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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Totnes Market Plus

I can guarantee you will never find the same thing twice in Totnes market and don't bother even anticipating what you might find because as you are about to discover that would be impossible. Bizarre doesn't even cut it sometimes. Rare sights are the norm, the unusual is common, and the surreal is around every corner. Every stall holder is a curator of sorts, curators of their own collections of random assorted wonders, sometimes thoughtfully displayed, and sometimes thrown together with a disregard that creates highly original visions of intrigue. Here we have a free open air museum of the strange hive mind that is Totnes.

I am in Totnes market again and I don't apologise, as it is one of my favourite photography locations and will be certain to feature again in the future. I also added one or two nearby shop windows as this was part of a photo walk and the non market shots will be posted separately. That means the few shop window shots fitted snugly in here with the market as the strangeness has woven it's way into the permanent shops too. International corporations and cloned retailers have long since given up trying to get a foothold here.

This is a Billiard set, although I am not well versed enough in the art to confirm if it is a complete set of balls. Some of you may be more familiar with Pool which has similarities.

Billiards evolved out of an older game called Carom Billiards which is the precursor to all similar cue and ball games. The first governing body of the game, the Billiards Association, was formed in the UK in 1885. It is often confused with Snooker as I have just found myself in researching this. Snooker is a cue sport that was first played by British Army officers stationed in India in the second half of the 19th century.

Snooker won out in popularity and became a televised hit on the BBC with "Pot Black" launched in 1967, hosted by Ted Lowe. His nickname was "the voice of Snooker".

Lowe uttered the occasional on-air gaffe, one of his most famous quotes being, "and for those of you who are watching in black and white, the pink is next to the green." He once told viewers that Fred Davis, struggling to rest one leg on the edge of the table in order to reach a long shot, "is getting on a bit and is having trouble getting his leg over". We British do love a good Double Entendre, whether intentional or accidental.

This is the unmistakeable sight of Noddy in his little car. A staple for kids of my generation. I still remember breakfast time as a child when I was often presented with a boiled egg and "soldiers" with the egg housed inside a wooden Noddy Egg Cup. The top of Noddy's head was missing and there was a space inside the rest of his head for the egg. He came complete with a small felt hat and bell attached, which was placed over the boiled egg to keep it warm.

"Soldiers" were a British staple for kids, fingers of buttered toast which were dipped into the eggy yolk of the boiled egg. This was Haute Cuisine for Sixties kids who amazingly had no allergies or food intolerances of any description. As my mother always used to say about her childhood "There were 11 of us around the table and if you didn't eat it quick, someone else would".


I am calling this piece Hiawatha as he is the most famous "Red Indian" as we used to say. The comedy character Count Arthur Strong would have said "before racism became bad". But the truth is that portrayals of Native Americans were extremely popular in British culture and that what modern activists see as a racist past was in fact just a past with less available information where the world was a huge place that one would never get the opportunity to visit or experience first hand. A past where most people were not in fact racist but open, friendly and welcoming to strangers. Many a British child looked forward to being the "Red Indian" and not the cowboy.

Attitudes have changed, and one could even say have gone to the other extreme in many ways, so much so that a lot of liberal virtue signalling today tends to be in some ways more racist than a child of the Sixties was. Would racist individuals of the 1950's really warrant a market for a pair of "Red Indian" plaques as decoration in their homes? "Anti-racist" liberals of the 2020's meanwhile eliminate all imagery of Native Americans throughout history as presumed symptoms of our racist past. This is just the "bigotry of low expectation" in action.

These next few need no words.

I have found reference to Donald Cook supplying all sorts of long life foods including dried eggs and tinned fruit. I have also found reference to the Corned Beef, which was.......

Cooked and ready to serve

Keeps in all climates

Perfect Corned Beef Inspected and Approved by the Brazilian Government.

Cook's Farm eggs (Dried) come as a boon to the worried housewife, for, while they are really New Laid eggs from which the moisture has been removed by a new Patent Process, the cost of the eggs is within the reach of all.

This is what two world wars did to our eating habits.

I think these are trunks of Ivy which have been dried and bleached. They certainly make for some nice curly shapes and shadows.

More curly shapes and shadows.

Yet more curly shapes and shadows, and these are white Oyster mushrooms.

.......and this is Alastair the mushroom man from Paignton. Ali grows them himself in his basement and I am researching mushroom recipes for my next visit to the market because they look amazing.

They don't only look tasty they make great subjects for a photograph or two. I remember vividly an experience in my childhood when my Uncle Dai made sure I was out of bed early one morning to go mushroom hunting with him. I was staying on the farm for the summer holiday and it didn't sound like my idea of fun. When we set out to find his secret mushroom sites though, it was quite an adventure, and although it didn't prove all that fruitful we did come back with some treasure, which was soon fried up for breakfast with some of his own home made bacon which was sliced off the flitch as required, and which hung from a large hook on a wooden beam in the pantry.

Flitch - Old English flicce, originally denoting the salted and cured side of any meat, of Germanic origin; related to Middle Low German vlicke .

The pantry in the old farmhouse was a sizeable room with stone slabs about three inches thick as a table top and shelves. The window was tiny and had wire mesh across it and no sun ever entered the room. It was always cold whatever the time of year. It was in this room that Uncle Dai's prized Salmon was laid on a platter before being apportioned to various friends and neighbours. Just one problem, when the door was opened it turned out that the cat had somehow got in first and polished off most of the head. Nobody batted an eyelid though least of all the salmon, and it was generally agreed the cat did the excusable thing in leaving the body for the rest of us humans to enjoy, so it was a win win. I never did trust that cat after I discovered it had learned how to open closed doors. For some unknown reason it was called Shush. I am sure it was saying shush as it crept into the pantry.

In a shop window around the corner was a handy accompaniment. Wouldn't a woodland walk be amazing if they were actually as brightly coloured as these.

This appeared to be a carefully curated display. A concise history of world culture in heads. I think The Buddha put more time into deep thought than did the inventors of Phrenology. Wikipedia describes Phrenology as a pseudoscience which I think frankly does the concept of pseudoscience a disservice. There must be a better word for Phrenology that does not include the word science at all even of the pseudo variety.

Phrenology - Phrenology is a pseudoscience which involves the measurement of bumps on the skull to predict mental traits. The central phrenological notion that measuring the contour of the skull can predict personality traits is discredited by empirical research. Developed by German physician Franz Joseph Gall in 1796, the discipline was influential in the 19th century, especially from about 1810 until 1840.

Phrenology at least has the distinction of being a pseudoscience that even in it's day was regarded as bunkum by the scientific establishment. The only thing to it's credit is the fact that all scientific truths start out as hypotheses, it's just that those hypotheses are normally born out of some sort of accurate observations leading to theories, rather than just pouring out of an empty head because it sounds like a good idea, like Critical Race Theory today.

CRT, is the latest theory born out of total ignorance and wish fulfilment rather than observable and provable facts, a bit like crystal healing. The other thing these pseudo sciences have in common is money earning potential and credulity from those easily parted with their cash. There were countless morons prepared to pour their money into Phrenology as there are plenty of morons eager to part with billions to fund highly discredited organisations like BLM.

The three orange coloured glass items here are what is termed Carnival Glass.

Carnival glass is moulded or pressed glass to which an iridescent surface shimmer has been applied. It has previously been referred to as aurora glass, dope glass, rainbow glass, taffeta glass, and disparagingly as 'poor man's Tiffany'. The name Carnival glass was adopted by collectors in the 1950s as items of it were sometimes given as prizes at carnivals, fetes, and fairgrounds. From the beginning of the 20th century, carnival glass was mass-produced around the world, but largely and initially in the U.S. It reached the height of its popularity in the 1920s, though it is still produced in small quantities today.

The PYE Stereo Black Box Record Reproducer model G63/E features no radio but has a 2 x 7 watt stereo amplifying system with two built in 8 inch loudspeakers and is fitted with a Garrard AT6 or AT6 mark 2 four speed automatic record changer with a Sonotone 8T4A ceramic stereo cartridge. (Radio museum)

This hails from an era where music was furniture. An era where if you were streaming you had a bad cold. To play music at home was a huge commitment in money and space and usually meant Mahogany or Teak. That is why this window display looks like Grandma's ornaments on a sideboard. Everything about music was big and heavy, including the black discs it came stored on. A long play was 25 minutes at 33 1/3 RPM, or revolutions per minute.

I always wondered why it was such an obscure speed, and it turns out it was all a compromise brought about by the technological limitations of the time.

The original acceptance of 33 1/3 by RCA in 1931 was a compromise between sound quality – the slower the rotation, the poorer the sounds quality – and quantity of recording time. The original microgroove could hold 23 minutes of recorded music. This was a huge increase from the 5 minutes per side of the 78 RPM. This increase was due to the slower speed as well as a second increase, in disc size, from 10″ to 12″. It is believed that the research done by CBS in the early forties confirmed that 33 1/3 was a reasonable compromise. (

This is what the death-trap looked like on the inside.

This is a rusty garden chair. It looks like someone was sitting on it permanently for years while it rusted around them.

Next we have Tutankhamun of course. I did warn you. Tutankhamun leaning against a white Peugeot van to be precise.

Tutankhamun Heqaiunushema, Ruler of Heliopolis of Upper Egypt, Nebkheperure, Lord of Manifestations is Ra, The Living Image of Amun, is displayed in the car park behind the Town Hall, just next to the public toilets, with various grave goods for the next life, including the Bowkers Patent "Quick Serve" Bottle Measure, "Just pour, nothing more". There is also a Rupert the Bear cartoon book, another Buddha, a shaving brush, a calculator, some bangles, a spirit level, a leather belt, a flying dragonfly toy, an assortment of art prints and some sepia family photos, not of Tutankhamun's family it has to be said. The ancient Egyptians although very clever, didn't invent photography. That's why they had to carve everything out of rock. Their achievements were awesome for rock carvers, just think what they could have achieved with a 3D printer?

Sadly there was no cuddly toy which will mean nothing unless you are British and watched The Generation Game in the 70's. If you had, this assortment would have passed by your eyes on a conveyor belt while you tried to remember them all.

In any case I think King Tut is well equipped for the afterlife whatever it may bring.

Like all Royal families, King Tut was not only related to his father and mother but his wife too, while his father married his sister, his father's sister that is. He was only 8 bless him when he became Pharaoh so Ay ruled for him. Ay was also related. The 1922 discovery by Howard Carter of Tutankhamun's nearly intact tomb, in excavations funded by Lord Carnarvon, received worldwide press coverage. With over 5,000 artefacts, it sparked a renewed public interest in ancient Egypt, for which Tutankhamun's mask, now in the Egyptian Museum, remains a popular symbol. (Wikipedia)

It is believed that there was a Royal curse associated with Tut because everyone who entered his newly discovered tomb died. I've got news for the conspiracy theorists, nearly everyone dies after 100 years, so your point is?

His father Akhenaten had a "Brexit" moment when he threw out the old world order and started afresh with a new religion and a new capitol city. Like Brexit, this didn't go down too well with the elites, so after he died the elites swarmed back into power and spent decades chipping his name and face off all the rocks he had ordered carved during his reign. If they had been sepia photos they could have just had a quick bonfire and cancelled him a lot quicker. If you spot faceless statues in Egypt to this day it is highly likely they represent Akhenaten or his wife.

As if Tutankhamun was not enough for one day we also have His Holiness The Pope.

Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God.

Now I am not an expert on Popes so I am taking a guess here but this one looks like a youthful John Paul II. It takes me back to a weird moment when I used to have a radio alarm clock which woke me to the news headlines every morning, and at one brief moment in time every day's headline seemed to be that the Pope had just died.

1978 WILL be remembered as the year of the three popes. Pope Paul VI died from a heart attack on August 6th at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandalfo. He was replaced by Albino Cardinal Luciani, who chose the name John Paul I. The Italian quickly became known as "the smiling pope" but his reign was short-lived and he was found dead in his bed just 33 days into his papacy. (Appropriately The Irish Times)

OK, so there were only two dead Popes. But I do remember thinking, I hope the new one doesn't smile too much.

Right next to the Pope was this pair of models related to Auschwitz. I can only assume the three items had been acquired together because otherwise it would be a remarkable coincidence that they ended up here in the same place on the same day.

During his first visit to Poland as Pope in 1979 he visited Auschwitz: "I could not fail to come here as Pope!" The terrible experience of World War II changed his life. He decided during the war to become a priest and in 1942 entered the underground seminary in Krakow. From 1958, as bishop of the Archdiocese of Krakow he often visited the parishes of Oswiecim. His sermons strongly emphasized the need to pray for the dead, also to pray on behalf of those who cannot come to Oswiecim/Auschwitz. (Pope John Paul II and Auschwitz)

This combo below, was not staged in any way, so I don't know about you, but I am seeing a large Scottish man in a kilt ice skating.

This is the perfect example of a trend I have noticed, which is that hot drinks are increasingly turning into desserts. If you need a spoon to consume it, and a good set of teeth to chew it then that is telling you something.

These are fish knives and forks and no bric-a-brac shop is complete without a set. Every British bride in the middle of the twentieth century received a set on the occasion of their wedding although nobody is really quite sure why. We eat fish every week and have never needed a set, and I am not sure anyone else has ever needed one either.

Specific cutlery for eating fish evolved in the early 19th century. In 1838 a book of etiquette for ladies recorded that, 'in first rate society, silver knives are now beginning to be used for fish: a very pleasing, as well as decided step in the progress of refinement.

Until the 1880s manuals recommended that fish be eaten using two ordinary table forks or one fork and a piece of bread. Middle-class families would have bought the newly developed utensils, such as fish eaters, marking them out from those who already owned more traditional sets of cutlery. (Victoria and Albert Museum)

So there you have it. Expensive but useless objects, like all status symbols.

Sadly, this tour of Totnes market now comes to an end with this wonderful Dinosaur shirt. My many fans often contact me to ask if I ever buy anything in Totnes Market, well I can dream, about the fans I mean. As for this dinosaur shirt? Of course I did, who wouldn't? I can also dream that I bought an S when in fact the one I bought actually involved a few X's.

Until we meet again, in Totnes Market.

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John Durham
John Durham

Mushrooms - man, what I'd give for those beauties. Render some lardons with shallots and garlic, drop into assorted sliced/chopped mushrooms, saute until tender, add salt and fresh cracked black pepper and fresh thyme leaves for the last minute. Ow! I just made myself terribly hungry - excuse me while I run to the store.

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas

Sounds good.🙂


David Nurse
David Nurse

Wow, what a mix.

Now hands up everyone who relates to the small note at the bottom left hand side of image #7😉

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas

My hand up.😀



If you could see my face now, you would notice a huge smile. I love.....Love....LOVE this post. Love the oddities you found to click on and the commentaries. The egg/soldier brought on a memory of its grandmother would do a similar egg presentation whenever I spent the night at her place. Except instead of "soldiers" the bread was torn apart and dropped into the shell. Sometimes two or three soft boiled eggs would be cracked and poured into a bowl and then the buttered bread dropped into the egg mixture. Yum!! To this day my most favortie way of eating soft boiled.

If I ever land over there, you know that Tontes would be on my path. The only…

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas

Thanks Camellia. So glad you loved it. I'm sure you would love Totnes too. I'm working on the 2nd part with the rest of town.🙂

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