Life as a market stall holder is a fascinating study of people. Last Sunday, on one of the most stunning winter days, I decided to open my stall at Bondi Markets - and in the cool sunshine (sounds odd doesn't it) in the afternoon shadows of the Bondi Public School, I met one of the world's kindest and most intriguing characters.
She was Chinese. With the most enigmatic and charismatic presence that demanded respect. And I gave it to her.
We lingered over my stand while she recounted the story of her life in China as a famous acrobat during the 70's in The People's Republic of China under the leadership of Mao Tse Tung.
She was born in Harbin which is in Northern China is a town that borders Russia. Known more for its hosting of the Annual Ice Festival, I had actually visited Harbin at the turn of the Century - where a group of friends of mine - on a whim - traveled to the Ice Festival where temperatures plummeted to -30 degrees and I recall the moisture on my eyeballs actually freezing when I got out of the taxi to enter the hotel.
It also has a terrible, terrible past where American POWS were housed there in camps and horrific medical experiments were undertaken on the prisoners to test "how long it would take to freeze a limb solid" and the like. I was so horrified at the macabre history of Harbin at the time, that at the time I acutally wrote to Australian author Matthew Reilly, to entice some interest in Harbin's shady history as a potential plot inclusion for one of his story lines....
Anyway - back to my encounter with Lida - the former Chinese Acrobat.
She was divorced and in her 50's. An only child herself who gave birth to an only child as well. Her daughter married an Irishman and she was now a Grandmother, and she had moved to Sydney, Australia to be close to the only family she had left.
She loved hats - and she was determined that I should see one of her favourite hats that she bought 20 years ago in Brussells. She raced home to her flat in Bondi to bring it back to my stall close to the end of the market to show me - and I was fascinated.
Nursing it carefully, she handed it to me and modeled it - and made me promise that I would replicate it for my customer base for 2019. And so I shall because I have NEVER seen anything like it myself. Utterly amazing.
So stay tuned.
Lida - thank you. Thank you for your story, for you graciousness and your sense of style and thank you for reminding me that every person has a story to tell. No matter how old we get, we all have a past. And yours is amazing.
I promise I will mamke "the hat".
In the meantime look out for me at the Manly Markets on Saturdays going forward and back at the Bondi Markets each Sunday for the rest of the year.