Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
tices slept under the shop counter and had to take down the shutters for their first job of
the day. These shops are less obviously attractive than those by Cubitt in Woburn Walk,
but builders had a feeling for proportion in those days, an instinct for form and for doing
the thing in a way most satisfactory to the eye. Even the panels of these shutters have the
right relation to each other and to the edges of the wood.
Chapel Market extends to Upper Street and is one of the lesser known among the street
markets of London. It is also one of the most interesting. The weeks before Christmas are
the best time to go there, for it is then that the market is most fully stocked with fruit,
vegetables, poultry, and toys. Here a crowd gathers round a man selling boxes of cheap
crackers, and a hawker with several days' growth of beard sells magic mice - white mice
which run up and down his greasy sleeves. Those who buy them will find that there is
nothing but a mouse of white wax inside the bag; the secret is in the manipulation, that is
all. Farther along, a smart-Aleck opens a suitcase full of small envelopes. As the crowd
gathers, he puts a pound note into two or three envelopes, shuffles them up and calls out
for a sportsman who will give him half a dollar on the chance of striking it rich. Eventu-
ally, someone falls and another; it is interesting to see the furtive way in which the envel-
opes are opened and the feeble grins at finding a mere charm, a lucky charm, of course.
The crowd melts away, and so does the smart-Aleck, richer by two or three quid earned in
ten minutes, and so on to the next performance. Weird youths, monstrous growths of city
pavements, stare listlessly into radio and jazz shops, youths with white-eyeleted shoes ac-
companied by their fun-molls. Each couple has horribly pointed shoes that make me think
of elves; they twitch epileptically to the sound of jazz oozing from the shop. They are the
collectors' pieces for a book like this.
Chapel Market has rich colour: the blue-pink of plucked chicken, partridges, and pheas-
ants touched with dull reds and Prussian blue and occasionally a black and white hare; then
the fish stalls, largely of pearly white from the underbellies of plaice and cod, colour ac-
cents being supplied by parsley (sometimes of plastic, occasionally real) and the lobsters.
The market spreads into several of the adjoining streets, with more toy stalls, more stalls
selling toilet rolls and ballpoint pens, and more colour that Titian might have envied - the
bunches of grapes, loads of apples and brussels sprouts, and the awful dark red that comes
off the bloody hands of the man cutting up live eels.
Most of the shops in Chapel Market have been modernised, but a few older ones remain;
above them can be seen the brickwork of early nineteenth-century terraced houses, and
there is a Baroque note in the architecture of the Chapel House, halfway down the market.
London street markets deserve a book to themselves, especially those in the working-
class districts. Some, such as Petticoat Lane and Portobello Road, are too well known for
this topic, and, in any case, have become somewhat self-conscious - like the so-called
Caledonian Market now held in Bermondsey. Still, while I like the bilious jars of pickles
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