A Pilgrimage to Cheshire Street
On Sunday morning I wake up in a beautifully restored townhouse in Fournier Street, Spitalfields. Overnight, I am staying here in solitary splendour, while by day the Gentle Author’s blogging course meets in the drawing room below. It’s a typical old Huguenot weavers’ house, and the light top rooms under the eaves are where their looms once stood. Directly across the road stands the imposing Hawksmoor church, dwarfing everything around it. Yesterday evening, a Jack the Ripper tour paused here, so that the guide could project images of letters purported to be by the Ripper onto its lofty white walls. Spitalfields is packed with history, not all of it pleasant.
But I have an extra mission to fulfil before our class starts this morning. I want to revisit the streets where I once bought vintage clothing for my shop Tigerlily in Cambridge. (see my blog of Jan 2017, category 'Vintage'.) A rag market began there before dawn every Sunday morning - but I haven’t been back here since the late 1970s! Will I know it now? I walk briskly to the end of Fournier Street and turn left down Brick Lane. Colourful graffiti, curry houses and the litter of Saturday night are all I observe at first. But a train bridge over the road comes into view, and something stirs in me. Yes, I remember this. And just past the bridge are the junctions of Sclater Street and Cheshire Street. I’m on old turf at last.
‘I’ve been coming here since I was twelve. My Dad used to drive the van down, a pick-up with a cover over it. And people would be running up and pulling up the edges of the cover, to see what was underneath, before he could even start unloading. Do you remember it all…the antiques and the furniture?’
I do.I’m overcome by a kind of ecstatic nostalgia. My pulse quickens, my hunter’s instincts are awoken again. I didn’t intend to buy anything, but how can I resist a millefeuille glass pendant, and a Cadbury’s pottery cocoa jug, c. 1900? They will be precious souvenirs of this journey.