On Becoming a Wolf of N W London

5 mn read

This is a small tale; it might be somewhat true and other-what imagined.

Some people may be lightly disguised to protect their privacy and/or sensibilities.

I am, however appearing as my true self.

I’m that line in the rolling credits that mostly people don’t bother watching, where it might read something like: Jon Snow – Himself.

Caroline Bobby – Herself.

I’m having fun.

Enjoying a simple pleasure.

There’s a community market down my street, next to the Farmer’s Market. It comprises of a series of stalls selling nice, sometimes exquisite stuff, that is often but not always overpriced.

There’s a website and everyone’s ‘whatever it is’ has a name, identity and a little bit of blurb to say what’s what.

All except one that is.

Anty’s stall doesn’t have a name, and it’s not on the website.

I don’t even know if it’s Anty, Annty, or it could hilariously be Anti.

Anty’s stall sells all sorts of things. New things. Everything from cosmetics, through jewellery, amazingly diverse ceramics, bags, some clothes, purses, gorgeous notebooks and pads, kitchen stuff, utensils, pots, dishes. I really could keep going and this would become more of an epic list than a story.

There’s a particular face moisturiser that I love.
I love that it’s a staple and constant product that Anty just always has. She sells it for half the recommended retail price, meaning I can afford to use it as my regular face cream.

Over the years of buying cream, and more than occasionally beautiful dishes, bowls, and micro bowls. Who can have too many tiny vessels for tiny things? I also give them to people I love.

Over these years I have had the added pleasure of slowly noticing that Anty is a natural, subversive comic. She has a whole repertoire of non-verbal commentary, that is so understated, I sometimes wonder if she’s fully conscious of the fun she’s having with herself at some level.

You see, Anty’s stall is catnip or cocaine to the Wolves of my little corner of London. She is stormed by mostly a particular demographic. Not entirely. I don’t like to generalise, and besides I’m there too.

It’s the storming that makes my belly laugh.

There is devotion involved. Congregating happens before the market opens its doors, and when they do open there’s an animalistic, somewhat ruthless wave of intent, heading straight for Anty.

She always has two or three young girls on the cusp of becoming young women, along for assistance. I used to wonder if these were daughters, and asked one once. Apparently not. Anty doesn’t seem to be anybody’s mother, at least not in this constellation.

This leads me down a pathway of whimsy. I imagine Anty has a hybrid place of education and these girls and others, are students. It is part Hogwarts, part this-life feminist, part circus school, and a hundred percent ‘one for all, and all for one’.

In other words, I’m dreaming up the community, village, home ground that I needed at that age, and was so far away from. Probably Anty does have kids and these are friends or cousins that need weekend work.

Whatever the real story is, they are a pretty skilful team, as the wolves crowd around, and a bit of snarling, biting and bleeding goes down, they take it with fluidity. Like a rushing river that knows the way.

One day, I get a possible association to her name. She appears wearing a most beautifully weathered sweatshirt, once black, now soft, worn, more charcoal than black. I just know she has lived and loved in this garment over a long  time and wonder how old she was when she acquired it, what the story is.

There are fading, once white words across the front.

They read: I am an Antelope.

I think: did your parents christen you Antelope, and now you’re Anty for short. I quickly notice what a car crash of assumptions are in that line of wondering, but oh how that shirt tickles me, and I feel ridiculously delighted whenever she wears it.

About a year ago Anty’s stall suddenly got significantly smaller.

We’d become lightly chatty by this time, so I asked what was going on.

She reported that she was tired of working so hard and maybe moving in the direction of retirement.

Of course, I’m totally on board with this from my human, empathic part. I talk about the art of resting, pausing, leaning in, putting a weary head down. She tells me she’s not good at any of that, and I tell her it’s a learnable skill.

My more self-serving part is concerned about her face-cream dealer disappearing off the block. I notch up the product purchasing, much less casual now I have learned that Anty is practicing, in theory anyway, the art of resting. Having once been a buy some when I’m there, not worry if it’s all gone by the time I hit the market, sort of shopper, I have now become a wolf. I arrive 10 minutes before the doors to the hall are opened. I lurk, trying to look like I’m not contriving to position myself nearest the door so that when they open I can move briskly, but not actually gallop like a beast after prey.

I’ve located the market manager and got the inside track on which weeks Anty has booked her stall, as she no longer comes every time, which is I’m guessing in sympatico with her working less project.

I’m also noticing that I’m actually stock piling these iconic blue glass jars, and not so free and easy with giving them out to others as little pressies and treats.

Truth be told I want to make sure I’ve got enough to see me out.

As many of you know, I’m not hanging in for getting old past a certain point. But I probably don’t need to worry about running out before I stop breathing, when moisturising my face is no longer a concern.

I really am in already enough land, but I am weird, and can’t quite stop being a wolf, just to make sure. And, actually Anty seems to be upsizing again, which leads me to wonder about her application to the rigours of the art of resting.

I could more than likely soften and settle.

I could step aside a little, go back to the more observational position, but for now there’s a little more juice to be squeezed out of being one of the wolves and never again, even when I’m back in the watching the wolfing going down – will I be able to forget that I went there once.

Like any decent visit to another country, Wolf Country has changed me. We come back from anywhere we have been, just a little bit different. I notice I am less judgmental, now that I have been and still am a tad, one of the wolves. No longer separate, I can see more clearly that though many clearly don’t have an actual need for heavily discounted shopping. What do I really know about fellow humans behind their costumes and artifice?

Because I lurk and I listen, I’ve heard some astonishing things as shoppers approach and retreat from Anty’s vicinity. Once I saw two women, wildly over-dressed and over Botoxed, walk away as purposefully as anyone can in such tight skirts and stilettos. They were laden down with several of Anty’s eclectic selection of reused bags: anything from Aldi to Harrods, and one said to the other: darling woman, that Antigone, she absolutely adores me.

I told Anty about catching this sometime later and she did one of her marvellously understated snorts.

As for me, well my wolf is going one more time, to the last Christmas Market. Then having had a chat with myself about the reality of my stock piled yield, I will hang up my wolf costume and return to wolf watching from the privilege of having been one.

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2 thoughts on

On Becoming a Wolf of N W London

  • lili free

    I loved this piece about your shopping life…I felt like I was right there at the stall with you. Keep writing, it’s wonderful, human stuff. And congratulations on your well-deserved contributors award 🙂 x

  • Sharon

    Caro, I loved this piece. I loved visiting your local market, experiencing it through your eyes, your wonderings, your words. I loved meeting Anty. I recognise both the Wolf and the observer from the inside out. Next time I visit my local market I will be thinking of your piece, and of you xxxx

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