Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Dear old Acle Sale

Acle is mentioned in the Domesday Book and was granted it's market
charter in 1253 by none other than the Plantagenet King Henry III
himself.  There has been a market here every Thursday, in one form
or another, ever since.
The coming of the railways to East Anglia brought great changes to the
cattle business and the traditional droving way of moving cattle around
eventually died out altogether with an inevitable knock-on effect
upon the market.

Acle - Hermitage Marsh
Cattle thrive on the lush marshes around Acle.  In 1967 over 12,700
animals were brought in for auction but by 1980 their numbers had
dwindled to just 2,400 passing through the yards.  The last cattle sale
was held at Water's Yard in 1982 which finally closed in 1993 leaving
Howlett's to carry on the centuries old market alone.

My daughter Lisa, Nancy the goatlett and me.
I particularly remember the sale yards in the 1970's where, as a young,
single mum, I had a very good time indeed in what was then, still
predominantly "a man's world".  I would take my chickens and rabbits
in for auction and used to come home with cut flowers and plants
to sell on at my garden gate.  I even came back once with a kid goat
but never did buy that champagne ferret I had my eye on.

The market circa 1880
The place used to be full of characters; old Early Bird the poultry trader
who looked like a Methodist revivalist minister in his big black hat
and hobnailed boots without socks or laces; the "burger king", a huge
red-faced farmer/butcher who once chased me around the tea room on
the promise of "enough meat to fill your freezer"; or the piano playing
pensioner who used to knock out a tune on old Joanna's waiting to come
under the hammer while we all sang along and kept out of the rain.
Ah, happy days!

Anything take your fancy?

Since moving back to Norfolk I rarely miss a sale even though so much
has changed.  The fit bloke who sold the flowers is still there but looking
just about as fit as me these days.  He still gives me a good price and a
leary wink though.  Some things never change.  FAITH Animal Rescue
have a very good stall to raise funds for waifs and strays and there's
still plenty of old furniture, household effects and fruit and veg on offer.

Step away from the meat man!

But the real star of the show has to be the meat man.
The meat man hails from Essex unlike his meat whose source is rather
less discernible.  It's worth the visit just for him alone.  He plys his trade
from a huge articulated lorry via loud speakers and his banter can be heard
all over Acle.  He's stand up comedy with knocked down pork chops;
Del Boy Trotter with briskett; a walk on the medium-rare side of life!

Does exactly what it says on the sign.

I'm currently compiling a treasury of meat man quotes amongst which are:
"They're so posh in that village that they get out of the bath to take a leak"
and once, when selling a job lot of chickens, "Here you are gents, just
like being back in Bangkok - three birds for a tenner but without the rash!"

Want to buy a wabbit?

I shudder to think what tomorrow's little gem might be.

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