Where The Riches of Ages Are Stowed

Portobello Road, Portobello Road. Street where the riches of ages are stowed. Anything and everything a chap can unload is bought off a barrow on Portobello Road……..

So sang actor David Tomlinson’s character (Emelius Browne) in Disney’s 1960’s movie ‘Bednobs and Broomsticks’.

I thought of this song yesterday as I walked around Spitalfields Market in London’s East End. As with Portobello Road, scores of stalls displayed numerous items and artefacts of various ages; some of which first sold as far back as when the classic children’s movie premiered……. Thankfully, villain Bruce Forsyth and the ruthless Bookman didn’t make an appearance.

Items such as second hand 1960’s vinyl records, old world maps/globes and a selfie stick I was reliably informed by a stereotypical cockney barrowboy, that belonged to late actor Sir Laurence Olivier. They were by no extreme the only treasures that adorned the covered market, where for centuries punters have said to their wives “Look a selfie stick, love!…. I wander if it belonged to acting royalty?”

Yesterday, my wife and I decided to spend several hours at this historic market which consists of two main segments. One the old building that houses what is labelled the Old Spitalfelds Market, and an adjacent segment of a more contemporary structure that isn’t called the Old Spitalfields Market.

Both areas separated by eras of design, but most definitely aligned in their purpose of selling ‘riches of ages that are stowed’.

There is something inherently calming about our slow meander through stalls of crafts, clothing, accessories, millinery, food outlets and coffee houses.

An air of vibrancy prevailed as customers, window (or canvas flap) shoppers and an eccentric bloke called Gerard did a cockney walkabout while whistling chirpily, unperturbed by the unforgiving precipitation outside.

The only disconcerting part sur le marche being when sat enjoying a latte, and disturbingly ‘Mandy’ by boy band Westlife started playing over the PA system of a nearby barrow.

On the walk to Spitalfield Market from our Liverpool Street hotel, we took a stroll through the banking area of the City of London.

Similarly to the juxtapose of the market, the area was a mash up of the old iconic structures that have survived world wars and Boris Johnson’s mayoral reign, alongside towering contemporary designs.

Manhattan colossus meets London history and grandeur!

During our wander through the area where the Bank of England building sits with distinction and an air of authority over its structural neighbours, another Disney song sprung to mind.

Coincidentally, the tune was also sung by actor David Tomlinson (as above); this time playing in the equally successful and iconic 1960’s children’s film ‘Mary Poppins’.

In the song, that was playing on loop through my neurological corridors, Tomlinson’s character Mr Banks sang to the eponymous character about a British home needing to be run with the precision of the large City bank in which he was employed.

Mary Poppins was indifferent to her employer’s thoughts on childcare and returned with a ballad called ‘Stop Taking Out of Your Arse, Mr Banks’……. Although, I might have imagined that!

This man says a British bank is run with precision!

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I was in London on a weekend break with my wife, Karen, to celebrate our 28th wedding anniversary.

My trip, to the esteemed capital of my country of birth, was hardly comparable to Dick Whittington’s escape from his impoverish existence to seek his fortune in the gold pavemented metropolis. I was primarily visiting to see a west end show on Friday evening and a Billy Joel concert on Saturday night.

The show Karen and I were lucky enough to take in was the stage version of the movie ‘Funny Girl’. Not unlike Dick Whittington, the main character in the show Fanny Brice went from rags to riches. I suppose if your called Dick and Fanny, though, you deserve all the luck you can get!

Unlike Whittington, however, she didn’t have a cat, carry her possessions in a tied handkerchief on a pole and walked on foot for chuffing miles to make that fortune. She also didn’t become the city’s mayor like Dick or Boris Johnson!……. Mind you, her hair wasn’t dissimilar to Boris’.

Fanny used her numerous talents and married a rich bloke…… I’m not going near the punchline I set up with the previous sentence.

In Friday’s show, Fanny Brice proffered by song a request for her friends and peers to ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade’. Her friends didn’t!

On Saturday evening, the rain nearly did rain on the parade of Billy Joel. The dark clouds and heavy rain which greeted us as we entered Wembley stadium did not auger well for anyone who wished to remain dry throughout the evening.

Thankfully, it stopped before the New Yorker’s first song, and although the sun was conspicuous by its absence a soaking was avoided, much to my wee spouse and my relief!

The ‘Piano Man’s’ show was as entertaining, funny and as accomplished musically as you’d expect. His anthems/standards were interspersed by morsels of those made famous by The Beatles, Joe Cocker and Elton John and mimicked in their style. Not forgetting an impromptu verse of ‘Rule Britannia’ whose chorus was sung with gusto by the sell out audience……. Gusto was the German guy sat behind me!

I’ll be honest, what we saw was not a surprise. After all, you don’t travel on a 400 mile round trip and risk of booking to see a second rate entertainer on your 28th wedding anniversary…… I learned that lesson on our 27th anniversary when I took Karen to see a Jedward tribute band in County Kerry!

Being royally entertained by one of the top singer/songwriters of his and other generations since was a gimme.

One last thing is that despite the brilliance of Billy Joel’s show, it was quite disconcerting that he now looks remarkably like TV show character Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) from ‘Breaking Bad’!….. Call me over sensitive, but I have to say it’s distracting when the person entertaining you looks like a mass killer!

The Piano Man – I think!

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