Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Flower Ladies of Sighisoara

Now here's a nice little story.
Over the last few months I have noticed an increase in little old ladies selling a few bunches of flowers around town. You may recall the basket of violets I bought some months ago and handed round to various people.
Anyway, whilst waiting for Alin today sitting in the medieval square, one little old lady was doing her trade. I hadn't watched any of them before.
People were coming up to her and taking pictures. She put on the sweetest, slightly sad smile, proferring a bunch of mixed wild flowers. Everyone refused them ( of course, they are tourists, what are they going to do with them?) but handed her a small note or a few coins.
Now you may recall that the basket of flowers I bought cost about GBP1. Well, within about 10 minutes, this lady today had been given about GBP6.
Not long afterwards, another little old lady came along and took about half the money away.
I was fascinated, and when Alin arrived, we went over to the flower lady and asked her about her trade.
Naturally cagey ( we could have been tax inspectors I suppose) she admitted that all the ladies were employed by one old lady who effectively controlled the pitches. Half of everything they earned went to this higher up lady, who provided them all with the few flowers they had.
It then dawned on me that of course their business was not selling flowers - it was having their pictures taken. When I put this to her, the lady admitted that on a good day she could earn in total about GBP50 - ie GBP25 to herself. This is the equivalent a week's wages. She also told me the boss lady had started about 4 years ago just herself, and had now built up her business to control 30 little old flower ladies. She had to pay for their licences and pitches to the City Hall, but, naturally, noone else would be allowed a look in as she made healthy contributions to the Mayor's reelection fund.
The nicest part about it was that aspiring employees had to pass a smile test - if it wasn't sweet enough, or sad enough, they didn't get taken on.
Lovely.

1 comment:

Winchester whisperer said...

At least they don't sell bird feed