Fishmongers who don’t like early starts are in between a rock and a hard plaice. Traders assemble long before dawn at Billingsgate Fish Market to pick up the best stock. Aamir Zaman, owner of Bush Halal, a fishmongers and butchers’ shop in Shepherd’s Bush Market, doesn’t mind being up with the lark to ensure he has the freshest fish around. “It’s a long day. You have to be there (Billingsgate Fish Market) at 3am,” he says. “Then we drive the fish to our shop at Shepherd’s Bush Market, we unload and serve – it takes it out of you, but the fish has to be fresh.”
If this sounds like a punishing lifestyle, there is a saving grace. Fishermen and women don’t fish on the weekend, so there is no fresh fish to sell on a Monday. That means Zaman has a calm start to the week, managing his existing stock and undertaking a bit of admin before the real rush begins on Tuesday morning. Meanwhile, another tradition helps ease the week along: “Traditionally all the fishmongers’ and butchers would close their shops on a Thursday afternoon and head to the pub,” says Zaman. “Shepherd’s Bush Market has a real community feel and this is a ritual that’s been alive since the place was founded.” Zaman insists that these gatherings are more about fostering a feeling of togetherness among colleagues, than drinking like a fish!