In the humid labyrinth of aisles, back corners and shelves, I yearned for that special piece to present itself. To call to me, to beckon escape from this musty, neighbourhood market. We were on a writing assignment to find something elusive or inspiring to write about in this potpurri of, well… everything.
I passed the welcoming display; a hodgepodge of wispy brooms, sponges and spades, of dust pans in yellow, pink and blue. I noted tickly feather dusters, hoses, and hanging baby seats… wicker tightly bound. They perch precariously on many family ‘vehicles’, the ubiquitous scooter.
There were knives, rakes, tape measures and plastic prayer alters. Rainbows of stacked carpets, bento boxes, scales… and pots and woks and saucepans. Of vases, washtubs, fans both new and defunct… and rows and rows of glasses waiting for champagne and beer, dejected and dusty. Past plungers, packs of straws and Chinese waving cats for prosperity… for luck.
Still, nothing spotted that spoke of a keepsake from this writer’s retreat, from a nation once known as Siam. A country of lush bamboo, tall palms, temples and tuk-tuks. I wished for a mommento – the fragrant garlands and orchids don’t last.
The humidity climbed, fellow writers melted as we shared my small woven fan when we converged somewhere between the plastic stools and ironing boards. Could they not plug one of these fans in, we despaired as we eyed the myriad of oscillating cooling devices. Is the time almost up, can we escape soon?
No there was more. In the corners lurked hula hoops, parasols and porcelain of fake delft blue. The tool section stacked with clunky hammers, chisels, trowels and wrenches. They competed with dull saws, plugs and keys… and long, dark, rusty nails. My father would love poking around these crammed shelves, examining pipe widths and plyers; a handyman’s trove of treasures.
My mother would peruse the rice steamers, the Thai cushions and then announce she’d buy a cooking utensil. Something to ladle with, to stir with… to playfully chase those naughty grandchildren with.
Mercifully our time had elapsed and I manoeuvred through the tight aisles out to the welcoming sunshine, defeat admitted as I dabbed my drenched brow and neck.
And then I spotted it, dangling from under a vendor’s umbrella. He was parked there, just on the left, selling delicacies of fish, skewered meat and sauces in tiny, steaming pouches. Offering rice in banana leaf parcels, a toothpick to close.
The object was forlorn and worn. Small and intricate, stitchings of green and orange. It wanted to join my collection of gleaned treasures from far away lands and adventures, from gifts received.
Only fifty baht was taken with a genuine smile, with a Kob Kun Kaaaa. I tucked it quietly away and made my way back to the writing group, a sly grin embracing my face. I’d found it. My small, delicate rice vessel speaks of days gone past, of workmanship under thatched roofs, of Thailand.
Each day is unique at a writer’s retreat and on this day, after the market and writing session, we left the resort for a working lunch in a restaurant on the sea. It was a gloomy afternoon, ideal for sharing our ‘market writings’ as we dined on grilled shrimp, spicy calamari and icy Chang beer. Unique interpretations of our assignment; some mysterious, many funny, a few suspended reality and suddenly we were transported through a secret portal to an alien ‘space’. Yet another was deep with metaphors, sad and brooding, like the stormy weather that was closing in on us. Words enchanted and rolled around us… just like the melancholy waves rolling towards us. Beguiling and inspiring, just as the day we were having.