Note: you know I’m taking an online writing course with the Iowa Workshop.
One of the recent assignments was to write a detailed description of a
subject from a recent writing. So I chose to write about the Portobello
Market in London which was mentioned in an earlier writing. Here, with
an italicized sentence or two from the original piece, is what I wrote:
Memories of Portobello class 6
–from the original piece written for class 5:
I bought my little tiny elephant button at the Portobello Market in London. Remember
the Portobello Market? . . .Carol glanced around the group, checking to see if the
husbands and wives were still together as they might have been years ago. “It was
June when we went—beautiful weather! Sunny and warm . . .”
It was June when we went to the Portobello Market —-beautiful weather! Sunny and warm, blue skies. I still have the best daydreams about walking down the crowded
On the outskirts of the main shopping areas were fly-by-night displays of brand name
handbags and scarves. Two or three young men laid out their wares on a wide blanket on
But all of a sudden, with a whoosh, they whipped the blanket up, enveloping the handbags and scurried back between the alleys into another adjoining street. We
soon saw why: the police were targeting counterfeit vendors. Later, the same group would be spread out in their old favorite spot, happily in business again.
There were street musicians—a young man played the saxophone and its wailing tones surrounded me. His skinny girlfriend with short shorts stood nearby.
And there were street singers. I saw three girls singing, dressed in royal blue coats with red carnations in their hair—get it? Colors of Britain.
The big crowd of people featured all types—tourists mostly I think, even travelers pulling wheeled luggage—stopping at Portobello before flying out of England?
Of course there was the usual array of market stuff like British flags and coffee cups
(“Made in England!”), but I was on the hunt for grander treasure.
There were so many people it was difficult to even see the buildings—the buildings
painted yellows and rosy reds and blues, like Portofino. Signs hanging high above
lured you inside: Rare Books; Antique Clocks; Musical Boxes.
My favorite of all—and our meeting place if we got separated, was the giant red teapot sign that hung over a popular group of shops.
Before you stepped foot inside a building there were the makeshift tents and
booths in the street—almost in piggyback fashion, leaning, attached to each other
and then to the main buildings.
When you passed them and did enter an arcade, the separate dealers had their
little rented spaces to set up their wares. Think four feet by five feet, seriously. And
yet all down the long, long building reminiscent of a cave, there were booths on both
sides of the narrow aisle, and then continuing on back up the other side of the
building with a similar aisle. And that was just one building!
There was barely room to walk in single file—and woe to the person who stopped to
look at something interesting. Bumps from behind were to be expected from
the people going past you. It was just so jammed! I wonder how many folks have
become engaged at Portobello from meeting at such close contact?
In one place, OK, my favorite arcade, I was headed for a booth way in the back that
had sewing stuff. But before I got there, I peered and poked and looked over shoulders to see what goodies I was passing.
At a clocks booth I’ll always fondly remember an antique German clock. It had a tiny swing with two children . . . they kept the time as they moved back and forth to a tinkling musical refrain. Sweet . . . and expensive.
I saw a woman open a small narrow black box about a foot long and then I saw a lurid
pink velvet lining, and inside———-a piccolo! I saw a doll dressed as a boy in a
black suit covered with shiny white pearl buttons. Covered with buttons! I saw an
antique wooden doll house with the tiniest little cups and saucers.
When I got to the sewing lady I was amazed at all the things she had for sale.
I swear she only had a space about the size of a card table and that table was
chock full of wonderful old sewing items. There was a purple velvet pincushion
with gold trims and shaped like a British crown; a china thimble with roses;
antique ivory crochet hooks and needlecases; a tooled leather daguerreotype.
And need I say buttons?
I was tempted buy a set of Guinness brewery buttons—a set of eight—each with a different scene. But in the end I chose my marvelous elephant button.
You might laugh if you saw it—wouldn’t look like much to you. It’s like a round white ball with a clear glass window on top and five windows around the sides. It’s five-eighths of an inch in diameter.
It feels hefty in your hand. It’s considered a “paperweight” button.
When you look down from the top you see a little elephant made from gold leaf and, and the teensiest “J” beside it. For Jumbo? And as if that’s not enough, you can see that little elephant when you look through those side windows, too. One of a kind.
I came out of those shops exhausted—by all that I had seen and by all the money that I had spent on that button! I thought I deserved a cupcake. There is a bakery as you enter into the Portobello area. I walked back to it and chose a cupcake with luscious swirled pink frosting—kind of like a rose blossom, with tiny sparkles on it. Lovely. And a lovely day.
I have these memories and daydreams.
“Dreams or nightmares? The crowds! The germs!” Arnold laughed and gagged.