Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Tooting Market

At the weekend I went, amongst other places, to Tooting Market, which is currently under threat – possibly – by HS2.

I know Tooting Market of old, but it’s at a transition point at the moment. There are the old veg and fruit and fabric stalls and the egg and chip places, and there are the organic beers and sit down restaurant and micro distillery for gin (Graveney Gin).

The gin was what we were there for, because I had been talking about it over a year and hadn’t tried it, and my brother decided a year was long enough.

Very nice it is too. Lovely and refreshing, with pink grapefruit and the unobtrusive sweetness of a Mediterranean tonic. A completely new drink to me. Normally I drink gin which is bitter, and slimline tonic, which is also bitter, because I like bitter things. So it’s very much not gin as I drink it.

I would like a little bottle to experiment with though, and will try to get one. Micro distillery means micro amounts, of course, so they were out of everything but the gift packs. I may have to pre-order online.

Still it’s a civilised spot, and I’ve a vague natal interest in the area. I tend to think of and describe myself as being from Tooting because although I was in fact born in Balham, and although we moved right out when I was 3, we started drifting back in over half my life ago. My Dad is still just down the road and, only slightly across the boundary of the Wandle river, so am I.

The river Graveney, after which the gin may or may not be named (There is also a Tooting Graveney on completely the other side of Tooting from the river, and both are likely named for the Gravenel family who held the land in the 12th and 13th centuries) is the most circumspect of London rivers until it floods – hidden and channelled but rising and falling by metres in heavy rainfall and fenced off for safety’s sake where it does come up for air. In fact it’s only a tiny stretch that qualifies as the Graveney at all. Before that point it’s the Norbury Brook and almost immediately after Tooting it flows into the Wandle and joins the meander through Wandsworth to the Thames. Should it ever become a character in the Rivers of London canon it will be the smaller, shyer twin, co-dependent, suffering a severe identity crisis, and occasionally bursting out in furious temper when pushed too far.

Back in the real world the market, as I say, seems to be at a transition point. If they don’t knock it down I suspect the rents will go up and in ten years it will be where Merton Abbey Mills and Borough market went, almost all artisan, and shortly after that the kitsch shops and chains will move in, the oddities will be priced out, and that will be the end. 

I don’t know if that’s a complaint on my part or not. I don’t particularly avoid chains, especially those that are good at what they do and provide me with free wifi, and I do feel that there is an organic quality to what happens to property of this kind in London. An ebb and a flow. And while there’s also the occasional destructive flood which leaves nothing of interest behind, something new and interesting always pops up somewhere else, like flotsam, and.. and I’m not going to hammer that metaphor any harder home. 

What I mean is these transition points, where you have something interesting and mixed and fleeting, can’t last. It’s not in their nature. All you can do it make the most of it while it is there.

Which means cocktails, next time, or possibly organic cider. 

Tooting in the '80s, 
before the traffic island was moved. 

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