The ability to make you forget that you’re in London is part this city’s endearing cosmopolitan charm. There are little urban islands tucked away in this megapolis that take you by the hand and transport you across cultures, countries, continents and sometimes, even time itself. The word ‘islands’, is in fact somewhat of a misnomer – as different as these little clusters seem to appear from the larger city around them, they form an indelible, inseparable link with it. London wouldn’t be complete without its ‘others’, the others that sew it together into a whole.
Shepherd’s Bush Market
is one of those small phantasmagoric fragments of west London. It sits in sharp contrast to most of the rest of West London, but is a very important economic centre for the micro-community. Tucked into the middle of two busy traffic streets and under a railway viaduct, it’s almost completely hidden, except for the relatively new sign that announces its existence.
Step in, and the mind boggles. This is Haberdashery Central – fabric by the metre, hijab scarves, curtains, lace, imitation leather – it’s all here and it’s dirt cheap.
A lone dingy pet shop announcing goldfish sits unfortunately trapped between a meat shop on either side. Poor pets – I bet they come psychologically scarred. Plastic, stainless steel, feather or wigs – tack and cheap kitsch are the order.
Look just beyond the mountains of shiny-this-and-that, though, and you see the darker side. Overhead, the meagre Christmas decorations this market could afford still hang – unassuming strings of 40W bulbs. The grime and the graffiti tell of the ugly underbelly of the local community. Signs warning that you’re being watched appear alarmingly often – and thank goodness for comic relief – in funny juxtaposition at times.
I find myself being watched closely but not just by the CCTV’s. Time to shift my focus to the people around me, my internal radar tells me. More of that in the next post.