Columbia Road Market 60
This is Rosario Rospo, universally known as Ross, who told me he has been trading here for fifteen years, but then we did the sums and he realised it was more like twenty five – that is how time passes when you are busy selling flowers every week in Columbia Rd. At the age of nineteen, Ross began working with his uncle Dennis selling cut flowers at the other of the market while worked his way up the waiting list to get a pitch of his own, where he presides today with a irresistible smile. Many of the traders I speak with each week in the grey dawn possess the pallid faces of those who rose too early, but Ross has a ruddy complexion and healthy tan complemented by intense blue eyes. The picture of vigorous health and with the physical presence of an athlete, bouncing around on the balls of his feet and limbering up for day’s trading, Ross bragged he has just lost twenty pounds through the boxercise and karate that he practises with his eleven year old son.
Ross has cut flower stalls at Bishop’s Stortford Market on Thursday and Saturday, and Hertford on Saturday, as well as his regular pitch here in Columbia Rd, which has the reputation as the best-organised flower stall in the market. In fact, it was only on my second attempt that I managed to snatch a conversation with Ross, because each time I asked he was pre-occupied in the all-consuming creative task of arranging his beloved roses, tulips and freesias in perfect ranks to create a masterly floral panorama worthy of an artist. This week Ross recommends buying Amaryllis which will last until Christmas. When I asked what keeps him coming back, “I know nothing else,” Ross answered plainly over his shoulder, his eyes already straying back to the fulsome perfection of his stall awaiting the imminent despoilation of this morning’s customers.
Photograph copyright © Jeremy Freedman