Legends from our own lunchtimes

Monday, September 13, 2010

I'm not sure that revisiting Portobello Road without the crowds was a good thing in retrospect. It gave us time to see just how little anyone has moved on in forty years, and it confirmed that we should perhaps have liked to have remembered it as it was in an era long gone.

There is a new retail clothing outlet on a street corner near here which seems to have created rather a ruckus among the "save Portobello Road" mob, which it seems is being stewed slowly in its own juices without being aware of it. It's proponents cry that the small merchants will be pushed out by the chains, that the place will lose it's character, but they clearly haven't seen it from the eyes of a visitor. The characters that once were there, are gone, replaced by a pseudo chain of cheap souvenir hawkers.

Just how many Princess Diana postcards, or Beatles tee shirts or ones with Twiggy on them, or poor posters of photos of Banksy graffiti can one street sustain before it's character is lost? Admittedly the antiques markets weren't open today and they may well serve to dilute the other effluent, but the "antiques" that were there were junk from Asia, solid aluminium replica art deco junk, gold leaf mis-carved tapestry settee junk, fibreglass Cadillac boot settee junk, Union Jack flag tea shirt junk.

There was neither a genuine elephant's foot umbrella stand, nor a torn and faded knitted gollywog with one eye to be seen. How long can they go on trading on the reputation of the street in the sixties before even the least discriminating among us wakes up?

Worse still, there was nothing that we saw that we could even imagine had been stolen.

Another sign of the rapidly changing times I expect. Furniture isn't stolen any more, it's cheaper to buy it from Ikea, and by the time enough heat has gone from the contraband VCR's to make them safe to flog in the markets, everyone is already playing DVD's.

The sight of Russian matryoshka dolls and imitation MIG flying helmets competing for a place on my mantel with yellow duck Bobbies in Union Jack vests truly make me wonder what is actually left to save!

It's still fun to be there though.

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