“Three fresh chickens for 8 pounds” – the mic cracks.
I open back my eyes.
The night has not been fooling anyone, not even itself for very long. The night can cover much, but it is not forever.
The grey greyhound magic has lost its strength. The daylight charms are different.
“A whole loin for a quid, does anybody want a whole loin for a quid?”
A fifty-something tall and slim greying dude is shouting in a mic. He stands in a spacious white mobile outlet, IDEL Ltd. Raised above ground, he is a magician doing a trick show, not a meat dealer. He raises a piece out of his magical hat below him and raises it above his head to demonstrate to the bedazzled public.
Of course they want the loin.
He passes on the piece to his two beautiful assistants, below him on the ground, all in white, both at least twice his own weight, and carries on.
“Here we go, loin goes for a quid, for a quid, ladies and gentlemen”, – he announces.
The pink beauties are handed over to a happy customer.
Like a true showman he never shuts up completely, only pauses to catch his breath, “right very fresh from the farm, from the farm ladies and gentlemen. You know they will make it to a supermarket’s shelf only in one week, whole week, but you can buy it now, at amazing quality and amazing price!
Does anybody like minted beef?”
Of course they do.
You can’t help but listen to him, his repetitions are entertaining. I never though I would not be able to quit a meat-selling show, but there we are. Staring at this screen of masterful fun, I cound not switch the channel. Doesn’t this make a real showman?
But I have to resist and go away to wander the market.
Every Saturday the Wimbledon Stadium car park is having a car boot sale, – one of the biggest in London.
Clothes piled up on the ground, used DVDs, cigarettes, shoes (paired and loose), cracked kitchenware – it’s all over the place, in a gentle chaos that is human existence. People come in all shapes and colours, both for cheap goods and occasional bargain-hunting. They do not mind the run-down surrounding, a giant puddle of water right in the middle, an electrical substation, and the remnants of the evening greyhound adventures.
The lopsided exterior Wimbledon Stadium itself seems to be an alien from another world. Like a flying spaceship from the original Star Wars trilogy, it is strangely futuristic and outdated at the same time.
The belly of the Stadium is open to an overflow car park.
I wander to the track.
The inside is delicately empty, the magic of the night goes away, leaving behind the tools for its simple tricks, broken asphalt, sunburnt colours and rusty spectator chairs, two patches of grass, torn tickets and a whole lot of nothing to do.
I sit down to have my lunch.
In the wide round enclosed space, the feeling of spaceship comes back.
High above, the planes go down to Heathrow in a quick succession, a few car owners come and go. You can hear car doors click when shut.
Some distant sounds come from time to time. Indeed too distant to comprehend, just murmurs and cracks, protected from the wind and the road noise of the outside.
It is a spaceship going into the silence of space. Hold tight, you are going into the world that is nothing like the one you just came from the outside.
I look around again. Sun-burnt logos, old fonts. This ship is cosy, this ship is benevolent, but it has no destination. It will dissolve into the sunshine as it goes. But while it’s still here. I want to grab every little moment of this extra dimension to the world around.
Back on the market, people continue their business. The public is direct and down-to-Earth, complimenting the brutalism of the walls around. The setting is so extremely non-London’s, non-Wimbledon’s nothing tidied up about it – it’s hard to believe it stands next to one of the most sought-after neighbourhoods in south London.
It feels lost, but not yet forgotten – the dog race signs still loom above, the car flow is intense, the old VHS are still bought and sold – and even the meat magician guy is still prancing on his stage.
They are clearly goners. No way a location this good can contain a something so not-moneymaking. Things fall apart.
Center cannot hold: this place will not be a winner of the gentrification game.
How much is left? How long will it take for the owners give up and cash in on yet another middle-class property development.
A proposal of building a new football stadium for AFC Wimbledon is also on the cards. This football club has seen some success over the last few years, it has a passionate loyal fan base and is looking for a new home as currently it has to play in Kingston.
Perhaps it is a right way ahead, or at least I know not the remedy against it. However, for now the Wimbledon stadium stands as time-space vessel for the London long gone, it’s entertainment and shopping habits. Visit it day and night, while you can.