It was drizzling and windy onsite, but I'd driven two hours the day before and stayed overnight so I was committed.
I stuggled a bit with my 3x3m gazebo, but thankfully my lovely neighbours The Elegant Apron were there to lend a hand. Phew.
Car unpacked and moved, gazebo up, two walls on, and all my gear sheltering from the drizzle under the aforementioned gazebo. I've totally got this.
So confident and full of hear-me-roar was I that when I saw a couple of other stallholders trying to erect their 6x3m gazebo, I wanted to pay it forward and help them out. I went over and grabbed a corner of the roof to secure it to the frame just as a huge gust of wind caught it and it billowed up like a parachute. There was a big 'wooooahhhh' from everyone as they all scrambled to grab whatever they could. I hung on for dear life and we managed to keep it from carrying us off. Out of the corner of my eye I saw another gazebo cartwheel across the paddock.
All gazebos look the same, except not all of them have my storage hangers attached and spinning out of control, leaving a trail of my product in their wake.
By the time I got back to my spot, my lovely lovely neighbours and assorted other stallholders had righted my runaway gazebo and managed to drag it back into place. Incredibly only one leg had bent slightly out of shape, but it was still usable. Before I knew it The Elegant Apron had magiced up spare pegs and guy ropes and had secured it to within an inch of its life. Aren't people just awesome?
So all that was left to do was sort out the devastation beneath. One of my two trestle tables was a goner - buckled legs that had popped out of place and were clearly not ever going back from where they came. I couldn't even fold it up so I just set it to one side with the tablecloth still entangled in it and tried to ignore it.
A lot of my stock had fallen on the ground and was wet, muddy, and littered with grass clippings. My other tablecloth had also fallen and was soggy. My two big display stands had both snapped. My handbag contents were spilled all over the ground. So I just stood there not really knowing where to start.
Then lovely Elisabeth came over from her stall opposite mine. She looked worried and apologetic. "I'm so sorry" she said, "but your gazebo landed on my car."
She's sorry??!? I'm mortified! In all the kerfuffle I hadn't actually seen where it landed. It landed ON HER CAR!
Oh god oh god oh god this is terrible. I stumbled over my words trying to apologise and assure her I'll pay for the damage and apologise again and oh god this is awful I'm horrified and she's being so incredibly lovely about it and I can't believe this is happening.
And this is how ridiculously lovely she is: she hugged me. My gazebo had just dented and scratched her car, and she's hugging me. For goodness sake, give this lady a halo.
So off Angel Elisabeth went back to her stall, and back I turned to mine. This really couldn't get any worse, but at least I'm not crying.
Now I'm not averse to a good cry. In private. Public crying I'm not so keen on. I don't mind others doing it, just not me.
The thing is, once the thought of crying got in my head it was hard to get it out. I was cold, wet, miserable, a lot of my product and display equipment was ruined, and I'd damaged an angel's car.
So, I cried. And not just gentle wee tears that would've been lost in the rain. But big sobby crying, the kind you know just isn't going to stop no matter what. It was like a broken tap on a low-grade comedy - you know, when they try to put their hands over it or screw it shut and it just keeps pouring out so eventually they just stand there directly in its flow making gulpy faces. That was me. Gulpy Face.
Head down and shoulders heaving, I scooped up my wet, muddy, grassy things and dumped them into a plastic bag. I salvaged what I could and generally tried to get my shit together through tears and sobs. I totally haven't got this.
Another fellow stallholder I'd met the night before happened to come along just then and gave me a cheery greeting before seeing my face. She dodged the devastation as best she could to make her way over to me and give me a hug.
I don't know about you, but when I'm upset and people are nice to me it makes me more upset. What I actually need is for someone to say "Pull yourself together you sniveling little crybaby, you're not dying". Funnily enough, people don't do that.
What she did do was distract me by talking and asking questions about my products. I knew what she was doing, I'd used exactly the same distraction tactics on my tantruming toddler. The thing is, it worked. I had to reply, I had to be polite, I had to stop the flow of the broken tap to hold a conversation.
Well played my friend, well played.
Off she went, and I got stuck in. It really was chaos, but I dragged my good table diagonally under the gazebo, tidied and stacked what I could under it, dragged my soggy cloth on top and set up with what stock and equipment that had been spared.
It was pretty dire. I was embarrassed. I wanted to say to everyone who came past "I promise I usually have a far better stall than this!".
It poured with rain, my walls were whipped by the wind and had to be re-secured regularly, my icy-cold wet feet were squelching, and my soaked jeans were stuck to my legs.
I was a few hours into a seven hour event, and I was making sales, but I was miserable. I wasn't friendly and fun, I wasn't enjoying myself, and I wasn't doing myself or my customers any justice.
I'm ashamed to say that I pulled the pin. I packed up early. Like, really early. I couldn't bring my car in of course, so I had to carry all my stock and equipment out to the car park in numerous trips through the mud and rain. The Elegant Apron came to my rescue again and helped me immeasurably, and hugged me goodbye. There were more tears as I took the last load to the car.
As I dragged my sorry arse into the driver's seat my whole body ached. I caught my reflection in the rear vision mirror and holy crap it was bad. So bad that I smiled at my bedraggled self. "You had this..." I said to her, "...what happened?"
Shit happened, that's what.