On Camden

May. 30th, 2011 11:10 am
annwfyn: (Mood - winter melancholy)
[personal profile] annwfyn
I went to Camden yesterday.

I admit, I wasn't in the best of moods for it, really. I went to a wedding on Saturday and was still pretty tired after that, and I was feeling poor and a bit porky to boot. So maybe I wasn't in the Camden spirit. Still, folk I knew were going, I'd been asked to come along and so I did.

This was a bad move.

I increasingly find myself struggling with the vast majority of Camden. OK, so bits of it are nice. There's a Mexican stall in the food court which does awesome beef burritos (albeit containing grated carrot, which always confuses me), and some of the stalls up the little side alleys at the back are still fun. For Christmas, it's always a good place to go if one is brave of backbone and strong of stomach, for there will always be cute and goth-ish bits of tat that will generally please someone underneath the tree - the leather bound books, maybe some pretty chopsticks, or perhaps a cheap print of a dragon.

But it's not really the place that it used to be.

Now, I'm not an old skool Camden afficiando. I started going in around 2002, when I was about 24. In my defense, I had been living in Scotland since I was 19, and before then I had lived in Nepal for a while, so I really hadn't been in a place to discover the wonders of affordable goth clothing. But when I did come to Camden for the first time, I really loved it. It was fun. It was this labyrinth of odd little stalls, cute clothes that I could afford, a random mix of tops, skirts, corsetry (which I couldn't afford) and jewelry and other nonsense which I could. People used to spend the whole day there, just wandering around, looking at stuff, trying stuff on, hanging out. And I would always spend far more than I intended to, because I tend to when I'm hanging out in a shop.

Now it's crowded, but the crowds feel different to me. Everyone yesterday was sharp and aggressive, trampling, pushing, poking. The stallholders were a lot more aggressive as well. Camden stallholders used to at least look like people who might be using their own merchandise. Now, there are a lot of middle aged men who thrust overpriced pinstripe skirts, or polyester hoodies into your face as soon as you pause to say 'try it on. Try it on'. A couple of times, when we said 'just looking at the moment', we were asked to move on, in case more customers came along. If you weren't actually buying, they wanted you gone.

The prices have gone up, by quite a bit. I'd say everything I saw in the main market seemed to have had about 20 quid added to the price. In one shop, they had gone from 'goth' to 'steampunk' by virtue of gluing some plastic cogs onto the exact same coats, and raising the price by a third. The shopkeeper there stalked around the place, taking hangers out of your hands the minute you took a coat off the hanger to try anything on, thus requiring you to go back to him to explain you wouldn't be buying that, whilst he glared a little.

There was less variety, even though there were more stalls, and there are more and more identikit 'tat' stalls, selling the same resin dragon statuettes.

Cyberdog was the same as ever, which, alarmingly, was a relief. I mean, I still got a headache from the music and had to leave but at least no one had tried to mug me with a black t shirt featuring an airbrushed wolf on the front. Signs everywhere explained what you weren't to do; no photos, no sitting down.

At the back of the market there is a little lane rising up a hill, with some smaller stalls which seem to lack a stallholder half the time. They had some really cute little fascinator/pin on top hats there which were half the price of the exact same hats in the main market. I nearly bought one, just to show my support, but couldn't find a stall holder.

I went to H&M instead, on the way out, and bought an animal print tunic and some glorious turquoise nail polish for very little money and came home to watch 'A Game of Thrones'.

[livejournal.com profile] pierot once wrote a poem about Camden changing. It began with 'there were no punks on the bridge today'. There weren't any punks on the bridge yesterday either. Just the same endless river of busy people, smelling of sweat and impatience, trudging past identical rails of identical objects.

There's probably a metaphor in there somewhere.


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