This past weekend I was in the big smoke, otherwise known as London, at a Chinese New Year dinner party thrown by my friend Jeffrey. I decided to take the opportunity to visit my favorite place to do a spot of shopping, Camden Market. The dinner party was great fun but unfortunately my plans to go shopping on Sunday at Camden Market came undone when it burned to the ground while we were letting off fireworks nearby!

No, the fireworks that were set off in the garden at our New Years party were not the cause of the fire at Camden Market, or at least not as far as we know, though the timing of our little firework display did coincide exactly with the start of the fire that conclusively gutted the famous market.

Actually our celebrations were a couple of days late. The Chinese Year new year (year of the rat) began on Thursday Feb 7th and, though little did we know it, we were seeing in the year 4706. One of these days I should like to be in China for the Chinese New Year, I imagine that might be a lot of fun, though I have to say that I have some serious issues with the thought of traveling to a country that so outrageously abuses human right and freedom as China does.

Jeffrey, with the help of David, prepared a Chinese style feast which consisted of many courses all of which I enjoyed but would be hard pushed to describe in any great detail. The wine was flowing freely and I’ll confess that I might have had a glass or two more than I might otherwise partake in. But no matter, nobody was counting.

We stayed up drinking and chatting well into Sunday morning, blissfully unaware that not far away over 100 firefighters were battling 40 foot high flames that were engulfing the famous market at Camden Lock.

I had planned to visit Camden Market on Sunday before I jumped on the train and headed back to Liverpool. As I went to bed on Saturday night I check the BBC news website and saw the headline ‘Blaze ravages London market area.’

The next day I ventured just two stops on the underground line to Camden Town to see if maybe the damage wasn’t as bad as it looked on the news. Unfortunately the damage to the market was so extensive that roads were still blocked and you couldn’t even get anywhere near the lockside area to see.

I first discovered Camden Market back when I was in my late teens. I’d head down there with a student nurse friend of mine who used to set up a little streetside stall braiding peoples hair with her friend. They made pretty damn good money as I recall.

Despite my own long hair I wasn’t really the kind of guy who would braid hair, but it was cool just to hang out there on the lockside in the sun listening to the booming bass of music emanating from any of the many nearby market stalls. Occasionally a bobby would move us along in which case we’d stop in for a couple of drinks at Dingwalls bar before venturing out again.

Camden Market will be rebuilt, it has to be! It is completely unique place that has a style and vibrancy all of it’s own. It’s a colorful cultural explosion where you can really find some interesting artifacts and which are only outnumbered by the interesting explosion.

Sunday was a bright February day with a clear blue sky that made the perfect backdrop for a little photography. I didn’t stay for long though. Only the stores on the road leading up to the market were open and as interesting as they might be I didn’t feel a pressing need to buy union jack underwear of pink fluffy high heels.

When they re-open the market I’ll return. Last year, when Missy was visiting, we spent a day at Camden Market and I did all my Christmas shopping in one go.

Despite the fire it was still a great weekend. A trip to London on the train is so much more enjoyable than driving there, and I was traveling on a complimentary first class ticket so it had that added sweetness you can only get with things like complimentary tickets and free upgrades.

Camden Market
Camden Market burns down
2007 Trip to Camden Market in 2007
The Big Smoke
Billy Joel – We didn’t start the fire