Did I really need to buy 3 handbags last weekend? Oh dear…
Africa Expat Stereotype – The Craft Market.
Tana has booked a stand at this year’s craft market but is already on non-speakers with organiser Beth, after the latter refused to give Tana a discount on the astronomical price of hiring tent space for the weekend. This news was particularly galling since they are friends who go to the same book club together. However, Beth is unbending.
“Business is business and there are many others who will take the tent if you don’t. Kate from Safari Stuff and Geoff at Canvas Essentials have both been begging for space for months. As it is, they’ll probably have to be squeezed in next to the port-a-loos again and they are not going to be happy.” Beth says with authority, tapping her clipboard as Tana rolls her eyes.
Tana has put together an eclectic ‘safari luxe’ collection that includes wrought iron loo-roll holders decorated with welded-on flowers, skirts made of local African kanga fabric, various bead necklaces slung over white washed wooden candle sticks. Most prices start at around the 10,000 Kenya shillings mark (£80) but she might bump everything up once she’s sent a spy into Sarah’s tent next door. Most of Sarah’s home furnishings are made by the exact same ‘side-of-the-road’ fundis (craftsman) that Tana uses. In fact she’s sure that Sarah has copied her candlestick design. Competition for custom is high and Tana has pinned her hopes on this fair financing her ski holiday next year.
Once the fair is in full swing, Beth’s mobile rings. She’s summoned by her security team to the entrance gate. A stallholder complains that her money-belt has been stolen, another customer has lost his phone and as Beth tries to get to the bottom of the problem, she’s interrupted by a older lady wearing a floral smock and Jesus sandals,
“Are you the organiser of all this?” The lady waves her hand across a sea of upmarket tents in a picturesque garden setting, face flushed under a straw hat, “This whole place is far too expensive and not worth the extortionate entrance fee. I hope that some of your profits are going to charity? If not, it’s a disgrace.”
Beth swivels away from the retiree, then attempts to firefight the other crises, by going on the offensive.
“Well, were you hanging on to the bag or had you put it down?” Beth asks, a tad accusingly.
The aggrieved stallholder leaves muttering something about the police. The other chap finds his phone has dropped to the bottom of his shopping bag. Beth notices that he’s had a few and decides she too needs a drink.
Back at Tana’s tent and it’s pretty hectic. Mainly due to the high traffic of friends stopping by armed with cappuccinos and Pimms, lounging on safari chairs inside the tent, gossiping endlessly about various shenanigans going on in Kenya Cowboy life. The scene resembles more of a hoedown than an operating business. Potential customers are loathe to break up the party.
“Did you hear that Flip and Pip have split? And old Woolly has lost his ranch?”
Tana is handed a gin and tonic and can’t help getting drawn in. The worst gossips are vendors from ‘up-country’ who make a weekend of the craft fair, slipping away from their own stalls to chat for hours because they basically are starved of company and up-to-date news.
“How much is this?” asks a bold, mealy faced customer holding out a toilet roll holder. Tana is too busy to respond as she’s trying to catch the eye of Siana, a passing, glamorous TV presenter.
“Oh Siana, hi!” Tries Tana, stepping out of her tent hopefully with a wave. But Siana, unhearing, wafts on by amid a group of young bearded male admirers who are decked out in Indian cotton floral shirts, laughing at all her jokes.
The fact is, Tana tends not trouble herself with price tags in her own tent. This is a strategic move in order to lure potential shoppers without having them balk at her high prices. This also gives Tana a certain amount of flexibility with her pricing, although the constant interruption by customers asking how much things are is such a bore. Tana did once organise more help with her stall but getting her brother to help was absolutely hopeless. All he did was take off to get plastered with his mates in the beer tent, then at the end of it all insisted on collecting a commission.
Somehow the day passes and it’s time to go home. Scratchy and exhausted, Tana makes a point of seeking out Beth to tell her that the tent has been like an oven, customer numbers are markedly down and the venue is not nearly as good as last year’s. Beth, still wielding her clipboard, is not in the most accommodating of moods. Earlier in the afternoon, two parking attendants disappeared on a tea break leaving the road to back up with traffic, just as the local police arrive to look into a certain handbag theft. Unraveling that mess took all of Beth’s skills in diplomacy.
By the end of the weekend, Tana has sold most of the kitenge (African print) miniskirts that she has been modelling all weekend (after all, she does have nice legs) but overall sales are not good and the skiing holiday will have to wait. At least the fair wasn’t a wash-out like last year when torrential rain ruined half her stock. Tana cried over the unsold destroyed leather and cowhide beanbags for two days. Fortunately the weather over this weekend stayed relatively dry (apart from one faintly catastrophic downpour); however the atmosphere at book club will definitely remain frosty.
Featured Image: Crafts and Markets
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