#116 Queensway Market and #115 Psychic Mews
Queensway Market is one of those unremarkable indoor markets that sell hookahs, wolf t-shirts, DVDs of Brazilian soaps, carved elephant coffee-tables and electrical cords. You’ve probably got one next to you, and if you’re middle-class and white, you probably don’t have much call to go inside very often. The only remarkable thing about Queensway Market is that instead of being in Walthamstow or Catford, it’s on the north side of Hyde Park. If you were on the south side of the park, you’d be in Harrods right now.
There is one other strange thing about Queensway Market, and that’s the Psychic Mews. Hidden away behind the second-hand games consoles and plastic macs, there’s a complete recreation of a Victorian street, complete with gypsy carriage, terraced house fronts, and, for some reason, the remains of a grand piano. Within each of its six or so houses, a different fortune-teller or shaman has their wares, promising health, wealth and happiness to all comers. (There’s a disclaimer on the wall, proclaiming that the readings are ‘for entertainment purposes only’, just in case that love spell backfires or the whispered lottery numbers don’t come up.)
When we visited, only one of the shops was still open. It looks like the downturn has affected the prognosticators as much as anyone else. Make your own ‘unforeseen circumstances’ gag here, why don’t you.It’s a tiny ghost town. Only one house front was open. When the large Russian woman inside saw us going past, she began to sing quietly to herself. We weren’t tempted to ask for spiritual guidance, though.
Coming out of the Psychic Mews and back into the chaotic sprawl of the market proper, you realise that the true-life wonderful weirdness is all around you, not in that fake street. Dickens would have set a whole sprawling novel around this place. He would have made up the Psychic Mews, too, and everyone would have condemned him for being too fantastical. But it’s there.