Advent Calender 13th: Camden Market

Unlucky13The 2012 Advent Calender: For the 25 days of Christmas, I will be blogging each day about a miscellaneous thing I love. Not necessarily a big thing, not necessarily a small thing and not in any order.

A great sadness comes upon me, and it is this: this year—deep breath—I have not visited Camden Markets. ‘Why such a dramatic exclamation?’ I hear you ask (I do, I do.) Well, I’ll tell you: for the last four years I have always visited Camden Markets at Christmas.

Camden Market is the offbeat heart of London, a huge sprawling market crammed full of crazy mélange of stalls and shops. It’s the kind of place that freespirited fashion imprints peddling arch slogan t-shirts kickstart themselves. The kind of place where one of the food sections is situated in hookah-littered pagodas. The kind of place where you can walk down an entire alley of food vendors all competing to bring you in, where you can buy leather-bound books, vintage clothing, Banksy prints, punk-goth-steampunk jackets, rainbow gloves, stone goblets, and—on my favourite occasion—a giant hat in the face of a cat with ears that stretch all the way down your arms to your hands to become paw-shaped mittens. I visit every time I go to London, and I love to introduce people to the wonders of all it has to contain.

There are two places that I visit without fail when I visit. In my university years visiting either shop nearly always ended with me calling home to beg survival money after accidentally bankrupting myself.

The first is the Fairy Light shop. Now, I love fairy lights. Cheap tacky ones are absolutely fine by me—I had about nine sets in my university room—but there’s a small shop hidden away underneath a railway bridge in Camden which sells what can only be described as posh fairylights. All sorts, in the shape of roses, butterflies, woven globes, tulips. I’ve bought a string very year, and was overjoyed to discover an outpost stall at Manchester Christmas Markets this year.

The second is Cyberdog. The Camden shop is in the basement, beneath the ground. You enter through doors between twenty foot robot dogs, into a pitch-dark shop lit mainly by strobes and the fluorescent light of the clothing. The throbbing pulse of the deafening music makes it feel like you’re clubbing in an underground station, in the greatest way possible. It’s clothes are a bonkers mix of cyberpunk goth science fiction; one year I bought a T-shirt that has an LED display on the front that flashes in time to the music around you. That was also the year I had a blonde Mohican (what can I say—I’ve changed.) You get changed in not rooms but circular pods like the stasis pods in Alien. A recent addition is the adult section which sells such wonders as glow in the dark dildos and vibrating nipple clamps. The last purchase I made from them was a sale t-shirt reduced to 50p which contained, as part of its design, an actual £1 coin; I judged this to be investment.

But Cyberdog will always live fondly in my memory for one purchase: a T-shirt, bought four years ago, that will always and forever stand as my favourite item of clothing ever. A black and white striped t-shirt, with a neon smiley face (akin to the Watchmen face). A bullet-hole in the forehead of the face was an actual hole in the t-shirt, and the day-glo blood ran down the t-shirt. I have never been more glad that I gave in to temptation and bought something… until the sad day when my poor Cyberdog t-shirt had an encounter with a  washer-dryer with poor temperature control, and melted. Ladies and gentlemen, let us mourn.

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