The market arrived unexpectedly
one night in late November
a persistent low rumble
and the faintest tinkling of bells
truck after
truck after
truck after
truck
like a Coke advert
A blitzkrieg of wooden chalets
spiraling out from the town square
in neatly ordered rows
blocking junctions and side rows
filling the pedestrianised high street
spreading ever outwards like spilled wine
like manifest destiny.

We are running
wrapped in plumes of our own
hot coughing breath
a melee of arms swinging
coats flapping
disordered legs
old trainers slipping on iced brickwork
plummeting through faceless crowds
shins bruising on passing shopping bags
they do not try to stop us
they barely notice us
we tumble downhill
like a failing evacuation
past dream catchers
and small wind up toys
silver jewelry
and Banksy prints
eyes watering
hands throbbing hot red and white
snot spit and splutter
trapped temporarily against the technicolour facade
of a helter skelter
straightjacketed by the clinging smell of
sugared wine and barbecue sausage
it’s starting to snow again
we are running 
in circles
once familiar streets now seem to 
fold in on each other 
like the pages of a map stuck together
we are sure Debenhams didn’t use to be there
we are not sure how long we have been here
running in circles
searching endlessly
hopelessly
for an exit
we are hungry
but our collectively pooled change
doesn’t even cover the cost of a small bag of glazed chestnuts
and they don’t accept cards.

By July the helter skelter has fallen down
and the ice rink has melted back to the concrete
All the knick-knacks have been bought
all the chestnuts have been eaten
Red wine lips blistered dry
Snow drifts of glazed sugar
Shards of festoon glass
People sleeping on carrier bags in the thin spaces between each peeling chalet
The mourning cries of scavenging birds
and the faintest tinkling of bells
Only at the edges is there any life
in those chalets that have
with time
drifted away from the pack
finding themselves isolated on motorway verges and flyovers
or sat restfully on the roof of a block of flats
or a newly built Travelodge
Left to their own devices these last few market stalls have evolved their own curious, hybrid merchandise
gingerbread men with clockwork arms
knitted candleholders
earrings made of plastic cups and artisan cheeses
There is no one left to buy anything
but still they are happy
They make
and they make
and they make
no two items the same
each newly minted creation
admired for the briefest of seconds
and then added to the pile of other similar gifts
settling on the ground in front of the chalet
like freshly fallen snow. 

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