Day 7: Plans go oft astray
So I had a plan on Day 6. Grab a bucket load of data from the Camden Markets, then head out over there on foot, and scout the terrain. That’s not how it all ended out.
First encounter with getting turfed out of my room by housekeeping due to the fact it was raining quite vigorously in the morning, and AC Repair Miami elected to play defence and do some admin data house cleaning. That, a small food run, and a bit of write up.
By small food, I mean small food. Look at the size of this thing. A bit of work, lunch, a jet lag induced nap later, and I was looking to clear out of my house around 4pm. Which, in a big city, wouldn’t be much of a problem, right? Sunday night in London, the metropolis of countless movies and stories.
It shuts at 6pm.
Score another to the culture shock factor. This city starts trading at 12pm (browsing from 11.30) and shuts up shop at 6pm on a Sunday. Maybe they’re right, and we should show more respect for weekends, closing times, and half day trading. After all, they’re a huge metropolitian capital city, and Australia’s stores are open longer hours.
You Can Never Go Home Again (even if it was never home)
Carnaby Street is one of the few times I’ve ever broken down and cried at the loss of something I’ve never had. Back in the 80s, as a small and impressionable child, I remember the noise, hustle, lights and low end graft of the Carnaby street area. It was street markets and tacky shirts, dodgy watches and dodgier watchkeepers. It was still clinging to some of the late 70s punk, and there was a sense that the counterculture was alive.
Fast forward to 2015. It was sanitised, stripped bare of life, and the t-shirt hawkers had turned into merchant banks, energy companies, TV studio headquarters and as mainstream as you can muster with rents that require profits beyond decency. In one respect, I should have been in a heartland, but all I felt was heart break. I was walking desolate lanes, closed shops and neatly manicured shop fronts of chain stores.
At one point, I remember just staring down Beak Street, looking around, and whispering “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry”.
Carnaby Street was, Carnaby Street is no more.
I walked up to Picadilly Circus, and joined the crowds of fellow tourists. If there were locals, they’d gone home. Nobody was selling anybody anything, there was nobody hawking a ware, no shop to take the coin of a traveller.
I remember standing beneath the Piccadilly sign, thinking of a single refrain from the Pet Shop Boys, That’s My Impression
I went looking for someone I couldn’t find
staring at faces by the Serpentine
Walking slowly I realised
you’d been and gone, I know you lied
The ghosts of the 1980s Carnaby street were probably no more real then as they are in my memory. But at the same time, they were not the empty lane that stood silent, gleaming and sanitized as my replacement memory.
I walked home, an hour across the city, by closed stores, the shadows of big name brands, until, just close to home, by Marble Arch, the city spun back to life. Shops were open, cafes trading, people were milling around, conversations between friends and family, life, light and chaos.
Maybe when I come back in a few years, the cancerous sweep of respectability will have burnt the Marble Arch to the soulless husk of Carnaby Street. Who knows?
Secondary Data Grab
Primary Data Grab
- Carnaby Street Observation
- The realisation that if I want a slice of Camden Markets, it’s got to be a dedicated trip
Soundtrack for the day: THINK by KALEIDA (Official Video),