ldner #197: nick o’mahoney

This week’s LDNER is what some might call a proper Londoner. He was born and raised in the city, loves jellied eels and is a fruit and veg trader at New Covent Garden Market. Meet Nick O’Mahoney…

Where do you live in London and what do you like about the area?

I live in Old Coulsdon in Croydon, as far south as you can get but still be in London. I like it because it’s green, not too far away from the shops, cinemas, some nice pubs and restaurants. And only 25mins to centre of London by train.

How did you get into working as a trader? How long have you done it for?

My Dad had greengrocer shops in Streatham and sometimes I went with him to the old market. I remember when the new Market opened, I was 11 years old. It was a Sunday night, like a festival, bunting everywhere. Everybody was drinking champagne, and you wanted to be part of it. Forty-four years later and I’m still here.

Talk us through your daily routine.

I leave home at 10.30pm to get to the market. At that time, there’s artics (articulated lorry, a combination of tractor and trailer) pulling up all over the market. Pallets and pallets of goods coming inwards from the UK, the continent, the whole world really. It’s amazing! Busiest time for me is between 11pm and 4am. The orders are piling in. We get faxes, texts, WhatsApp messages, emails. By 7am trading tails off and I start my buying for the next day. We get produce from all over, Holland. Spain, France, Poland. This time of year, we have lots of British produce but May/June is when the season will kick off. I’ll leave the office around 10.30am, midday if it’s a busy time of year. It takes a while to resolve issues with senders, orders going wrong, there’s always something. Then comes the best part of my day, I take my dog – Da Da, she’s from Battersea Dogs Home, for a long walk. Then sink a couple of beers with the locals down the pub.

Describe your perfect day in London…

All my working life, a summer’s day in London has been the highlight. Get the train into Westminster, have a spot of breakfast by the river, walk around a bit on the Strand or into Covent Garden, have a spot of lunch. My favourite is pie & mash with liquor. Years ago, when there were lots of seafood stalls, I remember all the men with their teeth out, eating mussels and whelks. Or I used to get traditional jellied eels at a stall outside The Goat in Mitcham, lots of vinegar and black pepper.