Sunday, April 26, 2020


This is perhaps my favorite shopfront in London. It's just such a wreck. I first photographed it way back in 2011, sure that I was capturing a historic element of the city's retail scene that would no doubt be quickly gentrified into an espresso bar or yoga-wear shop. But no! Yesterday I revisited it and took some more photos, and when you compare them to the shot from nine years ago they look almost exactly the same.

A glance in the shop's front window isn't any more promising. Can you see how thick that layer of dust is, covering the sun-rotten books and the bizarre hand, with a googly-eyed creature on the pinky finger?

However, apparently this really is a functioning business, selling fishing tackle. It happened to be closed when I visited (I guess "try Saturday" doesn't work in the age of coronavirus), but there was a jumble of cardboard boxes stacked inside, appearing to contain stock newer than anything in the window. It looks like the kind of place where opening hours and the location of any particular item are known only to the proprietor -- a place where the world functions entirely according to his (and I'm sure it's his) whims.

I did not take the dog on this walk. It's hard to take pictures when I've got her dragging me hither and yon. But after a couple of hours of walking I was back home again, and I grabbed her and took her to the cemetery -- so she got her outing too.

Our neighbor, the older Eastern European lady who makes all her own clothes, was out and about in a shimmering blue quilted dress that was really something to behold. In the bright sunlight she looked positively incandescent. She's clearly made her own face mask, too -- don't you love the daisies? (I asked her for a picture and she happily obliged. Photos of some of her other outfits are at the top of this post and here.)

Big news -- I finished "City on Fire" yesterday! All 900 pages. Whew! I enjoyed the writing, but I gotta say, I think the book is just too long. Very few writers, no matter how good, can successfully bring a reader on such a sustained journey -- Tolstoy being possibly the only exception. "City on Fire" wasn't unsuccessful -- it's richly written and the plot has momentum, and were I the editor I'm honestly not sure what I would cut to make it shorter -- but I felt a kind of emotional distance from the characters, which I attribute to fatigue!


  1. I love that shopfront. It is just a question of time before it is gone forever. I wonder if the fellow who wrote those notes on the door was Victor Eggleton himself - or more likely his son. I am glad we don't all have to make our own clothes. I would be walking around in a big bath towel with a length of rope round the middle. Kilts would be easier to make than trousers.

  2. I love your neighbor and that shop, although I'm amazed it's lasted so long in that condition. What must the air be like inside? I'm about 200 pages into City on Fire and I'm enjoying it but your statement about your emotional distance from the characters resonates with me. I keep hoping I'm going to feel some sort of connection other than simply reading a beautifully written, interesting story (stories).

  3. What An Accomplishment - 900 Pages - Like WoW - Did You Learn Anything - Absolutely Wonderfully Colorful Neighbor - The World Needs More Flare

    P.S. Sympathy Biscuits For The Missed Opportunity On The First Outing

  4. Your neighbor is a glory! That dress is...stunning!
    "Trying Social Distancing".
    Hmmm...Aren't we all?

  5. That shop looks way too dusty to really be open, although now closed due to the virus. It does remind me of some second-hand stores I've been in. The same stuff in the window year after year. Your neighbor looks wonderful in her handmade clothing.

  6. Now I'm curious about the guy who has this run down shop. I think thee would be an interesting story there.

  7. she definitely has her own sense of style. and I love the fishing shop and that it's functioning and that the guy works at his whim.

  8. You are so right, the pattern for that dress appears to be the same one she uses on all of them. She certainly has a style all her own. That metallic like, quilted material is simply astounding.
    That shop is a classic. It made me think of places I saw when I was a kid growing up back in Illinois. I remember seeing shops that appeared untended like this one. The owners were usually real characters too. I remember one where my dad would buy things from time to time. The owner used a rope to hold up his pants instead of a belt. I remember that he lived in the back of the store and I always wondered what his little apartment must have looked like.

  9. That lady has a real sense of style and she looks amazing. I love her hats. And always those white sneakers. Very practical.

  10. Love the photo of your neighbor! She's a bright light indeed.

  11. Oh my gosh -- the dress! How fantastic! I really like your mini book reviews -- you say everything in so few words. It's a pleasure to read them.

  12. Your neighbor is certainly amazing. I think it's wonderful that she makes all her own fashions. She's a ray of sunshine. That little shop is certainly interesting. Dusty, but interesting. Congratulations for finishing the book. Enjoy your day, hugs, Edna B.

  13. I can get the unabridged e-audiobook of City on FIre via Hoopla at my library. I wonder if it is worth the hours it would take to listen to it? Your thoughts??

    I loved the pic of your neighbor. She looks stunning.

  14. YP: Actually the shop is called Sharp's Fishing Tackle. I think Victor Eggleton was a previous owner, maybe?

    Mitchell: When I don't quite connect with a book I can never tell if it's the novelist's fault or mine!

    Padre: Someone had a LOT of biscuits yesterday. I think we need to put her on a diet!

    Ms Moon: Most of us, anyway!

    Robin: He clearly just doesn't care whether he ever has another customer!

    Red: I'm guessing he doesn't depend on it to make a living. Or maybe he's the only specialty fishing shop in London. I don't know of any other, off the top of my head.

    Ellen: Isn't she amazing?

    Sharon: I'm sure the guy who runs this place would qualify as a character. I hope he doesn't live above the shop, with all those windows broken out!

    Catalyst: She always has a hat. I don't think I've ever seen her without one.

    37P: Isn't she? I love it when people go their own way.

    Elizabeth: I am not a great reviewer, because I often feel that just because I did or didn't like something, there's no guarantee someone else will feel the same way.

    Edna: I wonder how long it takes her to make a dress? I would love to see her closet. She has such an interesting array of garments.

    BethB: I think you should try it. It's certainly not a bad book, and I found the plot quite interesting. The two characters I connected with the most were Mercer and Regan. (Just FYI!)

  15. When we lived in San Francisco we were invited to dinner at the home of Isabelle Allende. She was wonderful. We were talking about how SG will stop reading a book if he can't connect with it right away, and I feel obligated to continue reading to the bitter end. She said, I don't owe anything to the writer and if they can't grab my interest, that's their fault and I shouldn't feel obligated to keep reading. I liked her advice, but I still mostly read to the bitter end. At least I know it's not my fault, though, according to her.

  16. That shop front is brilliant, and the fact it has stayed unchanged for so long too. Not retired, and not dead-good news! The lady's outfit is so shiny-I am a big fan of shiny and iridescent things though maybe not to wear. She is obviously very talented.