Giveaway: 3 Pairs of Affordable Art Fair Tickets

I’m back in London for a few days (Copenhagen was brilliant), am happy to announce that I’ve officially reached my funding goal for my exhibition (thank you so much to all who pledged) and thought I’d continue the art theme with a fun giveaway.

THE GIVEAWAY

I’ve teamed up with BIC who have three pairs of tickets saved for a couple of lucky Little London Observationist readers who’d like to head over to the Affordable Art Fair in Battersea Park this week.  It runs from 24-27 October and you can pick up a snazzy new piece of art for your flat from around £40.

HOW TO ENTER & OTHER IMPORTANT DETAILS

Simply leave a comment on this post with the answer to this question:

How many Sudoku puzzles can one BIC® Cristal® pen complete?
a)     984
b)     985
c)     986

The winners will be selected and notified by the kind people at BIC who will make sure you receive your tickets. The competition will run for 48 hours, until 9pm on Thursday night.

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THE REASON & ANOTHER CHALLENGE

BIC is feeling generous due to the launch of their 2013 BIC® Cristal® Challenge and this is part of the celebration. It’s another competition that will also result in Affordable Art Fair tickets for the winners plus a tenner. The challenge? Use up all the ink in one BIC® Cristal® Medium pen.

To show London how it’s done, they have renowned artist Funny Tummy hanging out at the Affordable Art Fair where he’s going to attempt to create a giant London cityscape using just one pen…and all the ink.

And that’s a lot of ink. Apparently, there’s 3km of the black stuff in each BIC pen. That means each one can sign up to 9,431 signatures, complete 986 sudoku puzzles or write 506 postcards. Who knew?

If you want to give it a go, get your hands on a pen, use up all the ink, send the empty pen to BIC and they’ll send you £10. There’s more info at Facebook.com/BICCreativity.

In the meantime, leave your answer to the question above in a comment for a chance to win a pair of tickets to the Affordable Art Fair. Pass it on!

GOOD LUCK!

Listen to a Londoner: Mary Higgs

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you’re up for being interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

Mary Higgs, 30

Mary lives in Battersea. She’s an interior designer by day and a London dating guru by night. She set up the Great Date Guide to help give Londoners inspiration and advice on where to go for a great date in this fantastic city.

LLO: Tell us about the Great Date Guide.
MH:
I had the idea for the Great Date Guide a few years ago, when it started its life as a homemade book for my older brother. He had recently found himself new to London and single (after ending a 7-year relationship) and with an unenviable yet unavoidable lack of dating know-how. As it turned out, he wasn’t alone. I realised that I had so many friends in their late twenties who had hit the “make or break” stage in their relationships and had opted for “break”. This meant that their last “first date” was about seven years ago and often at university – a distant memory from a distant city!

Fed up with my brother’s constant emails at lunchtime on a Friday asking where he should take his date that evening, I decided to take action. I put together a book of eighty dates for him, written in the format of a travel guide. Each date was given a number based on its stage in the dating game (1 for a first date, 2 for early days etc.), and also a symbol to tell him what type of date it was – a heart for romance, a wine glass for drinks… you get the picture!

Anyway, he (and all his friends) absolutely loved the book and I kept an idea, in the back of my mind, that I’d like to do more with it.  A few years later I decided it was the right time to do something with the idea and here it is – a website designed to take the hassle out of dating for busy Londoners who need a bit of inspiration. Single, married or somewhere in between, we should all be dating. Whether it’s cocktails in a ritzy bar, a romantic dinner for two or just a leisurely stroll through one of London’s fabulous parks, it’s our belief that dating should be a firm fixture in everyone’s weekly schedule.

LLO: Would you consider London a romantic city?
MH:
Absolutely! Although, I believe that any city can be romantic if you approach it with the right attitude. It’s less about the city – more about how you interact with it. That is one of the reasons we started the website, to help people find the great dating spots in London that might otherwise have passed them by. I do think London is special though, and full of quirky romantic places.

LLO: Where’s the best place for a date in your postcode?
MH:
For a first date, I think my local pub, the Lighthouse in Battersea, is pretty perfect! There’s a great garden for the summer and a roaring fire in the winter. The atmosphere is seriously relaxed so you can start off with a glass of wine, and if the date is going well you can settle in and order food. If the date is going really well you can finish off with a romantic stroll around Battersea Park and then reward yourself with a cheeky kiss on Albert Bridge – definitely the most romantic bridge in London!

LLO: Tell us about the best date you’ve ever had in London.
MH:
I’m in the lucky position of having had lots of wonderful dates in London with my boyfriend. It’s hard to pick a favourite but I think I’d have to say when we took a day trip to Greenwich. Taking the boat down the river, you’re really reminded what a fantastic city London is. Then in Greenwich there is so much to do: fascinating museums, beautiful art, colourful markets, romantic walks with spectacular views, not to mention standing on the line where time officially starts! We finished off the date with a delicious meal at the Rivington Grill and then a very tipsy boat ride home in the dark, mesmerised by the lights of London and the romance of it all. It was a perfect day.

LLO: Any great date disasters you’re willing to share?
MH:
Hmmm, I had a pretty bad first date once when my date wanted to take me out for dinner, but it turned out he hadn’t booked anywhere. Every restaurant that we tried was fully booked until an hour later and we ended up going to Pizza Express – not exactly the height of romance! Then to top it off we went to a nearby pub after dinner to bump into a bunch of his male friends who were having a pretty boozy night and thought the fact that he was on a first date was cause for relentless “banter”. Anyway, it wasn’t too bad as we went on more dates and are still friends now!

LLO: Can you recommend a cozy, quiet, candlelit restaurant for us?
MH:
Of course! Plenty to choose from… We love Julie’s in Holland Park as it’s full of romantic little nooks and crannies, making it the perfect place for dinner. Clos Maggiore is another favourite – you’ll be hard pushed to find somewhere more romantic, with it’s indoor courtyard complete with roaring fire, fairy lights and blossom laden trees (all year round)!

LLO: Best place for a first date in London?
MH:
Again, there are so many options (we’ve got a section about this on the site)! Also, it sounds obvious, but you really have to think about who you’re going on a date with. If they’re an art lover then the top floor bar at the National Portrait Gallery would be perfect, but more of a foodie would like Moro in Exmouth Market, oh, and a music buff would like 606 Jazz Club in Chelsea!!

LLO: What about a date of people who have been in a relationship for a long time and want to do something completely out of the ordinary to help rekindle the passion?
MH:
Lots of options here but if you lead a busy stressful life and have forgotten what it felt like to fall in love, then a spontaneous candlelit supper picnic in one of London’s parks will do the trick (summer or winter). It involves a bit of effort and that’s what makes it so special – you’re saying you can do more than just pick up the bill. However, if you do want to go to a restaurant then Dans Le Noir would be perfect. From the moment you enter you are blind-folded so all your senses are heightened and you can focus on each other with no distractions.

LLO: It’s summertime and London is full of rooftop terraces just waiting to be filled with cocktail drinkers. Can you recommend the best place to wine or dine above the treetops?
MH:
We’ve actually got a list of our top 10 roof terraces on the website – we couldn’t pick a favourite! For the best view in town it probably has to be Vista at the Trafalgar, where, as the name suggests you can see the whole of Trafalgar Square and beyond. You do have to queue which is a pain but it’s worth it for the incredible view. If you’re in the City then Coq D’argent is a must with it’s roof terrace and garden and the kind of quality food you expect from the D&D group.

LLO: What’s your favourite unique London discovery?
MH:
I discovered the Chelsea Physic Garden recently. Like so many places in london I’d walked passed the entrance for years and never gone in! The gardens themselves are a complete oasis from the traffic on the Embankment and the bustle of the Kings Road. In the summer you can eat in the garden: either bring your own food and a picnic rug or tuck into the seriously delicious food on offer in the cafe. But, as you’ll have guessed from the rest of this interview I’m not very good at picking favourites!

Thanks Mary!

Get some great ideas from Mary and team at www.thegreatdateguide.com. They’re also on Facebook www.facebook.com/greatdateguide and tweet at @greatdateguide.

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

Slow London: An interview with Hayley Cull

Last week, Hayley sent me a copy of Slow London, a London guide for locals co-written with journalist Robin Barton with gorgeous black and white photography by Mark Chilvers. It’s perfectly in tune to Little London Observationist, about taking the time to appreciate the little things in London life. It “invites readers to rise up – in their own time, of course – against the culture of speed, fad and uniformity, and instead, revel in the things that make living in this corner of the world unique.”

Inspired by her positive approach to London life that can too often seem hectic, I asked her if she’d like to tell us a bit about taking it easy in the city. She gladly set aside some time to share stories about Londoners who are living fulfilling lives, how and where she enjoys the slow life and gave us a sneak peak at a couple of Mark’s photos from the book.

Slow London hits bookshops around London today and is well worth a read.

LLO: Tell us about a Londoner you’ve met who most exemplifies the fulfilling approach to life emphasized in Slow London.
HC:
I wish I could pick one! But one of the things I’ve noticed is that, just as the people in this city are so diverse, so too are their ways of slowing down and getting the most out of life here. From the volunteers in my favourite charity shop who are always chatting to each other about the amazing food and music they’ve been enjoying that week, to my friend who’ll sketch cityscapes as a way of making sure she’s seeing the details, it seems there are so many ways to find your natural rhythm. I’ve met a woman who was leaving packets of seeds around her housing estate so people might be inspired to plant wildflowers; been led down new bike paths under the effusive advice of a man who cycles absolutely everywhere; and learnt about a new form of yoga just last week when a girl on the bus struck up a conversation because she liked my scarf.

LLO: What is the best way to take it easy in your postcode?
HC:
I live way down in SW19 – right around the corner from Merton Abbey Mills. Tucked into a crook of the River Wandle, there’s this beautiful little market every weekend with fresh food, local art and strange old knickknacks. Fishermen while away the hours as women in fraying layers chat to the people selling them veggies, and it’s all capped off with a pint at the William Morris pub, sitting out on the balcony watching the kingfishers dart between branches draping over the river. I love this village atmosphere, the local side of London that draws us in and makes us feel at home.

LLO: Favourite way to savour a Saturday in London?
HC:
A lazy home-cooked breakfast listening to the radio, followed by a long walk. Doesn’t matter where – it might be around the quiet park near home or winding right through the middle of town to Brick Lane. A visit to my local farmers’ market, an hour or so in the garden, and then a long and laid-back dinner with good friends.

LLO: There’s a section in your book called “Be”, broken down into categories – See, Hear, Smell, Taste, Touch. What’s your favourite thing the capital has to offer in each category?
HC:
There’s so much art to see! Whether it’s the graffitied walls of East London, the creativity rising up from the markets, or the masterpieces at the National Gallery, there’s always something waiting to take you out of yourself. Aside from the phenomenal music venues, I love the sound of the dawn chorus, and birdsong in general – I’m amazed that wherever you are in London, whatever time of day, you’ll pretty much always hear it mingling with the traffic, a constant reminder that the city isn’t as relentless as it might seem. Smell would have to be Columbia Road Flower Market, but I’ll admit that the sound of the traders’ cries are a big part of that too. Marylebone Farmers’ Market or Borough for taste, and the way the stallholders are so passionate about their produce that they love to tell you all about it as you taste and wander, wander and taste. And touch, I’d say the feeling of laying in the grass in any central London park, staring at the sky and knowing that I’m part of it all.

LLO: What makes Slow London different from other London guides?
HC:
City guides tend to encourage seeing as much as possible, but as soon as you do that, you end up rushing it all and not seeing things properly. Slow London is completely different in that it’s a lifestyle guide for locals. It’s about quality over quantity; focuses on the lesser-known people, places and events rather than what’s necessarily trendy and popular; and replaces the usual guidebook formality with a tendency to go off-track now and then, to follow a few stray musical notes or divert down a particularly enchanting side street.

LLO: Share a favourite “slow London” image?
HC:
Please can I have two? These are not my photos; they were taken by Mark Chilvers, who took all the photos throughout the book. I love Battersea Power Station: it’s like a lonely old giant, languishing there under the weight of its chimneys, proudly and purposelessly lording over the slow-flowing Thames. This view feels so privileged, like peering into the secrets of a different time. And the second photo is just so ‘whatever’.

LLO: I hear you spend a lot of time in bookshops. Which ones are your favourites? Any you recommend that still have that messy-basement-musty-good-book-smell appeal?
HC:
For that appeal, it would have to be a secondhand bookshop, wouldn’t it? There’s just something about the smell of old ink and dusty pages. The messy old Copperfield’s in Wimbledon and the little place opposite Balham station have the added bonus of seemingly flouting all sense of order – so much the better for rummaging. John Sandoe Books in Chelsea strikes a perfect balance in stacking new and old side by side, making it one of the most delightfully chaotic bookshops around.

LLO: Best place in London to enjoy a laid back meal without feeling rushed?
HC:
Does afternoon tea count as a meal? I love Rosie’s Deli in Brixton Market, and not only for the carrot cake that absorbs entire afternoons. I always find myself staying for one more tea, and another, and oh go on, just one more.

LLO: Best place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city on a rainy day?
HC:
Sitting upstairs on a random bus for a one-pound sightseeing tour of some obscure part of town, enjoying the misty grey light that makes the whole city look like a romantic old black and white film. Better still, curled up on the sofa with a cup of tea, watching the rain.

LLO: Where can we pick up a copy of Slow London?
HC:
All ‘good’ bookshops (the not-so-good ones can still order it in). Otherwise, although it’s not half as much fun as browsing the shelves, you can order it online at www.slowguides.com/london

Thanks Hayley!