What a disaster!

Some of you might already know about it, but last Monday, a major calamity struck the south end of Upper Street. A large water supply pipe bursted at 4am and flooded the entire vicinity, causing millions of pounds of damages. The area affected by it included the beloved Camden Passage, a cobbled small street lined with antique shops and independent boutiques. I felt sick in my stomach and became very worried about the fate of all those charming shops which made the street so popular.

Because of my Bella not being herself after being shaved last Tuesday, I could not go out to inspect how the flooded area was like until yesterday.

How are they doing now?

I approached the passage from Angel tube station. As I got nearer to the street, an unmistakeable smell of damp got stronger. The scenery on Islington High Street seemed to be deceptively calm and ordinary as cafes and shops along the street were busy with customers as usual. A couple was walking in front of me, and as a result, I overheard their conversation. A woman was recounting how she was awaken by the water gushing into her room. ‘The water just kept on coming, and I have no idea why they didn’t stop it sooner.’ In fact, Thames Water took four hours to stop the leak. The woman looked very composed and somehow stoic about the calamity, but I really wanted to give her a big hug and to say how sorry I was.

Camden Passage looked badly affected…

It appeared that some shops were better off than others.

My favourite knitting salon LOOP was up and running as usual and so was its next door…

However, Kevin Page Oriental Art nearby was completely gutted…

And the cherished Pierrepont Arcade, in where so many delightful knick-knacks were displayed and sold, was completely out of bound to the public…

Not much could be done by anyone on time to save delicate vintage items as the flood happened in the very early hours. My heart ached as I imagined how the poor store owners felt when they saw the state of their shops…

After five days, the skips still were filling up with the debris from the shops and the houses…

It is terrible to be hit by this kind of disaster any time of the year, but especially now, just weeks before Christmas, it is devastating for the business because it should be the busiest time of the year. Not only they lost days’ of takings but also they had to spend their precious time instead for cleaning up and paperwork for filing the insurance claims.  Some worse-off people many not even have goods to sell.

Thames Water was still hard at work…

Please work fast and restore some normality to the area as soon as possible.

The south bound traffic was still suspended and I had no idea where they, especially buses, were diverted…

If the weather was not as bad as today, we shall visit Camden Passage for some gift shopping. We all must support our local shops, mustn’t we? I hope they will find their legs very soon…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Saturday Market @ Camden Passage

Our customary fry up breakfast at Caf the Shepherdess, utterly divested of any healthy eating concept.
Still no one can eat like a zen-monk 24/7, unless you are the real McCoy…

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Also, Hubbie’s weekend would not commence without a trip to the caf…

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Therefore, there I was, accompanying him like any good wifey would.

After breakfast, we made a quick trip to a dry-cleaner and then drove to Mr.B’s vet in Islington for replenishing his food & treats. While I remained in Islington, vintage-browsing at Camden Passage, Hubbie swung by his office in order to bring home the images of my knitwear he shot the other day…

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It is sad to report that the number of vintage stalls at Camden Passage is in a steady decline.

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Despite the fact that antique & collectable hunting is the most popular national pastime in Britain, vintage markets in & around Central London are shrinking in size and scope.
Especially, those markets, such as Spitalfields and Bermondsey where the areas underwent colossal developments in the ’80s & ’90s, have ended up being bald patches in the midst of high rise buildings.

Invariably, the wave of re-development arrived to Camden Passage in the late ’90s. As the result, a much loved antique emporium & an enchanting arcade were taken over by high-street clothing chains.

The building, now occupied by Reiss, used to house manifold of antique dealers who individually rented a booth in order to showcase their offering…

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Visiting the place was such fun – hopping between cubicles, some specialised in bone china tea sets and the adjacent one was a connoisseur of Art Deco jewellery, etc. The basement was filled with antique furnitures and vintage prints in all sizes.
One seller I remember particularly well was a man specialised in enamelled kitchen utensils.
Every space in his booth was covered with enamelled pots, pans, jags, colanders, ladles, spoons…etc, in all sizes and colours. They were displayed as such, like limpets latching onto every available surface. It was quite a sight and attracted a steady stream of visitors. However, the booth holder was not a happy chap. He complained loudly about the people taking pictures without permission. ‘They are tourist! They don’t buy anything! They just take bl**dy PHOTOS!!’, he fumed. In the end, he put up a sign at the entrance, “Photographing – £1.00”.

Another long loved building which became a victim of greedy landlords & developers, is now occupied by another clothing chain Jack Wills…

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The building used to be an arcade which housed 20 or so antique shops.
The both sides of the corridor glittered with beautifully decorated shop windows and strolling through the arcade was such a visual treat.

The council and developer seem to be ignoring about the fact that the area they’ve redeveloped is now devoid of its original character which made the place famous in the first place.

How can Tesco stick up their ugly steel wagons against our iconic red phone boxes?

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Much to my chagrin, this sight has been a semi-permanent feature in front of the branch of Tesco next to the aforementioned Reiss building.
Oh well, I shan’t complain anymore…

As usual, the passage was lined with stalls, mainly dealing with secondhand clothing,  vintage costume jewellery, fashion accessories, military memorabilia, books and ceramic…

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A fledgling antique dealer, assessing a possible purchase…

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She was very keen on this handsome rocking horse. Who can blame her?

This stall was something else…

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I found old dentures amongst this jumble by accident! Eeeeekkk, how did it end up being in here??!!
If you want anything weird & quirky, this stall would be the one to have a good old rummage…

It is undeniable that the market has shrunk significantly since its heyday.
Still, the market’s future depends solely on how much it is cherished by the public. Therefore, we must never write it off from our “Saturday must visit” list. Who knows, may be one day, the passage will be overflowing with vintage traders and visitors again.
Let’s support our local markets!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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