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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Totnes Market Bodging and Things

There are two sides to Totnes Market, the back, behind the Civic Hall, where the second hand things are, and, as you walk under the Civic Hall there is a mix of old and new, and once you emerge into the Market Square on the High Street you are in the Food and new goods section.

Here you will find a huge diversity of things for sale from fresh eggs to "Tibetan Singing Bowls".

A standing bell or resting bell is an inverted bell, supported from below with the rim uppermost. Such bells are normally bowl-shaped, and exist in a wide range of sizes, from a few centimetres to a metre in diameter. They are often played by striking, but some—known as singing bowls—may also be played by rotating a mallet around the outside rim to produce a sustained musical note.

This is the Market Square. The ramshackle pile of buildings at the end forms a covered butterwalk along the High Street where dairy products were originally sold. The arcade enabled sellers to display dairy products out of the heat of the sun or the pouring rain.

Ramshackle - Ramshackle has nothing to do with rams, nor the act of being rammed, nor shackles. The word is an alteration of ransackled, an obsolete form of the verb ransack, meaning "to search through or plunder." (Ransack comes from Old Norse words meaning "house" and "seek.") A home that has been ransacked has had its contents thrown into disarray, and that image may be what inspired people to start using ramshackle in the first half of the 19th century to describe something that is poorly constructed or in a state of near collapse.

I am not suggesting those houses are literally about to collapse, or that they have been ransacked, as I am using the word in it's more common way to describe buildings that are very old, sagging or leaning which give the appearance of being about to fall down. My next post will look more closely at them.

So here is a selection of what was on offer on the day I last visited, from the mundane to the exotic, including a bodger and a singer.

You may be familiar with the word "Bodger", today at least in the UK it is more commonly used in it's later, secondary meaning of someone who does a poor job of some kind, bodging a job means to do it badly or even not completing it.

The original word though had a very different meaning and was a term related to a specific trade, that of itinerant highly skilled makers of chair legs. The Bodger would work in the woods where trees were freshly felled and would turn on a makeshift pole lathe, a variety of chair legs from green wood.

On the day I visited Totnes Market I met Graham Tapper for the first time, who was "bodging" if I can use that word correctly, legs for stools. On Graham's blog he actually refers to his home made "bodger's horse" seen in the picture. Using a spokeshave he shapes the green wood into spindle legs. You can see more of his work here.

The origins of the word Bodger seem to be lost forever although there are various theories, none of which can be proved. The later meaning, of a job half done, could well relate to the fact that a Bodger never made a finished object. The Bodger only made the chair legs, never the chair. Bodgers then travelled to sell their wares in places where there was a chair making industry, like High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire.

Chair bodgers were one of three types of craftsmen associated with the making of the traditional country "Windsor Chairs" . Of the other craftsmen involved in the construction of a Windsor chair, one was the benchman who worked in a small town or village workshop and would produce the seats, backsplats and other sawn parts. The final craftsman involved was the framer. The framer would take the components produced by the bodger and the benchman and would assemble and finish the chair.

I have no idea what Cod Knobs are but they seem to be quite expensive. On the day, I thought Google that one when I get home, but Google is stumped. So next time I go, I will have to ask Jona the Fishmonger how he escaped the belly of the whale and what is a cod knob.

These are Gurnard, giving me the evil eye.

Americans are always horrified to find that in Britain we do not refrigerate eggs, they are always displayed and sold at ambient temperature. There is a reason for this, which is clear from this photo. Eggs in Britain are sold unwashed and are provided to us by hens, already coated in a layer that prevents their despoliation.

We are finding some good words today. Despoliation - The action or process of despoiling.

In the United States, eggs are washed, which removes the eggs natural layer of protection requiring their refrigeration.

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,

A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked;

If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,

Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

A peck is an imperial and United States customary unit of dry volume, equivalent to 2 dry gallons or 8 dry quarts or 16 dry pints.

The earliest version of this tongue-twister was published in Peter Piper's Practical Principles of Plain and Perfect Pronunciation by John Harris in London in 1813, which is itself a tongue twister.

The Dexter is an Irish breed of small cattle. It originated in the eighteenth century in County Kerry, in south-western Ireland, and appears to be named after a man named Dexter, who was factor of the estates of Lord Hawarden on Valentia Island. Until the second half of the nineteenth century it was considered a type within the Kerry breed. The beef produced by Dexters is well marbled and tends to be dark.

Our treat when I was a kid back in the 60's in India was a trip out to the "Drive in" Dosa Restaurant in Bangalore, Mysore State. If you have seen the film American Graffiti and it's ilk you will know what US Drive Ins were like. Well this was modelled on those and way ahead of it's time. You could either eat in your car with the trays hooked onto your open window or you could eat at picnic tables under the trees in the grounds. We alway ate under the trees.

Masala Dosa, ( ಮಸಾಲೆ ದೋಸೆ ), is a South Indian dish. It has its origin in Udupi cuisine of Karnataka. It is made from rice, lentils, Urad dal, Chana dal, fenugreek, puffed rice, Toor dal, dry red chilli and served with potato curry, chutneys, and sambar. It is popular in South India, but can be found in all other parts of the country and overseas.

Mysore has since been renamed Karnataka and Bangalore renamed Bengaluru.

Alexa Allen was the floor show and a beautiful voice she had too. There is a link to her site here. From a portraiture point of view, I have found that it is notoriously difficult to get a fair representation of an artist while performing as most shots make the person look odd when the natural movement of the act is frozen. These two shots were the best of about 15 I fired off. It is best to set the camera on quick fire and just hold the trigger down and hope for the best. Alexa is a very lively performer making it doubly difficult, so I hope she is happy with these.

Since this day out, it has got much colder, so whoever was selling the gloves was ahead of the game.

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David Nurse
David Nurse
Dec 15, 2022

Nice post Gethin. Did not know about the "Bodger" very interesting.

Made me chuckle to see the Mooli's reminded me of "Rambling Syd Rumpo - The Ballad of the Wogglers Moulie"

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Dec 16, 2022
Replying to

Oh God, I remember that. Also,

Corsage, Massage, Frere Jacques

Salon, By plane, Petula Clarke

Fiancee, Lorgnette

Lingerie set,

A Gaulloise cigarette eau de toilette

Entourage, my crepe suzette.


John Durham
John Durham
Dec 14, 2022

Love Totnes Market! Now, about cod knobs, maybe this solves the mystery...

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Dec 15, 2022
Replying to

🤣 Yes I also got that as a search result. I didn't risk adding it to the post though. I will definitely get this confirmed if I see Jona again. 🤣

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