I didn’t bump into Ron and his dog Betsy this time, but Portobello Market is always prime people watching territory on a Saturday. We walked down from Notting Hill to Ladbroke Grove. Here’s a few photos I took along the way.
It was a slow stroll through the cluttered shops and stalls full of tacky London souvenirs, the union jack shot glasses, the racks of postcards, red telephone box keychains, tee shirts announcing “My sister went to London and…”
And then past the second hand porcelain teapots and antiques market, the boxing gloves and war paraphernalia, rows of various analogue cameras, stamp collections and silver tea spoons.
The music plays. The CD stalls, the buskers, the Johnny Cash man with his big old double bass, a woman singing sweetly with a guitar sitting on a street corner, nestling her chin into layers of colourful scarves to keep out the January chill.
It was a windy day. One vendor selling jewellery told me she’s been selling in the market for over 15 years and this is the windiest day she has ever seen. Stalls were blowing over. A woman’s rack of tights spilled onto the street, the man above fixing mugs blown in a gust, clothing racks tipping slowly onto the road.
People walking alone. People walking in groups. People walking their dogs.
We walk past the fruit and veg vendors shouting “one pound a bowl, just one pound a bowl!”, filling paper bags with apples and avocados, passing change over the table of grapes and tomatoes and plastic containers of blueberries for £1.50.
The smell of paella cooking slowly in giant woks, steam rising into the cold air, people standing against walls on side streets digging plastic forks into tins of noodles, hands wrapping around hot plastic cups of tea.
People chatting and laughing and eating and shopping and yelling and cooking and walking.
A woman made crepes with ham and cheese or sweet with bananas and Nutella.
Food stalls faded into clothing stalls, racks of generic £5 market dresses causing crowds in booths that look like closets, tables piled with boxes full of sweaters and tee shirts and belts and scarves.
The fashion is always fascinating. A woman wearing snakeskin leggings and a neon pink jacket with a big furry wolf hat. A man who could have walked straight out of the 1920. Cultures mingling, languages spilling about.
We head toward the Westway. Graffiti starts to pop up. An old protected Banksy behind plexiglass, a Don banker and colourful murals behind the barrier walls.
We dig through little cardboard boxes full of old jewellery remnants – pendants, beads, broaches and rings. There are boxes of buttons. Unpolished stones. Watches, hats, wallets, gloves.
In the vintage and secondhand clothing market, there is leopard print, faux fur, red leather boots, a pair of jean short completely covered in band badges.
A peacock feather seller stands silently with his goods in the street.
The cold seeps into our bones. Our hands are red and white. The wind whips around. Bags blowing. People bundling and huddling.
We decide it’s time to head home.
So I will leave you now with a video from Stall Stories, the story of Portobello Road Market.