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Saturday, 14 February 2009

A true Caff in the Cattle Market

A veritable frisson of excitement seeped through me as I gently pushed open the door to this greasy spoon caff at the Cattle Market, Nottingham. The seasoned portal jangled open and an eye-watering scene of gingham and red and white smacked me in the face. My mate Stephen Wright street photographer extraorinarious, had insisted through the Nottingham flickr group that I must visit this establishment as part of my blog quest. I love these sorts of places as they are like going back in time and often full of real characters. They somewhat remind me of my own working class childhood which was in the 1960s and I am always gleefully surprised that such places still really exist.

The owner was a large, craggy, red-faced bloke in a checked, cowboy style short- sleeved shirt. Perhaps he was once an extra from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
He turned out to be a real character in his own right. He seemed insistent that each customer tried on a tatty top hat with a long wig attached and went round the assembled crowd, plonking this hat on the adults and kids heads and applauding. There was also some ‘fists up’ conversation about old-time boxers with a family seated up by the kitchen area. A life-size cut out of a young Clint Eastwood was propped against their industrial size fridge in their kitchen. Did Clint envisage such tackiness in his early career? Who knows. Anyway- next paragraph please.
After ordering my bacon cob (ticket number 201) and hot mug of tea I disappeared into a corner seat to observe and take a few quick photos. I wasn’t overly keen to try on the hat and wig really and hid my camera when he came in my direction. I think he recognised in me a, stranger to these ‘ere parts, and just nodded an ‘alright?’ type of nod at me. I’m sure he looked to see if my horse was tethered safely outside or subtly checked to see if I was sporting my Colt 45. I hardly dared make any written notes, he was so full on. Pleasantly so.

I wondered if his wife still listened to his routine or if she had tuned out many years ago. “Oh Derek, yes he goes on, bless ‘im. That stuff with the hat and wig. Wished I’d never suggested the bloody thing as a decorative artefact. Oh well, maybe Colin Firth will drop by one day and whisk me away from all this. I’ve got a degree, you know!”

The Castle Market Caff was a popular place today with families coming in from the cold. The short while I was there (about fifteen minutes) their customers seemed to be going for the snacks like egg sandwiches and bacon cobs, like me. It was that kind of day for eating something warm and familiar to last until you got home from your exploring around the Cattle Market bargains. There was a single woman sitting spread-eagled close by me who looked like her eyelids had melted on her cheeks and to whom the years had been less than kind. I’m sure that I spotted her later on carrying home a variety of framed mirrors under her arm and several bags of out-of-date cat food.

The café walls were festooned with peeling film star and music star images; predominantly Marilyn Monroe and Elvis and behind me were a few images of Audrey Hepburn in her heyday. Betty Boop was having fun on the window frame at the side of me on the window with an over-large spoonful of something liquid and yellow that was dripping towards the floor. Mustard, or something more toxic perhaps?

The Caff sign (above) , constructed several decades ago in curly paper letters and semi-supported by blobs of blu-tac was well past its best in terms of advertising a quality enterprise.

While I was there I had a visit to the army surplus shack and the outside markets – butchers, vegetables, assorted tinned and bottled items, car boot type rubbish and household goods. If I was as brave as Stephen I would have been thrilled to be able to shove my wide angle camera lens in the faces of all the salt-of-the-earth type characters that were about today – and a few that even he would balk at photographing – like the man with kill and hate tattooed on each eyelid and another who had a cornucopia of earrings festooning each ear and nostril. Festooning. I love that word! All connected with the origins of festa and festalis – celebrating and feasts etc.

Thanks Stephen, I had a feast of a visit.

PS: Stephen Wright is a fantastic street photographer and was recently featured in Left Lion, a Nottingham based journal for the arts and creative under belly of Nottingham. Well done mate and also for being Photographer of the year in a nationwide competition!


zab said...

Wonderful article Phil, very entertaining.

feasting-on-pixels (terrie) said...

This seems to have been a very cool place, Phil...filled with local color.
It was also very fun to read this.
The interior seems very warm and welcoming and alot of fun.
Merci for taking us along on your travels from cafe to cafe in Nottinghams...
I see a book deal in your future...!

I am not much into this "holiday" this
year, but bon st-valentin, mon ami...
Ton amie.

Phil Lowe said...

Thanks zab, glad that you liked it.

Ah Terrie, a book deal would be great. I am doing this to hone my skills as an observer of people and making something entertaining and humourous from it. Writing fulltime(paid) would be a dream come true for me. :0)