A little story about Pauline and West Norwood Fishmongers

Ages and ages ago when we were pound­ing the high street in the name of research and talk­ing to the local shop keep­ers about what they thought about the idea of Feast, I spent some time with the infam­ous Pau­line of West Nor­wood Fish­mon­gers. Pau­line is infam­ous because not want­ing to see her local fish­mon­gers close down, she bought it, retrained as a fish­mon­ger and now has a thriv­ing and most excel­lent busi­ness at the heart of her beloved com­munity.

We spoke at length about how fant­ast­ic West Nor­wood was and how bril­liant an idea Feast was so of course Pau­line was all for Feast. She loves West Nor­wood and daily refers her cus­tom­ers to other local estab­lish­ments on the high street. How­ever, I dis­tinctly remem­ber her say­ing that yes she would sup­port Feast but no she wouldn’t be open­ing. Not on Sunday. She works a very full 6 day week and it was just not pos­sible. Totally under­stood, I did.

Last Feast — the Novem­ber one — around mid-after­noon in a haze of caf­fiene and weath­er over­load, I caught sight of activ­ity over her way and promptly ignored it; but that fleet­ling snap­shot stayed with me in the front of my memory and it was only later that even­ing that I real­ised what I had actu­ally seen. Pau­line had been open. Not closed. Open.

Upon fur­ther invest­ig­a­tion (I went to see her-I had to) I learnt that Novem­ber had been her THIRD month open and that the shop had been packed. “But Pau­line, what changed your mind?” I asked. “Well, my cus­tom­ers asked me why I wasn’t open and they wanted me to be open. It was some­thing I just had to do”. And so she did. She explained that the day before a Feast she cooks up any leftovers from the Sat­urday trad­ing in to a vari­ety of dishes and on a Feast day she opens her doors and offers tasters (FREE) to any­one who wants to try. And Oysters too. “You’ve gotta serve cham­pagne Pau­line” I dribbled. “Maybe” she said. And do you know she just might. I could see the fire in her eyes and her excite­ment was tan­gible. So far its been a great suc­cess and each month gets a little bit big­ger. She’s burst­ing with ideas for Decem­ber. There will more things to try, and more things to buy.

I am actu­ally feel­ing quite emo­tion­al as I write this Feasters because, really, this is what Feast is all about. Feast is about our com­munity, our high street and it singing and swinging and turn­ing into a but­ter­fly, and I just lov­ing see­ing change unfold before my eyes espe­cially when its off the back of the beast that is now Feast.

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