always eager customers here – this is Cambridge, after all, home of the world-famous university. And the books are special, too. There are hardbacks and out of print books here you would struggle to find anywhere else. OK, you might get your obscure Arnold Bennett novel on-line, but you couldn’t browse through it first.
Paul’s stall is open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
More Paul Neeve’s books
It was time to go. The light was beginning to fade, a chill wind had got up and we had about half and hour’s walk back to the station. I am more than half inclined to go back to Cambridge before Christmas and have a longer wander round the market – this time with my Christmas present list to hand.
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