Something entirely different from me today. I am extremely thrilled and delighted to be a part of Tallis Steelyard’s blog tour am proud to be hosting today’s story, which is entitled ‘The Market. ‘ If you would like to get the low-down on the backstory then please hop over to Tallis’ blog here.
Now, a word from the man himself:
Tallis Steelyard and Jim Webster proudly present
Tallis Steelyard. The Festival, and other stories.
More of the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. In here
Tallis touches upon child rearing, politics as a performance art, the joy of
dance and the advantages that come with good manners. Discover why Madam
Dolbart was forced to constantly hire new cooks, marvel at the downfall of
Dash Blont, lecher, libertine, and philanderer. Whatever happens, do not
pass through life without knowing of the advantages to be gained by an early
morning pick-me-up of horse dung spread fine on toast. You too can be
charming and elegant once you know how.
For a mere 99p, all this and more can be yours.
8) The market
Have you ever considered the complexity of provisioning a city the size of Port Naain? How many grain ships must dock each week? How many thousands of livestock are driven into the city from our hinterland? Yet it all happens without obvious drama. Each day there is enough fine quality horrocks to enable Falan Geer to serve truly excellent pies in his pie shop. But at the same time somebody supplies enough nondescript creatures composed mainly of fat and gristle to enable Mingin Webble to continue in production in his somewhat less prestigious establishment. Is not the world of commerce a miracle?
You might ask why a poet waxes lyrical on such a topic, but I served my time with Miser Mumster. Yes as a poet I can make words dance to serve my whim, but thanks to a sound early training I can also take pleasure in the magic of numbers and applaud the precise way they march in their serried ranks.
Still who, you might ask, looks to those other commodities which come into the city? After all, if I, Tallis Steelyard, wish for a cinnamon bun, I do not want to hear that there is an unexpected shortage of cinnamon in the city. But perhaps next week, tired of cinnamon, I fancy something sweeter, a honey cake perhaps? Who is going to ensure that there is enough honey in the city to pander to my whims?
Indeed there are even more esoteric commodities traded in our city and the demand is monitored very closely by skilled professionals. In this painting, Andreal introduces us to two of them. The lady in blue in our picture is Tannit Armley, while the young flower seller is Ettie Wakes.
Tannit specialises in spices and associated commodities. She is one of a number of traders who will drift between various tea and coffee houses, sipping infusions, nibbling exotic cakes and exchanging pleasantries with the customers. She will talk to the proprietors but also to those who wait at the tables. Thus she hopes to spot any trends in the market and take advantage of them. So last year it was she who spotted that lemon and ginger was falling from favour amongst older ladies who as winter came on were switching to hot chocolate with mint. Chocolate always gets increased sales at that time of the year but this was the first time that chocolate and mint had been fashionable. Tannit spotted the trend and it was she purchased enough mint to get the city through winter. Incidentally, she also cornered the market and made rather a lot of money in the process.
That being said, her trade is always uncertain. Last year she correctly predicted rum as the flavouring of choice for custards but other than buying half a boat load of rum as it came into Port Naain, there was little else she could do. Similarly whilst she was correct that the berries of the red-leaved smokethorn would be this year’s culinary sensation, due to transport considerations, by the time the berries arrived, fashion had moved on. This explains why Porridge Vinney and other street vendors were offering smokethorn as one of their flavourings. Tannit was faced with getting rid of her stock at fire-sale prices or paying for warehouse space to store rotting fruit.
Young Ettie Wakes on the other hand specialises in monitoring a very different market. She sells her flowers outside the places where you go to be seen. She it is who watches the ladies and gentlemen come and go and works out who are the rising stars of the social scene, and who are destined to fade and disappear.
It was Ettie who defied opinion which declared that Tannit Armley was finished as mistress of Alaman Just. She it was who always sold Tannit her posy as she was escorted into ‘The Stack’, Port Naain’s main theatre, on Alaman’s arm. She it was who sold a posy to Sissie Toolittle the following evening when she was Alaman’s lady of choice at the theatre. At that point most people had written Tannit off.
But Ettie told those who relied upon her intelligence not to snub Tannit too soon. Sure enough, the next evening whilst Sissie Toolittle accompanied Alaman to the Sinecurists Ball, Tannit also attended. She stopped and surveyed Ettie’s posies.
Ettie asked if there was anything in particular she was looking for. Verona flashed her a smile which showed all her teeth, and answered, “Something with a good sharp edge.”
With that she took a perfect rose, squared her shoulders and with her head held high walked into the ballroom looking neither to the right nor the left.
Obviously everybody knows the story, and how Alaman Just ended up kneeling at Tannit’s feet, held there by his wife who had a tight grip on his ear.
Indeed two days later, at a soiree I was helping to organise, I overheard Madam Just say to a friend, “If a man will not be loyal to his mistress, he will not be loyal to his wife.”
Apparently Madam Just and Tannit take tea together at least twice a week, and neither of them will pass young Ettie without buying a posy from her.