Once upon a time, not so long ago, the streets of London were filled with strange and marvelous merchants. who, for the price of a few pennies would sell you magical objects from ancient times...
Ok, that might be something of an exaggeration - but it is certainly true that it's harder and harder to find fantastic junk shops and bric-a-brac stalls nowadays. A few years ago, it was perfectly possible to stumble across the odd treasure trove that hadn't been picked dry by antique dealers - but now those traders are few and far between.
Which is why we love Norman - possibly the last great junk dealer in East London.
It's hardly accurate to call what Norman sells 'junk'' - there's nothing disposable about his wares - but his extremely reasonable prices and his eclectic mix of goods take us right back to happy days. Days when 'vintage' was called 'second-hand' and when Brick Lane Market was full of peculiar looking people selling old biscuit tins, street signs and pornography - instead of hipsters buying plastic jewelry to go with their skinny jeans.
The fascinating and mysterious thing about Norman is that unlike most junk dealers, who sell anything they can get their hands on, his stock is almost always full of the most inspiring ephemera. It feels like he curates his stall the way that a specialist antique dealer might - so there's always interesting decorative objects to grab your attention. Over the years, we've seen modernist furniture, vintage militaria, antique fine china, classic 50's posters...the list is endless. Most often, its his books and prints that pay dividends. We're not sure exactly where he sources his finds - but he must have a secret list of design companies going out of business, artists with whose houses need clearing and eccentrics who want to offload their book collections.
Here are a few shots from his stall last week.
A suitcase full (!) of decorative wallpaper prototypes
A selection of interesting old books
An essential guide to public speaking (apparently very helpful if you ever need to speak at a 1950s WI meeting)
The great man himself.
Norman can be found at Dalston Waste Market on Saturdays.