Columbia Road Flower Market, London

Posted on
Apr 30, 2013

One of the things I love about any friendship is when you create shared memories together. It pushes you from the realm of merely “people who get along” into the world of “people who have been through some shit together.” It opens up the door to inside jokes and stories that begin with, “Remember that one time …”

I love traveling with other people. I realize it’s a risky venture – that sometimes you can encounter people who are cranky or not particularly adventurous, or who whine because things aren’t like they are back home (note: if you encounter someone like that, it is perfectly acceptable to lure them into a McDonald’s and them abandon them there. That’s the whole point of a McDonald’s: abandoning people).

But sometimes, you find people who you can spend a day with, and it is seamless and lovely and fun. And afterwards, you can say to them, “Remember that one time …” And you all delight in your little bit of collective history, and anyone within earshot will realize that you are tied together by more than just a common love of bearded men and baked goods.

And, to their credit, they don’t murder you every time you stop right in front of them and take a photo (yet, miraculously, manage to not get a single photo WITH them).

On a rainy weekend in London, we went to the Columbia Road Flower Market with our friends Ruth and Justin. We made a few memories, laid the foundation for a few inside jokes. Nothing particularly eventful happened. Nothing exceptionally memorable or scarring or damaging. But it served, like so many things, to add another layer of depth to our friendship, to make it a little bit grander and richer than it was.

And from now on, I suspect that every time I think of that market, I’ll think of them, too.

The market on Columbia Road is smaller than the one we strolled through in Portobello. As you’d guess from its name, it has more flowers (and fewer antiques). Both markets are filled with vendors who operate rain or shine, and since it’s London, there’s very little shine.

But who are we to judge? We are from Seattle, after all.

Because of this, the Columbia Road Flower Market felt vaguely familiar. The stalls and the sellers milling about (often with the same woolen hats and gloves with cut-off fingers that are so popular back home) could have been plucked from our own Pike Place Market.

Before I proceed any further with tales of our adventures, I would like to take a minute to note something about Ruth’s taste in men. Mainly, that it is absolutely stellar. See, she seems to prefer socially-conscious, dark-haired gentlemen with beards.

Obviously, she’s a romantic genius.

The first time I met Justin, I told Ruth that he was an absolute charmer, and she nodded gleefully before warning me to back off or she’d cut me (I might be dramatizing the events slightly, but whatever. It was delightful.)

She and Justin put up with us for a good three hours or so, which is no small feat. We’re exceptionally annoying. I’m constantly distracted by the promise of cake …

And Rand and I are both continually stopping to take photos of nothing in particular.

I was seriously taking a photo of nothing. And then Rand took a photo of me, taking a photo of nothing. We should both be abandoned in a Mc Donald’s, I swear.

Then there’s Rand’s tendency to disappear three or four times without any warning. Ruth and Justin didn’t seem to really mind that, either.

Rand, enjoying his favorite pastime of wandering off.

My beloved is sort of like a four-year-old in that respect – take your eyes off him for more than a few seconds, and he’ll vanish. I keep thinking that I need to get one of those kiddie leashes for him, but the only ones they have in adult sizes are studded leather, and that communicates something very different, so …

Anyway. About the market.

The principal items sold there are flowers, which is kind of miraculous, if you think about it. It’s such a superfluous thing, but everywhere people were bustling about, buying bouquets and haggling with vendors, who were shouting out prices with such precise repetition that it sounded pre-recorded.

We walked past stand after stand, breathing in chilly air perfumed by the many blooms.

We popped into stores, pressed our noses against window displays, and demolished cupcakes and cookies for a good cause.

And I regretted not getting the pug mug.


We got overheated between the warm stores and the cool air, and made cracks about my brain tumor.  (I guess you had to be there.)

When we felt tired, we wandered into a pub, where we sat at the bar and ate french fries and talked about upcoming weddings and Halloween costumes that required facial hair and older brothers who live in the U.K. and who are absolutely real and not at all fictional. And then we went headed off in our separate ways.

Like I said, nothing crazy happened, nothing disastrous or hilarious or cringe-worthy. We just had a nice day with Ruth and Justin, that one time we went to the Columbia Road Flower Market.

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