Overheard in Camden Passage…

‘Ise Ellinas?’

Overhearing the words while meandering through the walkways of Camden Passage Antiques Market, I looked back at the stall keeper and his wife who were asking, half assuming they were talking to me. The question, one I’ve heard many times since I’ve been here, means ‘Are you Greek?’ As it turns out, one can’t actually tell this information from the back of my head, and they were speaking to a younger man about my age, who was peering at the jewelry spread out on their table.

The answer was in the affirmative, and I heard the delight in the older couple’s voices – the recognition and immediate kinship with someone they had never met and otherwise knew nothing about. This didn’t matter, and the couple spoke to the young man as if he were their own grandson. He beckoned a girl over who he introduced as his sister, and then inquired as to the price of a piece that had struck their attention. ‘Den peirazei’, the older woman answered; doesn’t matter. Don’t worry about it. Brief protestation, but the couple would have none of it. Smiles and warm wishes, and then the man and his sister were gone.

I wanted to turn around and speak to the stall owners, but the exchange seemed so intimate and complete as was that I was wary of bursting in with a ‘Hey guys, me too!!’ Plus my own such moments have been plenty, most recently at the Pret a Manger near work, when I noticed the man behind the counter had a nametag that said ‘Terry’ but that ‘Eleftheros’ flashed up as his log in on the till. ‘Are you Greek?’ I asked, guessing the answer. Now every time I go in, we exchange a couple of words, me stumbling over my Canadian accent, and somehow it feels like talking to an old friend. This is obviously not at all the case, but still makes me smile – the idea that in a country that’s not your own, you can find a living bit of your heritage behind a cash in Pret or a market stall in Camden Passage.

Stall in the Camden Passage Antiques Market

Greek couple in the Camden Passage Antiques Market, Angel, Islington

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