Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview post with people who live (or have lived for a while) in London. If you fit the bill and want to be interviewed, give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org. Always looking for new volunteers.
“Sasha” is in her early thirties and writes The Happiness Project London anonymously. The HPL encourages Londoners to live their lives by a set of rules shown to improve happiness; including being active, connecting with family and friends, doing charitable acts and learning new things.
LLO: How long have you lived in London?
Sasha: About seven years with a brief sojourn to Prague in the middle.
LLO: Tell us a bit about The Happiness Project London.
Sasha: It started out as a “make the most of London” blog to inspire myself and my friends to try new restaurants, exhibitions, gigs. I love giving recommendations and finding new things to do, so it allows me to express my interests and enthusiasm, and put all my suggestions in one place. However, the thing most Londoners lack is free time so I try not to overload people with what’s on. Even visiting a new restaurant or pub once a month would fit into the HPL rules. Oh and I try not to blog about places I don’t like and only focus on the positive.
The blog developed when I went to Turkey during Ramadan and spoke to a man who told me how fasting had made him feel closer to his family and friends, and charitable towards those who were hungry. Even though it was hard, he felt happier for doing it. I thought about London, and how we live a rather selfish life, and decided to add a charitable element to my blog – doing things for others to feel truly happy. So, it became The Happiness Project London.
LLO: Have you found a place in London – other than your home – that always makes you happy?
Sasha: The view from Waterloo bridge at any time of the day or night. I try to stop there, take it all in, and have a “London moment”.
LLO: You’re also a budding photographer. Share a photo with us?
Sasha: My problem is I don’t take enough time over photos which is why they are all blurry. But anyway here’s one of a bus thundering past outside Liverpool Street and my beloved but underplayed trombone.
LLO: One of your Happiness Project rules is to keep active. Do you have a favourite gym or park for workouts?
Sasha: I hate the cold, so in winter, I either go to the gym, do yoga or play hockey in Battersea Park. In summer, London’s best asset is its many parks – I love playing tennis in Brockwell Park with its views over the City, or cycling to somewhere like Richmond Park. I have an old-fashioned ladies bike with wicker basket, which makes me sit up tall and take in the sights.
LLO: In another rule, you recommend taking classes or attending talks or exhibitions. Have you found any unique classes worth taking or know of any upcoming talks or exhibitions you could recommend?
Sasha: City Lit has great and cheap classes – everything from jewellery-making to history of art. I’d like to do an arts and crafts course because I’m fidgety and it would occupy my mind better than TV.
Otherwise, the Van Gogh exhibition at the Royal Academy is definitely worth visiting; the British Museum has some great free events and I’m hoping to watch some Mexican guitar there this month; and the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum is always great – especially late night Fridays where you can drink wine under the dinosaur skeleton afterwards.
LLO: Are you still on a quest for the perfect burger in London? What’s the best you’ve found so far?
Sasha: Hell yes. I love burgers; have to have at least one a month. I’ve tried about four or five since the quest started, mostly in pubs and once at McDos, but have not found anything great enough to write about yet. My list of places to try is huge thanks to comments from people visiting the blog, worrying as I’ve put on half a stone since writing about food. I’ve heard a lot about Byron and I’d also love to try a posh burger at the American Bar in the Stafford hotel in Mayfair.
LLO: If I only had one night in London, where would you tell me to eat dinner and then go for drinks?
Sasha: Great Queen Street or the Anchor & Hope serve wonderfully simple hearty British food like pheasant, duck or beef – it’s what I imagine people eating during a hunting weekend in the 19th century. Or if you want to see London’s upmarket cooking at its best, I’d direct you to Chez Bruce, a Galvin restaurant, Pied A Terre or the Wolseley.
Although I’m partial to the odd martini, my favourite places to drink are comfy old men’s pubs, so I’d suggest you try something like the Prince Regent in Herne Hill, the French House in Soho, or The Scolt Head in Dalston.
LLO: Will you share three of your favourite London blogs or websites?
Sasha: The London Foodie (http://www.thelondonfoodie.co.uk/) has a wonderfully positive attitude to life and food and is a great supporter of my blog. Urban Junkies and Le Cool are great for suggesting exciting things to try (although my main problem is finding free time in my diary).
LLO: Describe a perfect day in London
Sasha: It’s a summer Sunday, about 30 degrees. I start with coffee at Opus on Acre Lane or at Rosie’s in Brixton market. I text my friends, none of whom are busy. We arrange to meet at Brockwell Park or Clapham Common, someone brings a Frisbee and another a big blanket. We sit and drink ciders and chat until later on when we go to a nice old man’s pub with a beer garden to eat burgers, chips and coleslaw – The Landor or The Coach and Horses. Finally, we watch some live music – perhaps at The Windmill in Brixton or Cargo in Shoreditch.
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