Unlike most Sundays, last Sunday I woke up without a hangover – even feeling pretty fresh. To top it off, the sun was shining and – get this – it wasn’t raining. Feeling pretty pleased with this happy combination of events, I decided to get out and explore the city. My target: Columbia Road flower market.
I’d never been to an East London market before, but when I imagined them I thought of the scenes from Eastenders where London geezers (“Landan geezas”, is it not?) are stood behind stalls yelling offers and using phrases like, “you won’t Adam and Eve it” [you won’t believe it] and … actually that’s the best I can do. This is all still pretty foreign to me. What I found difficult, though, is picturing that scene filled with flowers. Waving food, cleaning products and clothes around is one thing – but flowers?
The journey was not a smooth one: it took two buses and a tube (I’m constantly amazed at my commitment for getting from A to B here) to get there – but I arrived in one piece after a mere 50 minute journey to the East. I was wrong to doubt that any element of my East London market vision would be missing just because of the flower focus of this particular street. If anything, the sight of burly men yelling deals while waving delicate flowers made it all the more interesting. On one particular stall, a gentleman stood on a raised platform swinging around bunches of lillies – “Two pound! – just two pound! – that’s a steal! – two pound for lillies!”.
My heart, however, was set on my favourite spiky plant variety. I bought one at a car boot sale aged eight (it’s still alive!) and realised that they really can survive with barely any TLC. I’ve since had quite an affection for the humble cactus. And so I bought two- (“Four for a fiver! – alright – two for two-fifty! – I’ll give you half a deal!”)
And then I just couldn’t resist buying a third – and subsequently telling everyone about my cacti purchase, if only because ‘cacti’ is such an awesome word. Cactuses? No. Try and slip ‘cacti’ into a sentence today. I promise, you’ll feel like the boss.
We concluded the afternoon with a stroll around some slightly odd shops. One specialised in plaster models, another specialised in, well, I’m not sure. It was one of those moments where you begin to ponder the difference between antiques, collectibles and junk. Where does one draw the line?
One wise TripAdvisor reviewer advises: “Columbia Road flower market may be good if you live in London and need flowers otherwise it is extremely busy and it is just all flowers flowers flowers…”
Flowers, flowers, flowers indeed.
When to go: Sundays, 8am til 3ish
Address: Columbia Road, London E2 7RG
Nearest station: Hoxton