A Day in The Life of Sheffield’s Castle Market.

July 9, 2014 9:29 am

Sheffield's Castle MarketTwo steaming coffees are served in white, chipped mugs. The owner of the coffee shop seems less bothered about the mugs than the recipient. “Ya all ‘raight love?” the owner asks the woman in a thick Sheffield accent. She nods a response and asks if she can get anything hot for her husband to eat. He sits nearby in his wheelchair, half his face is poorly shaved the rest sparse with day’s growth of grey beard. His alert, angry eyes scan the bare café. No one else is present. It’s almost closing time. His wife loses her appeal for a hot meal and takes a seat opposite her husband. They both sit in sullen silence and drink their milky coffees.

The chef, dressed casually in a T-shirt and tracksuit pants, could pass for any number of things. A painter, a plumber or a mechanic. His short, mousy brown hair is matted to his forehead and his big brown eyes look half asleep. It’s almost 4pm on a Saturday afternoon. Castle Market is due to close in an hour but he’s thinking only of getting back home, to see his wife and more importantly his sick baby girl.

Castle Markets sits on the bottom of a gentle slope next to outdoor stalls and discount stores. Once the site of a castle where a Queen was held in captivity, it’s now a haven for bargain hunters. Cheap DVD’s and all manner of foods and products can be acquired here. Outside its northern entrance a makeshift table sits opposite a port-a-cabby selling cigarettes and the local daily. Draped across the slanted table a beige cloth rests with the words ‘Socialist Party’ written in red and black. A rough and ragged band of members stand casually by and smoke, offering every third person a copy of their publication – The Socialist Worker. Few show any interest.

Sheffield's Castle MarketMost shoppers tend to slowly trudge their way through the maze of stalls and cafes. Once inside the market, the din and clatter of trade erupts. Bakers and butchers and fish mongers are all settled next to each other and competing for the trade of locals and new comers to the market. Few seem fussed at who buys and who slips by. There’s an eerie sense of order, as if every merchant has loyal customers and doesn’t need to shout and barter with shoppers so the atmosphere inside is genial.

The chef doesn’t notice the other shoppers passing by his café. He wipes down the tables and mismatched chairs. His eyes have grown more alert. It’s close to 5pm. He turns off the lights and makes his way from the basement to the ground floor. He nods to another proprietor but keeps a steady pace toward the exit. Just behind him the husband and wife duo are quietly arguing with a butcher over the size of a cut of beef. He relents and adds more meat to their bag. They exchange pleasantries and leave. It’s 5pm now and castle market is closed for business.

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