Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
The irregular thudding of hammers on iron and wood, as three workmen repair a stall made of pallets and 'two be four', greets The Gleaner at the end of a road, beside the Portmore Mall in St Catherine. The bare frames of unoccupied stalls in the otherwise empty lot speaks to much busier times than The Gleaner's mid-week visit.
But one of the few persons selling there tells of a nomadic existence for a market space that is still in its emerging stages. Gwendolyn Parker has been with the informal market space through enforced migration from two other locations, Jam World and Portsmouth. She says that while some people still sell on the main road, defying and dodging the authorities, she will settle with where she is now.
"Me go courthouse two time and me nah go back," Parker said. "Nutten nah gwaan dung yasso, but we still give thanks." In her movements, she has been away from the market scenes intermittently, as "me lef an' go school gate go sell an' come back. But now me settle".
Saturday, she says, is a very busy day, as "country people come in. St Mary, Portland, down the country, all bout. Me live close, jus' ova desso, Portmore Lane". Parker points in the general vicinity of her home, but also points out that living close to where she generates an income she has little time for anything else in her life.
And she is not there to sell alongside the 'country people' on the weekend.
"Me go church pon Saturday. Massa God provide you with one day. Sunday now, yu stay a yu yard, do yu housework. Yu no mus' haffi look afta yu husban'?" she demanded rhetorically.
Customary market items
Parker buys fresh produce on her selling days, going to Coronation Market in downtown Kingston early in the morning and returning to set up for business. She had some of the customary market items when The Gleaner visited, including oranges, yam, banana, onions, ackee, tomato, and breadfruit. By 6 p.m., Parker says, she packs up and leaves as "tief no out yasso? Is jus' one floodlight up desso (she points towards the main road) an' none no show dung yasso".
And since there are times when the prospective buyers do not come 'dung yasso' either, Parker says "when me ready me roas' breadfruit and walk go inna mall go sell, when nutten nah gwaan".
Although it is far from being the ideal spot, Parker does not see any market movements in the near future. Having been to so many spots, Parker demands "whe we a go move go?"