Sunday, December 15th 2013
This morning we had the weekly shopping to do, as usual. First, we had breakfast at Pret and then trundled the shopping trolley round to Sainsbury’s. It wasn’t a very nice day, as far as the weather was concerned, but, nothing daunted, after putting away the shopping and having a cup of tea, we went out again.
We went to look for a shop we wanted to to visit but it wasn’t where we thought it was. Never mind, we found it eventually and on the way, I noticed this building in Essex Road. It was the name, The Merchants Hall, that caught my attention. London, especially the City area, is dotted with “halls” belonging to the ancient Livery Companies. I briefly wondered whether this was another such, though that seemed unlikely. In fact, it is just commercial premises, currently available for purchase or rent, and the name is fortuitous. There isn’t actually a Worshipful Company of Merchants, the nearest in name being the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors.
We next took a bus to Waterloo and went into the National Theatre on the Southbank. The annual exhibition of photography, The Press Photographer’s Year 2013, was being held. Despite the title, not all the pictures captured high drama and some were almost poetic in their rendering of scenes of nature. They confirmed my view that pointing the camera and clicking the shutter release is only part of the work of producing a good photo. The concrete spiral staircases at the Southbank always fascinate me. Painted in bold colours, they are made to be a “feature” of the site and while they are purely utilitarian I find them slightly sinister: their solid design means you cannot see what is waiting for you round the bend.
On the way home we passed through the Borough and went to have a look at Borough Market. One of the oldest and best known food markets of London, for both retail and wholesale, Borough Market has existed since ancient times. In fact, no one knows how old it is though it dates from well before William the Conqueror set foot on British soil.
The market, which has occupied different sites in the area at different times, recently suffered a good deal of disruption owning to the rebuilding of London Bridge Station. The market nestles under the railway bridge and a new bridge has been added to reduce the station’s famous bottleneck. While it was being built, the market had to be partially closed.
The market seems to be back on form again and today it was crowded. We were not the only people taking photographs and tourists were well represented.
Along with the well established big stalls, there are small ones, perhaps specializing in a single product from a single farm or market garden.
It is accepted that potential customers may sample the goods on display. Some bolder people take undue advantage of this and we know one person who sometimes “samples” enough to make a free lunch.
The market isn’t patronized only by “foodies” or the chefs of local restaurants. Anyone with a taste for quality goods can come here and find plenty of choice.
Borough Market is gearing up for Christmas and is decorated throughout with these wreath-shaped cornucopia displays. Are these real fruits and vegetables or clever imitations? It’s hard to tell and doesn’t really matter.
As while as buying food to prepare later, you can eat on the spot and stalls sell a range of food and – yes! – some is vegetarian!
Borough Market sits in the lap of Southwark Cathedral, as it were, and this other famous landmark of the area is a brooding presence as you visit the market stalls. It too is worth a visit, whether or not you are religious, because, like the market, it is an ancient establishment with a lot of history behind it. That, however, will be for another day!