Joss Sticks, Street Food, and the Comfort of Crowds

I have felt many things in London, but lonely is seldom one of them. I am lucky, I enjoy my own company. And I am lucky to live in one of the world’s great cities. All I need is a comfy pair of shoes, a good book to read on the tube, a camera and I am happy.

I do not identify as a Londoner as I live across the border in Essex. Yet I have been here for nearly 20 years now and perhaps it is time to finally admit this is home. Camden is one of my favourite places, when I am in the mood for it, when I am not hissing at tourists and scowling ferocioulsy. Whatever my mood I can come here and lose myself in the crowd, to wander in the souk-like tunnels, twisting and turning, the air thick with Nag Champer and musk and frankincense. In winter the afternoon soon turns to syrupy night, laden with wood smoke and the heady scent of a thousand spices, of curry and grilling meat. I love this triangle of land, tucked in the old yards of Victorian London, a place where steam trains once roared and screamed in the sooty darkness, and water rats slipped unnoticed into cold, green canals. There are countless shops, so small they remind one of the Orient, shelves of musty old paperbacks, rugs from Persia, mysterious purveyors of all things spiritual, with golden statues of Buddha and Shiva and Ganesh, all for the price of a pizza. I come to sip sweet mint tea from glass cups, sat on a plush couch, lounging in fake luxury, a debauched Pasha for an hour.  The smell of shisha makes me slightly high.I go up to a huge room filled with retro relics, magazines in plastic covers, toy cars with missing wheels, tea cups and horse shoes, Victorian doilies, a neon sign. Where I go next depends on my mood. A long canal walk, beyond the gates of the zoo where lions roar at night? Or perhaps down to the louche backstreets of Kings Cross? London awaits, as it always will. The painting is available at https://www.artfinder.com/product/camden-market-bridge/

 

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2 comments on “Joss Sticks, Street Food, and the Comfort of Crowds

  1. When I first moved to London last year I found it really lonely. Everyone is in such a hurry and tbh Londoners can be a little aggressive. It was so different to Ireland were everyone loves a chat. But when I visited Camden I really felt at home. Maybe because it’s so cosy and packed or maybe it was just the loud street sellers shouting over my thoughts 💭😂

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