Life inside and around the Thames
While the whale in the Thames struggles against its captors to land a fine rally of bangers and mash (sausage and mashed potatoes -- actually just sausage-flavored breadlike liquid over a pillow of salty foam), the early part of the day saw a voyage to Camden, the largest outdoor market in the whole of London.
The sight amazes immediately when you leave the Tube station and wander into (not onto) the street. In a day unusually rife with sun, Camden hums. Its stores stick out into the street whose traffic zips by on the infrequent Vespa or bus, while guys in torn-up clothes with torn-up faces pitch, in torn-up accents, their respective stores, products or substances. An open-air building, which is more like an above-ground labyrinth, meets you first, and greets you with a rather impressive display of t-shirts that boast a full command of the word 'fuck' and all of its conjugations. Also, some jolly plays on those crazy antics of President Bush.
Down the street, the stores fade into more indie stuff -- which often means 'metal' in London. This is not the place to talk about the whimsies of Belle and Sebastian. Or anything less than Motorhead playing their guitars with the bones of the men who rocked so hard that their heads fell off, onto spikes, and were carried away by the devil on a flaming motorcycle that jumped so high that it crashed into a Trans-Am driven by a flaming horse on the moon.
British stores offer kitsch, including action figures of Jane Austen, William Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde. Some offer shoes. Some socks. Most offer area workers who have a latent scorn for what their media portrays as America; that is, a bunch of loud buggers with no care for their society. One of the saleswomen (a Brit with golden hair that clung to her forehead as if rained-upon) told me to tell George Bush to stop shooting her countrymen with a soft and disarming, yet non-aggressive smirk. But their curiosity overcomes initial impressions, just as does ours. As it should, especially at a place like this, when each store offering buttons melts into one offering jagged belts and plastic viking horns into one offering hemp into one offering tikka masala.
I bought a doughnut for 1.50. I still don't know the sign for the British Pound. But it was sort of a sandwich donut, with two pastries (one iced with chocolate) flanking banana icing in the middle. This gave me another step on my march toward diabetes and a great feeling of levity and daytime languor, of sun-starched happiness and full contentment drawn from the stomach. Unfortunately, it also meant that any further admission to the stomach would have caused crowding, thus excluding the very worthy Thai, Japanese, Chinese guests and the lady of mulled wine.
No matter. This market was what London should portray more, this clashing and vibrant stream of culture blended together but with each ingredient still radiating its own taste. None compromised, but together greater. Fuller.