A bustling shopping centre, by Oznur Yardimci
I am on the bus from Ilford Lane to Barking. Most of my co-passengers are women who look like they are over 30. All the seats are occupied since it’s the middle of the day (2:30 pm). People get on and off the bus without greeting/ thanking the bus driver (unlike in York, where we always do!).
I get off the bus at Barking Station. Despite it being so cold, the streets are busier than they were on the last visit. Most people I see literally have their hands full with all the shopping they have done.
I take the left and walk into the Vicarage Shopping Centre. It is busier than usual. I walk past a barber’s salon. There are two customers. One is a white man, getting a haircut from a brown male barber. Another is a young boy on whom a white woman is attending. A football match is being telecast on TV which the two men are watching (and probably discussing). Next to the barber’s is z nail salon, in which there are four customers. All the workers are Asian young adults. Many people in the centre are carrying items in blue plastic bags, suggesting that they have been shopping at the open market outside the centre.
I sit on one of the benches in the centre. The corridors in the shopping centre are lined with stalls. These are outside of the regular shops and I wonder what the arrangement is. Some of the stalls display shoes and clothes. Others are selling fruits and vegetables: a woman in a headscarf is bargaining with a vendor with a long beard wearing a skullcap. She asks him for six apples for the price of five. At one stall, a brown man with eyeglasses seemingly in his thirties was marketing a family photo album offered with a voucher by a studio called ‘European Portrait’. Not all stalls are as specialised. One sells many things ranging from phone shields, batteries and key holders.
The place looks like a maze. I walk into one of the stores, and discover there were six stalls within it. Three display trinkets. One etches names into watches. Another is a hair designer where a black girl has her hair designed by a black woman. And in the sixth stall, the vendor sells traditional African clothes to very upbeat music. Perhaps store rents are too high, which is why they all share the space and distribute the cost.
The shopping centre is bustling with people. Men, women and children. Across ages. Of different ethnicities. Some selling their wares. Others buying them. A few are passing through. Yet others are sitting on the benches, resting or staring blankly into space. Its quite overwhelming J
I walk out of the shopping centre and go to the Barking learning centre for a break. I go upstairs where about 80 people of different ages and ethnicities are working, reading, or studying. Large groups of black teenagers sit together, simultaneously studying and chatting. Older adults are sitting by themselves, working on their laptops or reading newspapers. The centre is obviously a place used by the community for different purposes, including studying, reading, meeting friends, surfing the internet and perhaps even sleeping. Seeing these people there on a Saturday afternoon makes me think that they might not have such facilities as computers or books in their homes, or there might be a lack of space and comfort in where they live.