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You’ve got to go to Swansea Market.

I’ve often used the phrase,

‘a prophet is without honour in his own country’

when thinking about how we can overlook great people doing amazing things in our communities. 

This past week has got me thinking that its not just people we don’t really honour, it’s often

‘a country is without honour in its own country!!!’

Last weekend ‘Ironman 70.3’ came to Swansea.  Now if I’m honest I was a little put out by some of the road closures when I tried to get to the Swansea.com stadium for the opening game of the season last Saturday. But boy, looking at all the pictures of the International Event that went worldwide, didn’t our Bay look amazing. 

One of the things I missed when I lived in Cambridge or London or Cardiff was seeing the sea every day. That was one of the reasons I decided to return and make my life here.  I feel a day without seeing the water is a day wasted, but sometimes you need a reminder of how blessed the people of this ‘Ugly Lovely Town’ really are and the pictures from last weekend certainly did that for me.

Of course the sun makes all the difference.  Driving west along the Mumbles Road these past few weeks makes me think more California than Cymru.  Every night this week Langland Bay has felt like Ibiza or Marbella with the water full of paddle boarders and swimmers and DJ’s providing the soundtrack to all those cooking burgers on their barbeques.

Much of this joy is weather related and whilst the sun continues to shine I will bask in its glory and celebrate this beautiful part of the world.  Something else this week has made me realise we have a jewel in town and maybe we just don’t quite realise how special it is…and the good news is its available come rain or shine.

Welsh Cakes from Jan Evans Bakery

With the music I have been lucky to travel the world from Korea to Mississippi.  In all great cities the Market can be the beating heart and tell you so much about a culture and people. Often it’s food.  In Washington I went to the Fish Market, the same in Sydney Australia.  In Milan its salami and meats. When I went on tour to Hong Kong with Max Boyce the local promoter organised for all of us to go to Aberdeen Market where we bought lots of designer goods, all at surprisingly reasonable prices!

Plenty of fish on offer at Swansea Market

Some of these markets were more corporate than others but the really special thing about all of them compared to a local Mall was that it seemed to be run and serviced by local people.  People who owned their stalls and knew everything about their produce.  They could tell you where things had come from and they could also point you in the right direction if they didn’t have quite what you needed.

And the thing is…we have the very same thing in Swansea.

Every Saturday of my childhood my mother and grandmother would go to town on the bus together. They would visit ‘Lewis Lewis’ on Swansea High Street, maybe pop into the Milk Maid for Scrambled Eggs with Cheese for lunch.  They would possibly buy a hat in C&A on the Kingsway, maybe buy me a new record from Boots on Oxford Street, but always without fail they would wander around Swansea Market. 

Like every town the market has been a focal point for Swansea for hundreds of years. An early market was located near the castle.  The site of the current Market in Oxford Street dates back to 1830 when it had a wall and no roof.  That was replaced by a roofed market in 1897 which was destroyed by the Blitz in 1941.  Even though the roof was blown off that didn’t stop the market continuing in the open air for many years before the Market as we see it today was opened in 1961.

If you need a walking stick…the Market is the Place to go!

The reason my mum and grandmother would go to the market every week was that they knew everyone there.  They would bump into friends as they wandered around the stalls and you could get literally anything there from Laverbread and cockles, to Birthday Cards while you waited to have a dress altered.

Over recent years the market has had to cope with stiff competition from developments like the Quadrant Centre with its big name Department Stores or the new ‘Out of Town’ shopping experiences with their easy parking.  But Swansea Market stills stands strong and I think it is time for us to celebrate its uniqueness.

Fresh fruit and Veg

I have to say that none of this is down to me, I needed someone to lead me back to Oxford Street.  My daughter has been living away for Swansea for the best part of 10 years.  It was Covid and the Lockdown that brought her back from London and a new baby that kept her here. 

Now where can I get a Guards Uniform in Swansea?

This is a woman who spent her Gap year travelling all around the world.  She has lived in Milan and Utrecht.  She knows a thing or two about searching out the heart of a new town or city.

Just something to keep us going as we shop…

It was a little while ago that she decided she would like to visit Swansea Market.  What could have been a one off trip with her mother has now turned into a weekly pilgrimage. Every week she would bring me Swansea Pies, or Welsh Cakes or Fresh fish or thinly sliced boiled ham. 

And every week she would bring me back stories.  Old school friends she had bumped into.  Tales of exotic tastes from Thailand or Japan that stood quite happily alongside a full Welsh Breakfast with a mug of sweet tea or a bap which tasted of Sunday Roast.

This week I went as well.  We started with the latest Market update and an amazing coffee from Ian Curtis in ‘Storm in a Teacup’ before wandering for a bit to get our bearings.  As I sat waiting for my ironically ‘small breakfast’ I bumped into Cathy Ace the crime writer from Manselton. I went to school with Cathy. She was back for a holiday from her new home in Canada.  Of course she always visits the Market when she’s home she told me, there’s nowhere in the world quite like it.

Great coffee and a market update form Ian Curtis -Storm in a Teacup

When my small breakfast arrived I doubted whether I’d be able to finish it and that wasn’t helped by the fact I kept on seeing people I knew who all wanted to talk about the Swans.

Just a ‘Small Breakfast’ for me please!

After that we ‘traipsed’ around a bit more.  I even bumped into the man carrying a hawk which they used to scare off the seagulls.

Nothing to see here…just a man carrying a hawk to scare away the seagulls.

There’s an old phrase ‘Use it or lose it’.  One sad note from my visit was that the electrical stall ‘Tom Whitehouse’ had the shutters pulled, a stall that had been there since the 1940’s and had everything you needed including advice. You won’t get that service online.

Mal…did you see the Swans last week…?

Swansea Market is special and has served the people of Swansea for generations.  Let’s make sure its still standing for generations to come.

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