It’s a Saturday afternoon. We’re sitting outside Café Roma and sipping cappuccinos at our leisure while flicking through a couple of books we’ve just bought in Oxfam. My favourite coffee in town is served here as it tastes authentically Italian and is perfectly brewed.

It feels like July rather than April and I soak up the sun listening to my daughter talking about how she’d change the world if she were the prime minister! Two saxophone players fill the air with lazy summer tunes against a backdrop of stalls crammed with bowls of ripe mangoes and punnets of fresh scarlet strawberries, “Any bowl you like for a pound!” The stallholder’s booming voice resonates through the air.

Over the last twenty years, the bustling St Albans market has certainly been a fixed point in my life. Apparently the very first market was established here by the abbey back in the Ninth Century and developed over the years.

In the early days the market area was divided into spaces for stalls of different trades like the fish market, the leather shambles and the wool market. The stalls were initially temporary but gradually became permanent features and eventually shops. By 1553, St Albans was given a royal charter and officially established a market every Wednesday and Saturday that continues to this day.

We leave the cafe and walk along St Peter's Street under the long line of yellow and blue striped canopies. There’s such an abundance of merchandise and on these market days, the entire length of the street is awash with colours and scents. I see the familiar faces of the stallholders and feel part of a community, part of a city with its own sense of place and history.

French Row, built in the 14th Century, was also known as Cobblers Row and Cordwainers Row. The white building beside it, The Corn Exchange, built in 1857, now houses Jack Wills, and was on the site of an ancient open-market house.

The florist yells “£8 a bunch!” holding up huge bouquets of pink roses and luminous white lilies. I take in the beauty of spring flowers in full bloom spilling from the black buckets in their abundance and stop and stare at the tapered long sleeves of the red tulips bathed in sunlight.

I have a look at some soft leather wallets, cotton nighties and patterned pyjamas then catch up to my daughter, who is taking an A-level in art textiles and in the middle of buying red fabric and a selection of shiny golden buttons. I marvel at the neatly displayed rows of sequin trim, lace and ribbon in every colour.

We pass by a stall of crystal flutes and decanters that sparkle as they catch the sunlight arranged on a purple velvet cloth that ripples in the soft breeze. I spot a stall displaying many designs of oil cloth and remember my auntie’s birthday. We take our time to look at all of them and agree that it has to be the cherry blossom design to dress her kitchen table. For a mere £8 the trader cuts us a generous two metres.

Lastly, we head towards a jungle of lush green plants. The stall is packed with a wide selection of bedding plants from tubs of bright pansies to little pots of cacti. I buy a small camellia plant for my garden; the market din and radio tunes grow faint as we walk away from the buzz of activity and go home to put our feet up.

  • Marisa Laycock moved from south west London to St Albans in 2000. She enjoys sharing her experiences of living in the city