Like a runaway horse heading in one direction only, the unstoppable temporal train gallops forward carrying us ever onwards towards our unforetold futures. There are no return trips and as we are not time travellers we cannot go back to yesteryear. Of course, our minds can wing us back to remembered and half remembered days gone by and besides if curiosity gets the better of us it is usually possible to revisit places where we have been at an earlier time in the arc of our lives.
One day early last month, when I was on a short trip to London, curiosity beckoned and I found myself wandering down the street in Islington (North London) where I lived once upon a long time ago. Earlier that day I had a coffee in Ottolenghi a café on Islington’s Upper Street and when I exited I knew I was not far from my old house but I couldn’t remember the quickest way to get there. All of sudden I spotted Cross Street and it was as if a firework-flash had ignited a map-memory in my mind and I knew for sure that if I went down Cross Street I would be on the Essex Road and the house that I called home for seven or so years was on a street directly off the Essex Road.
Time hadn’t changed the street much and indeed how could it: the trees which line each side have being growing for many a year and the houses have been there for generations built I think in the Edwardian era. It felt surreal standing outside my old home (it’s just out of shot in the above image) – the front garden had a few new plants but other than that it looked exactly the same – even the paint on the front door looked eerily familiar, but as it’s twenty years since I lived there I guess it has perhaps been repainted in the same shade of navy blue.
When I first came to live in London I assumed that its street would be a soulless, dispiriting places where people hadn’t time to do more than occasionally nod at neighbours whose names they might not know. But no, au contraire the street where I lived was a friendly open place where many people knew and liked each other and a sense of community was palpable. It appears that sense of community is still going strong: before I visited I checked on the net and discovered that the street has its own’s web site and there is a thriving project to plant flowers around the bases of the street’s trees. And very nice these flower filled beds looked too.
After my short trip down memory lane I headed to Islington Green where I ambled around the Camden Passage Market (not to be confused with Camden market) looking at the vintage offerings on the various stalls. If I had had some more time I would have explored all the new shops that have opened on Upper Street since I lived in the area – many high street names are now intermingled with independent shops. What with these, the aforementioned Camden Passage Market and the well-regarded static antique shops along Camden Passage Islington is a spot that could well appeal to a tourist wishing to go off piste shopping in London.