I was expecting a note in my letterbox on my return, informing me about arrangements for the festival, but I should have known better. However, our glamorous Councillor for Culture later sent word that I was to be there at 7.30, with a pitch next to the second bridge across the canal.
Even at that time in the morning the place was beseiged. There were vans blocking every side road to the canal, and all was, of course, noise and confusion. Staggering along with a box of crockery, I couldn’t see any spaces near the bridge.
“How do I find my space?” I asked a man with OFFICIAL written on his high visibility waistcoat.
“Ask an official,” he said.
“But you’re an official,” I said pointing to the obvious. At this point he rode off on his bicycle.
Eventually I found a man with a clip board in possession of la lista and discovered that I was allotted space number 50, opposite the third bridge. I wasn’t too surprised when I got there to discover the space was already occupied. A pot-bellied man with a cigarette dangling from his mouth was unloading plants onto metal shelves. I informed him that he was in my space, but he didn’t seem too worried.
“But, signora,” he said. “I need a double space for all my plants.”
This was getting very frustrating. The injustice of it made me quite indignant. We hadn’t unloaded the boxes, much less set up the table, and on top of everything, it had started to rain.
I was now in the nearest empty space, lot 64, and the man in 65 took pity on me, inviting me under his awning to shelter. Then my luck changed. My table was delivered, the boxes were all emptied, and the sun came out. I decorated the table with bunting, put my sign up and took a photo of the finished result.
The day was great fun. I sold about 3/4 of the things I’d brought, though I was surprised by what they bought and didn’t buy. Union jack socks, teapots and beer mats seemed popular.
A traditional jazz band came to play around my stall, attracting a good crowd, and I avoided sunburn – just – by wearing a wide brimmed sun hat. The village feast that evening was noisy and copious, with everyone cheering the rowers who’d worked hard all day, taking people to the castle and back for one euro. Will I do it again next year? Of course.