each time i hear of the news about the recent recession in britain, i recall the time when business remained slack but people were as sturdy as their wellington boots in this country. my 1st london life, which i personally call my “london flower-period” (i was studying floristry then), happened from 1988 to 1991. at the time, we didn’t really have a great choice of places to go on dreary sundays in the cold months. due to the sunday trading act, shops were not allowed to trade on sundays. even oxford street was deserted, you couldn’t imagine that now. so i’d take my kids to museums. or, another choice was flea markets, which i now miss most about london.
it’s february. a year ago, i learned that a large fire broke out in the camden market area on an online newspaper. i wondered and worried how much had affected the markets, because camden lock used to be my playground. but yet, i know camden lock is not what it used to be. i witnessed it changing over time during the 2nd and 3rd spans of my london life that lasted until 2005. i miss my london days when people still clung onto victoriana. it was before they had chucked out their chintz, which was ikea’s infamous tv campaign encouraging britain to buy brand new things; it was before “cool britannia” was born and also it was before a celebrity culture was rather hysterically welcomed be the british.
the camden markets have always been considered a tourist trap. it’s probably true. in the late 80’s i saw punks and goths hanging around the tube station, who obviously attracted tourists. i simply enjoyed being an onlooker, though i kind of sensed young people’s dissatisfaction with their society and themselves, or whatever. but then, i knew that there was something nice to be found and i could be a finder if only i’d drive my rickety austin metro heading for camden town: the lock, the canal and the stables markets of which stalls dealt food, crafts, second-hand clothes, used furniture, antiques and bric-a-brac, that is, a pile of junk.
i loved treasure-hunting at the markets. i still keep some of the stuff i bought there like jugs, vases and candle holders, although most of them just went missing as i’ve moved from place to place crossing the oceans so many times in my past 2 decades. things i found at the markets as love at first sight but sadly i couldn’t afford to take any home were rocking horses. i was a little girl who fantasised about going on horseback in the fairytale forest while riding on a merry-go-round; it’d always been my childhood dream to have my own horse till i realised it was a dream that would never come true. so, i’ve always had my soft spot for them.
i never forget about the sunday that i ran into one with cute wicked eyes, sitting nervously on a shabby arm chair next to the heart brand signboard. as much as i wanted to take it with me, it was a bit big for an impulse buy. i hoped that someone with a heart of gold would have that rocking horse join his or her family…well, like always, i think i am taking a trip down memory lane right now. anyway, as years went past, many antique (junk?) stalls disappeared from the camden markets. but certainly, there was a good old time for good old rocking horses. where did all the rocking horses go? ---i’m still thinking of them, and wishing them a warm home.