#840: Signs of Life at Columbia Road Flower Market


I’ve never been to South America, but you could say that my writing career started in the Amazon.

I can’t remember the specific assignment from my fifth grade teacher now, but apparently my beguiling tales of canoeing down that mighty, piranha-filled river (that I’ve never visited) looking for a cure to malaria were indication that I was destined for a future in journalism, or at least a lifetime of staring at empty Word documents with that irritating blinking cursor.

If you were a 90s nerd, you might notice that these adventures were heavily inspired by that amazing Amazon Trail computer game.

But until I finally manage to board a Belém-bound plane, I’ll have to settle with bringing the rainforest to me (though not in 2D form).


#840: ‘I have to be alone whenever I go to Columbia Road Flower Market on a Sunday. This is not a place you want to be hurried’.

London has such an amazing array of markets known for their specific wares: Borough Market for its food, Spitalfields Market for its clothes, Camden Market for its appalling tourist tat.

Tucked away on a lovely Victorian side road near Old Street is the Columbia Road Flower Market, a gorgeous spread of plant life that carpets a stretch of this pavement every Sunday morning from 8 a.m.


Sensing that summer is too quickly coming to an end, I picked a miraculously beautiful Sunday to go worship in the house of plants.

Everything you read about the Columbia Flower Market tells you to get there as early as possible, so as soon as the clock ticked over to 8:01, I entered the forest of flowers. Several of the traders were still unloading trucks and getting set up for the day, and the few people around stood quietly drinking their morning tea.




A morning at the Columbia Road Flower Market was a perfect start to the day. I weaved through the narrow passage and in and out of the mini-shops, with stall keepers calling out a friendly East End ‘Awright, love?’ as I passed by.

I saw a bright pallet of sunflowers, the most loved emblem of my home state of Kansas, and I paused. ‘Three a fiva’, a voice called out somewhere behind the racks, somehow making me homesick for two places at once.



I picked up as much plant life as my arms could manage to carry back to the Tube station, four plants in all including a sunflower.

The selection I chose might not be as exotic as the Amazon (until I go back to the market again and buy an orange tree), but every rainforest has to start somewhere.


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