Jewel in Cork’s crown set to shine

Staff at the English Market are enjoying the build-up to Queen Elizabeth’s visit, writes stallholder Rosemary Daly

IT’S true — Her Royal Majesty, the Queen of England has chosen to visit The English Market, Cork.

When we first heard the rumours we were a little incredulous. Although we’re used to celebrities and TV chefs dropping in ! and we have had the pleasure of a few visits from President Mary McAleese and her husband Martin, this one seemed like a tall tale. The last time a British Queen visited this neck of the woods was the summer of 1849, so our disbelief was quite justified really — they’re not exactly common and frequent visitors.

But no matter how you feel about celebrity culture or royalty generally, the fact is that a visit from someone so remote and inaccessible (because she lives in a palace far away from here), yet ubiquitous and everyday (by virtue of having her profile on a postage stamp) has sent a frisson of excitement rippling through the market — and it’s impossible to remain unaffected.

As rumours came wafting through the aisles, trailing the aroma of freshly-baked goat’s cheese tartlets, customers and staff alike couldn’t help themselves lingering a little longer to indulge in a bit of a chinwag, divulging what they heard from so-and-so.

The question on everyone’s lips though was why would she choose the English Market? Then the penny started to drop, albeit a little behind everyone else — and we began to see ourselves as others see us.

The market is the original food hall — a sensory experience of colour and smell and the sounds of lively chat and high historic airy arches. It’s where locally-sourced produce and the exotic imports are laid out on stalls side by side, each stallholder an expert in their own trade, exchanging recipes with regulars, the conversation peppered with seasoned opinions; where accents from all sides of the Lee echo, along with foreign languages like Polish and French. If you time the visit right, the building resonates with the sound of live music being given the acoustics it deserves.

But as the clamour of interest increases, the collective pride is quickly supplanted by that sort of pre-dinner-party panic — a sudden calm engulfs us with the awareness that beyond the religious cleaning regimens, there’s housekeeping to be done — clutter clearance with a capital C. It’s an infectious kind of attitude and I’m not sure who started it, but once it starts we’re all at it; ticking off the to-do lists, a lick& of paint here and there, plaques being awarded their rightful pride of place on the wall.

Whatever the impetus, we welcome the excuse to sparkle and shine.

* Rosemary and Niall Daly run the Chocolate Shop in the English Market; www.chocolate.ie


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