London’s Chinatown probably needs no introduction, it must be on the to do list of every tourist. But go there in the morning, as early as possible, and it presents a different aspect to the hustling hurly-burly of lunchtime through to evening and night.
Freshly hosed pavements give off the clean seaweedy smell of damp dust through which other smells can be picked out. Spices and cooking oil. Incense and citrus. Garlic and cloves. Stale tobacco smoke. The faint lingering of sickly-sweet perfume attempting to disguise the acrid tang of perspiration. And laid over them all, ginger. Ginger everywhere. Ginger all pervasive. Ginger seeping from the very fabric of the buildings
Dodge the delivery vans, they won’t dodge you, and notice the people. People preparing for the day, and night, ahead. Frowsy waiters wiping down tables. Waitresses with sleep still in their eyes setting straight chairs and menus. Chefs slicing vegetables. Chefs chopping herbs. Chefs skewering scrawny chickens, readying them to pirouette all day on the spit. Sharp-eyed youths lurking in corners, chatting, chain smoking, on the alert. Locals picking newspapers from the racks outside convenience stores that stock everything from lucky cats and jovial Buddhas to noodles and homeopathic remedies to catch up on the three days old latest from a distant homeland that for some isn’t a home, merely a handed down memory.
Indelible images all. Some for the mind. Some for the camera.
And people in the know, on the lookout for cheap pickings. Along from the alley where a queue for last night’s leavings has formed at the back door of a restaurant there’s a herb stall, or rather a pile of pallets and a cardboard box topped with bunches of surplus……what? Obviously something that’s exciting attention to the bemusement of the presiding matriarch.
That’s one for the camera.
Minolta XD7 / Rokkor 45mm f2 / FP4+ / Rodinal
Share this post: