Thursday, March 05, 2009

Dakar. The Vegetable Lady

The vegetable lady has gone. I never knew her name, which is an appalling oversight on my part, we simply addressed each other as 'Monsieur' and 'Madame'.

She was a large lady, of advanced years, and was a formidable presence among the vegetable ladies of Boulevard de l'est. Her stall was always the neatest of the eight or so that sit in a shambolic little row, and she always kept the perkiest selection of fresh parsley.

Our relationship developed over a period of several months, beginning furtively with a few pleasantries, the exchange of too much money for poor quality vegetables, cautious stilted Franco-Wolof conversation. Over time her attitude to me softened; realising my repeat custom was worthwhile, the prices dropped, the best stuff started to appear in my bag, along with the occasional "cadeau" of a scotch bonnet, or a lime. I introduced her to my 'wife', and she glowed with matriachal approval. One afternoon, she even delighted me with a brave 'Good Monning Sah'.

But now she is gone. I saw her earlier in the week while on the way home from the bank, sitting stall-less under a vast bou bou by the side of the road. She waved enthusiastically and greeted me with a smile. I waved back and gave her a wink: "Prochaine fois, Madame". But there wasn't going to be a next time.

Her quick replacement, a younger, hard-faced lady, has already started with the old tricks. Fiddling me out of my change. Sneaking in the odd manky onion. The whole process will have to start all over again.

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