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Posts Tagged ‘shopping’

Not bad for 40 bucks

Like small, but hardy, Panzers they are; coming at you from all directions like the Blitzkrieg gone awry, one hand stretching out in front like a gun turret hoping to grab the last two bags of apples for a dollar, the other pulling an overstuffed tartan trolley that’s guaranteed to send you careering out of their path if the overcoated low-slung ballast of their stocky bodies hasn’t already.

And all the while, as these grandmothers drawn from across Southern and Eastern Europe scramble for the best of the bargains, your ears are assailed by an array of voices.

EVERYTHING JUST ONE DOLLAR NOW. JUST ONE DOLLAR. COME ON. PUMPKIN, CAPSICUMS, CAULIFLOWER. ALL ONE DOLLAR. COME ON, SIR. MADAM.”

It’s a relentless barrage of noise, from 3pm onwards at the South Melbourne Market every Sunday, in accents from the broadest of Aussie to various Aussie inflections of Turkish, Greek, Chinese and Iraqi. Hawkers desperate to shift their wares before they close up for three days drop their prices every lower and throw ever more near-rotten fruit and veg into ever bigger containers.

Fruity fruit

“COME ON. LIKE ME, EVERYTHING’S FRESH, CHEAP, TOP QUALITY AND… I WAS GOING TO SAY HORNY.  SORRY. THE FRUIT’S NOT HORNY, BUT IT IS CHEAP! SO COME ON. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?”

Bruce and Fran love it. Even if it means dragging a post-Saturday night hangover with them, it’s a mini-adventure and competition rolled into one. And in a country where a lack of competition means supermarket prices are far higher than in the UK it’s a bonus to be able to pick up a week’s worth of fresh(ish) fruit, veg and herbs, a few Marlin or swordfish steaks, a pound of mince and freshly ground coffee beans for less than $50.

If nothing else, it appeals to Bruce’s Scottish nature, leading to lengthy emails to be passed on to his grandfather (the epitome of the Scottish bargain hunter), much to Fran’s mirth.

The Victoria Market late in the day offers the same opportunities and we’ve heard good things about Prahran too. So, if you haven’t entered the Gladiator-like world of Melbourne’s indoor markets at closing time, climb into your Atlas ball and give it a whirl; just watch out for those grannies – they take no prisoners.

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I did apologise to the newsagent for paying for my $2.20 Age with a fifty, but I’d just been to a twenty-less ATM so what could I do? He said it was no problem and handed me the change.

 

I’d also noticed the elderly man sat silently to his right behind the counter. He was a mean looking little bugger: a mess of grey hair sprouting wildly from either side of his cap, crabby, wrinkled eyes squinting out from dirty specs, his mouth obscured by a thick, dark moustache. I thought perhaps it was a spot of care in the community; bringing an old miser out of his four walls for a taste of life, however mundane.

 

“You can’t give him change for a fifty!” Suddenly he snapped into life. The newsagent, who I can only assume was his son, jumped as if someone had let off a firecracker behind him. “Give him his money back and take the paper off him.”

 

Speechless, the newsagent looked forlornly at the old man.

 

“Give him his money and take the paper back off him,” he said, the sniping continuing despite the weary pleading in his son’s eyes. “We’ve got the weekend ahead of us so you can’t be changing fifties. And it’s the grand prix.”

 

Obeying his father, the younger man sheepishly asked for the change back and handed back my $50. In a city where newcomers are struck by the friendliness of the locals, it seems a strange way to conduct business. At least the scabrous old git makes choosing which local newsagent to use that little bit easier.

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