Meat and Mayhem

I’ve been based in and around Clerkenwell most of my working life but I’ve never been to the famous Hart’s Meat Auction at Smithfield, so this was the year.

The road down to Farringdon was completely sealed off at the end and some good natured police on horseback were cheerfully redirecting traffic, and from here we could already hear the rowdy shouting and cheers.

“Getcher money ready” was the frequent refrain from the auctioneer– “it’s one price and one price only” he repeated as the crowd waited excitedly to discover the knock down cost of a suckling pig, a side of lamb, ribs of beef, enormous gammon joints.

It’s a lively and happy affair.

Butchers stride up and down a makeshift catwalk made of pallets with big hunks of meat.

The power is in their hands to choose who gets what as the crowd go wild waving wodges of cash, cajoling, shouting and pleading!

Old hands who know the score come equipped with luggage on wheels, stolen shopping trolleys, rucksacks or the bag of choice which seems to be the iconic blue Ikea carrier, large enough and strong enough for half an animal and easy enough to carry with a person either side.

The less experienced could be seen trying to squeeze oversized boxes into inadequate supermarket carriers, dropping chicken thighs on the pavement and hastily picking them up engaging the five second rule.

As those fortunate to have bagged their meat head toward the tube station, I stop and wonder what tourists might be thinking as they see the shoppers piling into the carriage, pigs’ trotters poking out of their rucksacks and blood trailing from their bags.

Just before the main event, selling off the last of this year’s turkeys, the auctioneer made a warm appeal to everyone to return next year as events like this throughout London are dying out. “We enjoy this just as much as you do” he added.

Well, he has got his Christmas wish – this is going to be a Forsyth Christmas tradition from now on.

I’ll be back in 2018 with my pocket stuffed with tenners and my Ikea carrier.

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