Goodbye LLO: The Last Post and a Giveaway

 

Please note: Little London Observationist blog will no longer be updated. Please find me over on Little Observationist instead.


On May 17, 2009 – exactly five years ago today – I started Little London Observationist with a single photo of a corner shop window on Kilburn Lane. The message in the window said: “Newspapers, Stamps, Sandwitches”. It was the beginning of my hunt for the little things, the small observations of life in this city that was still very new to me at the time.

Delivery by Broomstick

Over the next five years, LLO grew and grew to the point where I was posting seven days a week at one point. The posts grew longer, full of stories as I explored more of London and got to know some of the people who have called this city home. One of my favourite parts of building this blog was the people who brought it to life. I interviewed 87 artists for the London Art Spot series and 83 additional Londoners for Listen to a Londoner and all of them inspired me in one way or another.

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I wrote 1,084 posts, just about all of them full of original photography. I met many fascinating people through LLO and blogger events, some of whom I became friends with in the real world. It has been an incredible way to discover my adopted city as an expat.

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It is bittersweet to announce that I have decided this will be my last post on Little London Observationist.

Monmouth Street, Seven Dials, London

When I first moved to London in 2007, I spent every single weekend, spare moments after work and sometimes even lunch breaks running around the city with my camera, hopping on to buses heading to destinations with which I was unfamiliar and alighting at the most random stops. I wanted to find the hidden gems, the tiny quirky cafes and the colourful back streets. And I did.

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And in making those discoveries, I carved out the parts of the city that I really connected with and that helped me to change my London from the sprawling metropolis that it is to a place I can call home. Now, after living here for seven years, I still crave new discoveries, but I also long for familiarity – places that are mine, that I can return to over and over again, where the people making my tea know my order by heart, where people in my favourite shops welcome me back with a smile, where I have a seat by the window in cafe that always makes me feel inspired every time I sit there. I have these things now and I’m really enjoying them. Maybe it’s because I turned 30 in December, but London feels cosier now, less intimidating, but still exciting with the world at my fingertips.

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The honest truth is that running all over the city on public transport every second of my free time no longer appeals quite as much as it did to me before. Sometimes yes, but not enough to create enough compelling content from all over the city for LLO as consistently as I used to. I also find that I travel a bit more these days, I have other projects I’m working on and different interests that I’d like to focus on that don’t fit in with the content and vision of LLO.

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I’ve had a blog on one platform or another since 2002 and I’m not going to stop anytime soon. It’s a real passion for me (and possibly an addiction). And so, this is simply a change of direction to match my change of focus. As most of you probably already know, I started writing Little Observationist in April 2013. I update three times a week. I post London content there, but there’s also photography from my travels, the little things from everyday life and recipes too. I welcome you all to follow me there, say hello and let me know you came through LLO.

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What of the content from the last five years of Little London Observationist? It will stay here. The blog will stay live as people stop by every day for the archived posts. I also hope, at some point after my wedding this year, to start compiling some of the best bits into a book. If you are or know of an editor / publisher who would like to work with me on this project, please get in touch. You can reach me at littleobservationist@gmail.com.

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Most importantly, I’d like to end this last post by saying thank you to all of you who have contributed to LLO through interviews, guest posts or photos and to those of you who have followed me on my journey here for the last five years. Your comments and friendship have made it all entirely worth it and I hope to see you over on Little Observationist as well!

THE GIVEAWAY

As a thank you to those of you who follow me over to the new blog, I’m going to give away one of the canvas prints that was featured in my solo exhibition in November. It’s a photograph of Big Ben and the lamp posts South Bank, worth £300. The link will take you to Etsy where you can see the measurements and the story behind it. A winner will be selected at random from those who enter and notified by email.

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TO ENTER

1.) Subscribe to updates from Little Observationist either through Feedly or another RSS reader or by entering your email address in the box at the top right of the blog.

2.) Like Little Observationist on Facebook.

3.) Leave a comment and let me know you’d like to enter! Be sure to leave your email address.

DEADLINE

Saturday, May 24, 2014 (This giveaway is now closed. Congrats to Ian of London Unveiled!)

Cheers,
Steph x

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Rain, Christmas Lights and Tenerife

Monmouth Street

It’s amazing how beautiful London can be in the rain. I walked through the seven dials in Covent Garden a few days ago and Christmas lights glistened in the puddles.

Bill Bryson once wrote:

“I can never understand why Londoners fail to see that they live in the most wonderful city in the world. It is, if you ask me, far more beautiful and interesting than Paris and more lively than anywhere but New York – and even New York can’t touch it in lots of important ways. It has more history, finer parks, a livelier and more varied press, better theaters, more numerous orchestras and museums, leafier squares, safer streets, and more courteous inhabitants than any other large city in the world.”

And probably more rainy days, at least this month. But if you can see past your wet shoes and wind-blown umbrella, there’s plenty of beauty there.

Anyway, I just wanted to stop in to say Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate. What’s everyone doing? Going home? Travelling? Having an orphan Christmas like I did one year? I’m leaving tomorrow and will be in Tenerife until early January, spending a warm Christmas with Jorge’s family and my 30th birthday on La Gomera, another island. In the meantime, there’s a couple of scheduled posts this week on my other blog, Little Observationist if you want to swing by. Enjoy the holidays!

Keep On Believing: My Top 5 Record Shops in London

matt-lindleyThis is a guest post written by Matt Lindley. Matt is a London-based music listener and analogue synth fan. He likes physical formats, free-improvisation and folk. You can find him on Twitter @MattELindley.

I don’t often write about music so I thought it would be an interesting topic by  someone who does!

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London is still a great place for buying secondhand vinyl, despite the closure of many record shops, including On the Beat in Soho, where the owner has just put the entire store on eBay. The shops that are thriving tend to be the ones that really understand the needs of the average record buyer these days.

The typical London vinyl addict possibly isn’t looking for a first edition Led Zeppelin VI or Dark Side of the Moon LP anymore. They’re after something more obscure, like a lost New Zealand post-punk classic or a Norwegian black metal LP. The shops that cater to their needs by offering a carefully-curated selection of hard-to-find titles and the in-store aesthetics to match will probably live forever.

A visit to a local record shop will always offer much more than buying used vinyl on eBay. It is a place to discover new music, meet like-minded people and try before you buy in a way that you can’t do online. I am sure that music fans will continue to support their local record shops, as long as they believe in them. Anyway, here are five London record shops that are getting it right.

KRISTINA RECORDS
44 Stoke Newington Road, London N16 7XJ
www.kristinarecords.com

kristina-records-dalstonPhoto from Kristina Records website

Kristina Records only opened two and a half years ago – after the supposed death of the high street record store – which goes to show that if you sell the right kind of music to the right people, you will be successful. The shop takes up a small, well-designed space in Dalston (reminding me of Record Grouch in Brooklyn) and mainly sells underground music of all varieties (Minimal Techno, Noise, 80s Industrial, Free-Jazz, American Primitive). The stock is split 60/40 between secondhand and new vinyl and has been well-curated and categorised. It is definitely my favourite place in London for avant-garde and experimental sounds now that Second Layer has closed down.

ONE TO TAKE HOME WITH YOU: Goblin Buio Omega Soundtrack LP (AMS) £26

HONEST JONS
278 Portobello Road, London W10 5TE
www.honestjons.com

Honest Jons
Photo: Honest Jons by flickr_b3rn

Honest Jon’s is a long-standing Notting Hill record shop that specialises in soul, jazz and reggae. It opened in 1974 and offers lovingly reissued global classics alongside a treasure trove of secondhand gems. The Honest Jon’s record label was established in 2001 in collaboration with regular customer and Blur frontman Damon Albarn. It was formed partly out of necessity, as the opportunities to travel to the US, Brazil and Africa to buy rare records became less and less viable. The label issues brilliant, pioneering dance music. For this reason alone, not to mention the great selection of used titles, you should check out this Ladbroke Grove legend.

ONE TO TAKE HOME WITH YOU: Brokenhearted Dragonflies Insect Electronica From Southeast Asia (Sublime Frequencies) £17.99

SOUNDS OF THE UNIVERSE
7 Broadwick Street, Soho, London W1F 0DA
www.soundsoftheuniverse.com

Sounds of the Universe, Record Store Day, Berwick Street, London 20/04/2013
Photo: Sounds of the Universe by David Jones 大卫 琼斯

Sounds of the Universe is my favourite record shop in Soho, specialising in reggae, dub, Brazilian Tropicalia, African funk and other global sounds. Upstairs is devoted to brand new vinyl and CDs while, in true record shop fashion, the downstairs basement is bulging with original vinyl. What makes it worth visiting is the passionate, knowledgeable staff and their dedication to unearthing the best sounds from around the world. Sounds of the Universe is also home to Soul Jazz Records, who have released some amazing crate-digging compilations of dancehall, acid house and German experimental rock over the years.

ONE TO TAKE HOME WITH YOU: Gregory Isaacs Showcase original LP (Taxi) £25

FLASHBACK
50 Essex Road, Islington, London N1 8LR
www.flashback.co.uk

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hoto: Flashback by Eric Huang

Flashback in Islington has been operating since 1997 and has always been about secondhand stock. But since the music industry started to press most new releases on vinyl, they now sell brand new titles as well. New vinyl and CDs can be found upstairs, but the used vinyl in the basement is really where it’s at. This is the place to find lost classics leaning heavily towards the rock/punk/alternative end of the spectrum (my favourite) at reasonable prices. Whether you are after an everyday playing copy of a grunge classic or an £800 pristine first pressing of Shirley Collins’ Sweet England, Flashback should have something for you. This and Haggle Vinyl make Islington a great place to live for record hounds.

ONE TO TAKE HOME WITH YOU: Flaming Lips Clouds Taste Metallic LP (original US green vinyl) £30

RAT RECORDS
348 Camberwell New Road, London SE5 0RW
www.ratrecordsuk.net

Rat Records, Camberwell, SE5
Photo: Rat Records, Camberwell by Ewan Munro

Trading since 1998, Rat Records sells a extensive range of secondhand reggae, soul, punk and classic rock to Camberwell’s eclectic local community. Owner Tom Fisher has been dealing in records for 24 years and seriously knows his stuff. For example, in his record buying time, he has discovered the only vinyl acetate pressing of a collaboration between Mick Jagger and John Lennon. What I like about Rat Records is the fact that they put out fresh stock every Saturday morning, so you can get there early and be sure to bag a bargain. The LPs are rarely priced at more than £8, so you will probably find something below list price, too.

ADDITIONAL INFO:

Record Store Day is an annual event taking place in record shops across the UK every April. Many London record shops participate by offering exclusive vinyl-only releases and putting on in-store gigs and events. Also, if you are visiting the capital from out of town and are looking for accommodation, I’d recommend checking out HotelClub.

A Delivery of American Goodies

It’s Thanksgiving this week – a holiday that brings back fond memories from my childhood of tables full of turkey and family visiting from out of town. It’s one that I tend to forget about these days though. I haven’t had a Thanksgiving in New York since I moved to London in 2007, so the date almost always just fades in with all the others.

Last week Thursday I had an exciting delivery at work in celebration of Thanksgiving – a gift basket from Ocado full of American goodies (perks of being an American expat blogger…)!

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There were Snyders pretzel bites, sesame flatbreads, bagel crisps, Kraft mac and cheese, egg nog, samuel adams (which I’ve donated to Jorge), a Reeses (which went to my colleague Amy)…

American snacks from Ocado

…and my favourite: Lucky charms. Magically delicious. I used to eat these all the time when I was a kid and even now when I go home my mom always has a box on hand for me.

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Now I just need to decide on whether or not I feel like cooking turkey after work on Thursday or if I will just settle in with my box of Lucky Charms and some eggnog…

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How about you? Are you celebrating Thanksgiving in London, my fellow American expats? If you’re not American or British, are there other holidays that you had back home that you celebrate abroad? I’d love to hear about them!

London’s Best Independent Shops

I wrote this originally for TownFish, but I wanted to share a slightly modified version with you featuring some of my favourite independent shops in London. Though it may seem like every other shop in London is a Zara, Tesco or Starbucks, there are still many eccentric, vibrant independent shops thriving among the high street mega-brands. This is not an extensive list, just a taste. Quite frankly, I’m not very inspired by the high street shops at the moment so tell me your own favourites in the comments and lead me out of my London shopping rut!

Aria

Barnsbury Hall, Barnsbury Street, London N1 1PN

An Islington lifestyle and design shop housed in the spacious Barnsbury Hall where you’ll find furniture, headphones, recipe books, jewellery and everything in between. Brands include Paul Smith, Cowshed, Jonathan Adler, Vivienne Westwood and many others. Many of the staff are designers themselves and love to talk about their products.

Photo from Aria’s website

Artwords Bookshop

20-22 Broadway Market, London E8 4QJ

Wouldn’t you agree that despite the wonders of technology, there’s something to be said about flipping the pages of a real book or magazine? East London’s Artwords has a great selection of art books and those hard-to-find independent fashion magazines galore that cater to the creative local community.

Photo from Shop Ikon

Daunt

83 Marylebone High Street, London W1U 4QW

Hands down my favourite bookshop in London, this independent gem is housed in an old Edwardian building with oak columns and skylights with two floors of books arranged by country or area in which they are set. They not only have travel guides but plenty of fiction, non fiction and those wonderful, beautiful, photography-filled coffee table style books (which, I keep trying to remind myself) are a bad obsession to have when you know you won’t be living in the same house forever…)

Photo from Urban75

Drink, Shop & Do

9 Caledonian Road,  London N1 9DX

Tucked away in an old Victorian bathhouse in King’s Cross, this is a hidden gem where you can indulge in an afternoon of tea and crumpets while playing board games and shopping from the collections of local designers. They play host to a variety of quirky activity nights where you can create Lego robots, get a pin-up girl makeover or learn the official dance to MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This”.

Photo from MyCityVenue

Fernandez & Wells

43 Lexington Street,  London W1F 9AL

Those who stumble upon Soho’s coffee heaven that is Fernandez & Wells speak of it fondly and nearly always return. Rustic wooden floors, a relaxed vibe, giant picture windows for people watching and, of course, fresh and delicious food makes the original shop a favourite central London lunchtime haunt. There are now five branches in London including a brand new addition recently opened in South Kensington.

Photo from You Should Go Here

Jessie Chorley & Buddog

58 Columbia Road, London E2 7RG

Originally a stall in Broadway Market, Jessie & Buddug was transformed into a beautiful, creative shop on Columbia Road in 2008. The two friends / artists from Snowdonia dig back to their Welsh roots to create beautiful handmade pieces like greeting cards, decoupage picture frames and photo albums, engraved jewellery and embellished vintage clothing. There is enormous attention to details and the girls are wonderfully inviting.

Photo from Bird In The House

Jimmie Martin

77 Kensington Church St, London W8 4BG

Described as “furniture combining the decadent and quirky with the nostalgic and urban”, this Kensington Church Street shop is full of one-off chairs with sausage dogs, graffiti covered wardrobes and other items for the home designed in bold colours and pop-culture imagery. With a celeb following, designers Jimmie Karlsson and Martin Nihlmar have created pieces for Kelly Osbourne, Pete Townshend, Kylie Minogue and Madonna among others.

Photo from Creative Mapping

Le Grenier

146 Bethnal Green Road, London E2 6DG

That’s French for “attic”, a great description of this treasure trove of vintage goodies. For the last four years, husband and wife team Jean-Louis and Yuko have scoured markets and antique fairs in the UK and France for pieces of furniture, kitchenware, jewellery and other knick-knacks they are proud to sell. They even have a lease service if you’re after a prop for a special event.

Photo from Twenty Something London

Liberty

Regent Street, London W1B 5AH

Who doesn’t know of London’s famous Liberty? I’ve included it mainly becuase they stock French clothing brand Sessùn which I love. Also the old tudor building is stunning and, having been around since 1875, a piece of British heritage and an emporium housing some of the world’s most luxurious brands.

Photo from Liberty’s website

Lumiere

88 Chatsworth Road, London E5 0LS

A magical place of oddities with under floor lighting, fake flickering candles and a disco ball, stop by for delicious smoothies, original cocktails (one, for example, made with water from bags of mozzarella cheese) and French film nights. Be sure to venture downstairs and make sure you pop into the memorable loo.

Photo from Scout London

Radio Days

87 Lower Marsh Street, London SE1 7AB

Step into Radio Days and walk through multiple eras of vintage clothing, accessories like glittering broaches, bullet bras, stacks of old magazines and home decor from the 1920s to the 1980s amid a nostalgic soundtrack that takes you back in time. Staff are knowledgeable and welcoming.

Photo by LLO

Scootercaffe

132 Lower Marsh Street, London SE1 7AE

A tiny unassuming gem hidden behind Southbank on Lower Marsh Street, walk inside and you’re hit with the aroma of ground coffee beans. They could also possibly have the best hot chocolate in London. But the real charm is in the mismatched décor with its vintage sign and odds and ends as well as the resident cat who is normally curled up on a chair but is quite happy to receive attention. Head to the basement to settle in with free wi-fi and old school jazz.

Photo from Fluid London

Stumper & Fielding

107 Portobello Road, London W11 2QB

Think country chic tweeds, classic union jacks, riding coats, tea towels embellished with bicycles, brogues and wellies. Quality style for the gentleman is this tiny shop’s main focus but there’s plenty for the ladies as well. Stop by to visit on Portobello Road. They don’t have a website yet.

Photo from Stumper & Fielding Facebook page

The Bridge Coffee Shop

5 Kingsland Road, London, E2 8AA

While the coffee and cakes are great, it’s the sensory overload here that’s the real draw. This Dickensian-style coffee shop is nestled under the bridge on Shoreditch High Street and contains a fascinating array of décor from Tiffany lamps to vintage fluorescent signs to old photographs and gilt mirrors. Upstairs, on creaky wooden floorboard sit quirky fuchsia pink chairs where you can sit and chat with friends for hours.

the bridge cafe shoreditchPhoto by LLO

The Make Lounge

3-4 Waterloo Gardens, Barnsbury Street, London N1 1TY

Not only is this a shop which stocks all sorts of lovely craft supplies, the Make Lounge also holds regular workshops where you can learn to make homemade jam, a bespoke lampshade or even a pair of knickers. With wine and biscuits at hand, socializing while learning a new craft is highly encouraged!

Photo from The Make Lounge

Unpackaged

97 Richmond Road, London E8 3NJ

This one does what it says on the tin in that it sells unpackaged food to avoid so much unnecessary waste being sent to the landfills. It started back in 2006, but in 2012 relocated to a larger space in Hackney. On your first shop, your containers will be weighed and given an official unpackaged sticker. There is also a café, but remember to bring your own cup!

Photo from Singaporean in London

Also worth a quick mention, though there are many more, pop in to The Last Tuesday Society for the underworld of taxidermy, Tatty Devine to pick up a colourful and witty Perspex necklace or The Merchant for second hand high end designer clothes.