Saturday, March 11, 2006
I was led to Upton Park a few weekends ago.
A search for local, independent bookshops on the Internet brought up the Newham Bookshop which I remembered having seen from a bus years ago. I thought it was a council information point (goodness knows why).
At about the same time, I saw a letter in the Guardian referring to the planned demolition of Queen's Market to make way for an Asda. This was first mooted a good couple of years ago and I had forgotten all about it.
I thought it my duty to get down to the market and support it. I did expect to see evidence of some kind of campaign - posters and petitions - but this amounted to a small A4 sheet of paper pinned to the upright of a fruit stall reading 'SAY NO TO ASDA'. This was something of a disappointment. The market wasn't.
Is Asda going to sell you a bag of calves' feet for 99p? Half a goat? Exotic fish, fruit and veg? Probably not.
I have to be honest here and say that I could not buy meat or fish from the market as I am a fussy bugger but the fruit, veg, herbs and spices are a marvel to behold - and cheaper than the supermarket for the most part. The customers are a remarkably varied lot but share the same enthusiasm for filling up their shopping trolleys (I defy you to find more in such a small space; I'm determined to find a modern version - I can't be doing with the old-fashioned tartan-type). An old white woman remarked to an incredibly ill-tempered man sharing her table in Percy Ingles "We're a dying race. Isn't change a wonderful thing?". He did not concur.
The bookshop is everything its fans have said it is. Compact but with a wide range of books and a knowledgeable member of staff. I thought I was going to have to order my Beer and Books choice (Raymond Chandler's Big Sleep) as it didn't appear in the fiction section. The young lady behind the till appeared to magic a copy out of nowhere. Wonderful.
The only thing to marr Upton Park has to be the football team. I shall have to try to forget the fact we were attacked after a game (Big Dunc equalised just before the whistle to draw the game; didn't go down too well with the home fans) and in a moment of madness, following a different match, I punched a racist fan on the tube. C. and his brother had to remain silent for the remainder of the journey as they didn't fancy anyone hearing their Northern accents and working out they were with me.
According to the Friends of Queen's Market website which I have just discovered the 25th March is a political action day. I can get my fruit and veg, buy some books and have a good old rant against Labour. How exciting.