diamond geezer

 Thursday, March 08, 2012

Sunday lunchtime: Columbia Road
Spring's a good time to visit the East End's favourite flower market. The street's packed with blooms for planting, as well as plenty more for that vase on your sidetable. You could even even walk away with a shrub if the price is right, and it's not too far to lug the beast home. A wet spring Sunday's even better, because the flowers are just as good but the crowd slowly dissipates, allowing better access to the stalls while the wimps hide out to drink coffee under shelter. Normally you have to push your way through the hundreds of potential purchasers down this narrow roadway, and it can take ages to walk only a hundred yards or so. When it rains, the queueing suddenly stops, and the traders address you direct. "I'm not selling, I'm giving these lilies away." "Look at my orchids ladies, only seven pounds." "Everythin' a fiver." "You don't want those primroses, buy mine." They're a macho bunch, these florists, you'd think more at home with crockery, dishcloths or meat, but they give their all to sell these flowers. Proper Cockney banter it is, or maybe deepest Essex, from geezery blokes quite unlike most of those who come to buy. Most punters are from the East End's new middle class inrush, usually with 'him' trailing behind 'her' while she peruses her choices. They'll likely stop off in the trinket shops alongside, or poke around the sidestreets and adjacent courtyards before burdening themselves with blooms and baskets. But other visitors are more traditional souls - pensionable ladies, pre-retired couples, even pearly Kings and Queens - here for the bargains and for the choice. At this time of year every colour of tulip is available, fresh from the Dutch bulbfields, wrapped conveniently in multiples of ten. Stocks might look low, but peer behind the front stall and you'll likely see hundreds more ready to fill fresh gaps. Or you will if it's raining, otherwise all you'll likely catch is the back of someone's head and a forest of colourful flowers behind.
I left with: Fifty tulips. They didn't look so many when tightly bound and unfurled, but once I'd dripped home and unwrapped I realised my single vase was never going to cope with the entire bunch. Urgent exploration of my kitchen cupboards revealed sufficient alternative receptacles, thankfully, and now my living room' is blessed with (I'll be honest, rather too many) red and yellow beauties.
A photo for you: Two Pearly Kings sheltering under a brolly


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