My very first and very fond memories of London are firmly rooted in W10 and the little, scruffy area underneath the concrete flyover at its southern bottom. Despite the fact that my actual first visit to London hadn’t included a trip to Portobello Market (but a stay at the posh Covent Garden Hotel) and that it lies about ten years further back in the past – Portobello Market always reminds me on my first days in London. And it sums up why I fell in love with this city.
At the time, the air of renewal that fulfilled the space had intrigued me. Everything seemed possible. Starting up your own business, choosing creative freedom over financial stability, living from hand to mouth to achieve a greater, bigger dream – the market people were my personal role models.
When I visited my friend A, the initial plan included staying for a weekend, getting a break from a hideous internship and from a slightly dysfunctional relationship. A few weeks later the hideous internship was over and the relationship was history, too. I needed a place to hide. Somewhere that had nothing to do with the well-off middle-class existence I used to share with my ex in Switzerland. With little money to spend, W10 turned out to be my own little haven of shabby chic.
In fact, it turned out to be much more than just a haven – running away from my troubles didn’t proof to be very recommendable. My problems seemed to be catching up with me rather quickly, inviting new problems to join.
After a rather rough time, I decided to go back in time to face my demons, cleaned up the mess I made and waved London goodbye. For good, so I thought. Fate, luck and a lot of love brought me back only a year later. As long as we were not moving back to W10, I could live with moving back to London.
I went to see my lovely artist-come-writer-come-dentist Simon for a check-up last Friday (seriously, if you are looking for a good dentist, book an appointment with him) – his practice is located just off Notting Hill Gate. Instead of heading straight back home afterwards, I strolled down Portobello Road. I hadn’t set foot on the market in more than three years.
It is all still there. The antique dealers. The fruit and veg stalls. My favourite lunch spot. The clean whiff of fresh soap that scents the air anywhere south of the Lush shop. The Halal butchers with their raw displays of dead meat. The guy with beads in his hair and beats on the turntables.
Wandering around in between the vintage stalls, I realised that some things are so good, they make you come back for them all over again. And that time heals all wounds.