During a quick spell of bright sunshine on Sunday (it rained all weekend otherwise), Jon and I caught the 55 bus from Old Street tube station to reach the Columbia Road flower market. We decided it was time to try again to make our roofdeck an inviting place to sit, which means getting plants. (Our effort last year didn’t amount to much beyond three shriveled hydrangea bushes and a sickly wisteria vine).
Every Sunday beginning at 8 am, several dozen sellers of flora and flora accoutrements sell their wares along Columbia Road, which is in an east London neighborhood that has a lot in common with the Lower East Side.
Crowded doesn’t begin to describe the jostling masses of people at the market, but (1) there’s no beating the market’s selection and prices; and (2) listening to all the cockney accents shouting out competing deals to potential customers is priceless.
It was at the market that Jon first fell in love with calling a £5 bill a “fivah.” The m.o. when you show up at the market is to move from stall to stall, checking out the inventory, listening to the deals offered (“I’ll give you three for a fivah, three for a fivah”), and then gesturing that you’ll accept one of the deals. The seller/auctioneer then acknowledges your win by throwing your plants at you. If you don’t seem the type who’s likely to catch the plants in time (i.e., you look like me), the seller tosses your plants to a sidekick who stands among potential customers, and the sidekick will then hand you the plants in exchange for your cash. It’s a fast-moving, entertaining system.
In addition to potted plants and herbs, the market vendors sell cut flowers, which are gorgeous and incredibly cheap. Every time I go to the flower market, I think about how I’d love to buy dinner party flowers at the market, but who has dinner parties on a Sunday night?
If you show up at the market near closing time (2 pm), the deals on the cut flowers get to be particularly good, but like any good deal, showing up late risks an unappealing selection of leftovers. Dilemmas, dilemmas.