A Toff’s Market

I’m sure a lot of people can relate to Saturday mornings when you were younger, when your Mum announced you were going to Deptford Market and within your body your soul did a back flip into splits with excitement. You began to think of all the bargains that your pocket-money would be able to acquire: the £2 tops, £1.50 massive hoop earrings (or fake Coco Chanel studs), and the cheapest and least durable nail varnish you could possibly ever purchase (pretty much washed off in water). But of course you didn’t see it that way. To you this was an opportunity to catapult yourself into the stratosphere of the well-dressed and fashionable people albeit at a massively cheaper rate. But no one would notice, right?

No? Okay just me then.

It’s only in later years on some misguided act of nostalgia when you revisited those favoured markets of your youth, that you’d realise just how barren and pitiful they actually were; maybe shed a tear in retrospective pain and humiliation that you could ever have thought to thrust yourself into a higher social position via blatantly cheap goods acquired at the market.

Now I’m not knocking the market hustle at all. I still think it has a valid role to play in society for those less well off, and for those looking for that Antiques Roadshow bargain that will get them their 2 seconds of fame on the box. I also still have a lot of love for Deptford market, although I visit it a lot less (it’s just too grimy these days).

Moreover in what I’m now calling a social experiment, this weekend I decided flip the script and go to a toff’s (posh person’s) market.

That is, Portobello Market.

Now for anyone who wants to argue with me that it is not a toff market, I pray tell, that you let me know where else you will find a set of ‘vintage’ buttons for £18! I mean….

“Vintage” buttons

It’s been about a year since I’ve been to Portobello, and last time was pretty much a check-in, have a peep round at all the things I can’t afford or are criminally high prices, and check out. This year was pretty much the same. However I did come across some interesting things I’d like to share with you.


I think the sight that impressed me most was the AllSaints store. I saw old Singer sewing machines in the windows and was intrigued and started taking pictures not knowing what kind of shop it was or what its’ name was at that point. I meandered in, as you do, ready to duck out should I catch the eye-sight of an over-eager shop owner trying to persuade me to buy their overpriced tat…and lo and behold I was met with these sights:

Can you see the wall-to-wall Singers below?

They literally covered about 50% of the shop. I was stunned. Goodness only knows who and how they collected all those pieces. It was quite the attraction with lots of people taking pictures.

I didn’t see one single price tag. Not one! To me that indicated something….I probably didn’t have the funds to shop there. I took my pictures and exited.

The Hummingbird Bakery

The Hummingbird Bakery has been hyped to me for about a year, so when I caught sight of it on Portobello Road, I was surprised because I didn’t know that was where it is.

I went in, not really with a mission to buy anything; more to have a nose about. I saw this:

Admittedly I was overwhelmingly seduced by the bright colours and so now thought to myself perhaps now would be a good time to take the opportunity to get gassed myself over cupcakes friends have described as divine. I thought let me try to transcend dimensions in the tasting of this food, let me reach the heavenly heights so that I may also spread the word.

So you know I bought the cheapest cupcake in the shop.

I’m sorry, but I find it very hard to justify buying ONE cupcake over £2.50 when I can bake a 100 for that price. Well okay, not me, but someone who can bake. This was my cupcake:

That cupcake was so tightly packed and wrapped in that box it took me 5 minutes to figure out of how to get my cake out. I was tipping it upside down at one point. And is the steel handle so you can hang it on a coat hook if necessary? 😛 But anyway who cares about packaging, onto the cake.

So you know when in your head you’re expecting something akin to a firework display that would be worthy of the Olympics opening ceremony, a kaleidoscope of colours and sensations sending you into tremors of pleasure and delight…but you get a party popper instead when the paper fails to eject from the pot? Yes. It was that. The cake was soft, and tasty, but in my opinion? Sorry to say….pretty ordinary.

Maybe next time I need to get the £4 cupcake…

Bits and Bobs

There were lots of stalls, obviously as it’s a long stretch of road, but they were tourists/toff/mug-orientated. By that I mean it’s easier to persuade tourists into paying double the price for things as they won’t know that they could get it for half the price just 20 minutes down the road. If you’re a toff, money is like rain in England to you: liberally dispensed. If you’re a mug, you see that the price is too high, yet you still buy it out of some backward sentiment that it’s acceptable because it’s from ‘Portobello Road’ (It’s okay, I’ve been there and done that before. Before I undertook this mission I prayed for wisdom, direction and self-control).

Here’s a few pictures of some of the other interesting things that caught my eye:

Despite my complaints, I did enjoy my little sojourn down Portobello Road. Nothing beats the various characters of people who you see, hear, and watch doing foolish things. I even managed to bag a few things for myself too…

The two scarves were £1 each from a massive stall that was selling literally hundreds of them all piled on top of each other. I as good as leapfrogged into it to grab these two. I loved the first scarf because it’s so colourful. I liked the second one…well, just because. The final item looks like a bracelet, which it could be if you so wish, or a necklace, or a belt, or whatever else you can think of. It’s made of some kind of metal that allows it to twist into any shape. So I spent in total £7 at Portobello this weekend. Not bad for a toff market! It is to be noted though that these stalls were way, way, way, way, way, down the road. Even past the food stalls where a less knowledgeable person might think the market has ended. Only a true bargain hunter would have the stamina and unshakeable determination to reach that point, which to weaker souls is not so far off Frodo and Sam’s journey throughout the Lord Of The Rings. I didn’t even make it to the end. Maybe next year.

I’m starting to think that I should become a professional bargain shopper. Kind of like a Personal Shopper, but I find bargains instead – anything you can find for £10 I can find it for £5…that kind of thing. I know I’d be good at it. I’ve been in training for 25 years (okay so I wasn’t actually shopping when I was baby, but the seeds were being sown into me by my mother who is the President and ultimate guru of thrift expenditure. Unbeatable.)

Anyway, here ends my market recap. Go forth and enjoy Portobello Road. Even if you can’t afford much, it’s nice to see a different side to London.

Yours Truly



2 thoughts on “A Toff’s Market

  1. I really enjoyed reading this, gave me a few laughs, especially at the leapfrogging into scarves moment & the Frodo & Sam remark. lol

    Also enjoyed the pictures, lovely angles & interesting to see what’s down Portobello Road for us Brummie folk 🙂

    • Thank you for your compliments! I lived in Brum for a bit. Shopping-wise I didn’t get much farther than New Street, lol, but I have to say I loved the Indoor Market. The amount of stuff that I got there was epic. Brilliant for finding the essentials for cheap prices. I miss it to be honest.

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