A short walk from my grandfather’s old London flat is a street of colours and bustle. Traders come to market here every Saturday with antiques from far-flung places and distant times. Every other day of the week the street is lined with the freshest local produce, olives spiced and pickled to please every taste, cameras and timepieces that still carry the smells and stories of their long-ago owners, scarves and trinkets, plates and dishes, yellowed books and cartographers’ maps.
A little ways down, some people are looking up at a bright blue house and taking photos. I read the small plaque and realize that this is where George Orwell spent the winter of 1927 after he resigned his post with the Imperial Police in Burma and came to England. I am thrilled to be standing here imagining the prophetic author at his desk plotting in his head the masterplans for the novels he would soon write. And then without preamble I see his prophesies come true in front of my eyes. The big brothers are coming in–chain stores and restaurants, armies of tawdry souvenirs slowly making their inroads into a sanctum of diversity and a thousand different voices. The old traders are starting to shut their shops and go elsewhere for jobs managing supermarkets perhaps–their voices are being stilled. So I want to let these photos speak, in solidarity.
- Don’t miss this short film on Portobello and its history from Stall Stories.