Listen to a Londoner: Marsha Moore

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you want to be interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk. Always looking for new volunteers.

Marsha Moore, 36

A native Canadian, Marsha has lived and worked in London for the past six years. Her first book, 24 Hours London (Prospera Publishing 2009), was inspired by her love for her adopted city.

LLO: Where are you from originally, how did you end up in London and how long have you been in this fabulous city?
MM:
I’m from Canada originally. I came to London six years ago as a teacher, met my husband here, got married and stayed! I miss Canada but London is home to me now. As a full-time writer, it’s got a fantastic literary scene and I’ve been able to meet and network with lots of other writers.

LLO: As the author of 24 Hours London and 24 Hours Paris, which city do you prefer and why?
MM:
Paris is such a beautiful city that you can’t help but be stunned by how perfectly groomed it appears to be. It reminds me of entering my mother’s room as a child – you’re fascinated by everything but afraid to touch it unless you somehow mess it up. London is greyer, less appealing visually, and less ordered, but you feel somehow like you can dig in and get your hands dirty. So I have to say – as much as I like Paris – I love living in London.

LLO: I’ve got 24 hours to kill in London and want to get off the tourist track. What do you suggest?
MM:
While it’s not exactly secret, wandering along the Thames on the  Southbank – preferably in good weather – is one of my favourite things to do. You’ve got the British Film Institute, The National Theatre, the Royal Festival Hall and the Tate Modern all within a kilometer, as well as brilliant views over the river! London’s markets also can’t be missed – try Spitalfields and Columbia Road on a Sunday for flowers to frou frou (and don’t miss out Brick Lane along the way), and Borough Market for food. In the north of the city is Hampstead Heath, where you can wander through the trees, fly a kite and take a dip in a pond…and forget you’re in a mega-metropolis!

LLO: What’s your favourite late-night London venue/activity?
MM:
The energy in Soho is so amazing I could soak it up all night! The buzz of the streets, the swarms of crowds outside West End theatres… for me, it’s what London is all about. There are loads of great spots in Soho but I like LAB for drinks, Pulcinella for pizza and Balans for late-night (or early morning!) dinners. The Curzon also has midnight cinema once a month, where you can chill out and watch films until morning.

LLO: Where in London do you go for new inspiration if writer’s block strikes?
MM:
London has so many great green spaces and I always find a wander through them clears my head! I love the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, in particular – there’s nothing better than grabbing a coffee at the Lido and watching the boats drift up and down. But my favourite writing spot is my office, where I can stare out the window for hours watching the double-deckers storm by and absorbing the rhythm of the street.

LLO: Favourite bookshop in the capital and why?
MM:
London’s bursting with brilliant bookshops – John Sandoe and Foyles, to name a few – but my favourite has to be Daunt. Enter here and you feel like you’ve entered a shrine to the printed word! Books are arranged by country –  you can seek out your interest and browse the novels, non-fiction and guides with awe. The store also has branches in Holland Park, Chelsea, Belsize Park and Hampstead, but it is the Marylebone store – located in an original Edwardian bookstore – that is truly amazing.

LLO: What’s the best part about living in your postcode?
MM:
I live in Kensington, and I love it! It has brash new shops and restaurants mixed with small independent ones that look like they’ve been around for ages. Pubs are tucked away off busy pavements, and elegant terraced houses with private squares line the streets. You get a sense of what the city must have been like a hundred years ago. You’re also close to Kensington Gardens – where you can lounge by the gazebo in the summer and listen to music – and Holland Park, with its wonderful peacocks.

LLO: Best London discovery while working on your book?
MM:
I’ve found out so many great things about the city while working on the book that it’s hard to narrow it down! But one of my favourite locations is Lower Marsh Street, close to Waterloo. I’d been to the station so many times, but I had no idea this small street – full of gems like I Knit London (where you can drink beer and knit) and Scooterworks (a café in a former repair shop) – existed!

LLO: Which London-based writers do you most admire?
MM:
Tough question!  I am massive fan of chick lit (I have my own chick-lit novel being published next year), and London has provided a great setting for many chick-lit novels. Helen Fielding, the author of Bridget Jones’ Diary, used to live in Notting Hill. Sophie Kinsella, who lives just outside of London, is also one of my favourites. I love to see the city through the eyes of their main characters.

LLO: Most unusual restaurant or pub you’ve come across that’s worth a visit?
MM:
Definitely has to be Ye Olde Mitre! Walk down Hatton Garden and between numbers 8 and 10, you’ll come to an arched entryway into an alley with a sign stating ‘Ye Olde Mitre 1546’. Enter the alley and you’ll see a pub many locals have yet to discover. Although the current building only dates back to the eighteenth century, the pub has existed since 1547 when it was built to serve the servants of the nearby Palace of the Bishops of Ely. The trunk of a cherry tree has been preserved in the corner of the bar, and legend has it that Elizabeth I danced the maypole around it!

Thanks Marsha!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

Listen to a Londoner: Abbey Stirling

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you want to be interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk. Always looking for new volunteers.

Abbey Stirling, 32

Abbey is a freelance arts and entertainment journalist living and working in London and Ibiza. She is the editor of webzine The London Word.com, and dabbles in feline frolics and fancy dress.

LLO: How long have you lived in London?
AS:
Twelve years almost to the day. I moved here from Australia (where I lived after leaving my native New Zealand) in the spring of ’98.

LLO: Tell us a bit about The London Word, what it’s all about and how it started.
AS:
Like many great things it all began at the pub. A mate and I were letting off some steam over a pint back in 2007. We were both working for an American website at the time, and our contrasting cultures and clashing views with the US office caused no-end of conflict. So, feeling disheartened by our jobs and believing London was misrepresented, we branched off on our own, taking with us everything we’d learnt from that experience.

Now, three years later, we have a team of about 30 contributors who publish articles on a daily basis. Readers can absorb daily postings on culture, food, drink, fashion, shopping, health and wellbeing. We interview a variety of colourful Londoners, from DJs, actors and musicians to tattooists, chefs and sportsmen.

But what I find the most rewarding is when readers voice their views, either via our Speakers’ Corner section or by commenting on each other’s posts. It’s heartening that people make an effort to get some online banter and debate going on our little site. It shows they’re passionate and they care.

LLO: What sets it apart from other London sites?
AS:
We never try to compete with other London sites like Time Out, although we’re certainly inspired by them. I think what sets us apart is that we provide a platform for ordinary Londoners to articulate their opinions, good or bad. We’re not a listings site, we’re an editorial-focused webzine where Londoners can express their experiences, whether it’s a nasty trip on the tube, or an amazing gig or restaurant they’ve been to. We encourage everyone to make themselves heard – in a colourful and eloquent fashion!

LLO: What’s the most unique London discovery you’ve made since the site started in 2007?
AS:
Personally, after interviewing Cryptozoologist Neil Arnold, I’ve discovered some things about Highgate Cemetery that have both deterred and intrigued me.

LLO: Which Londoner would you most love to interview on the site and why?
AS:
David Bowie would be my dream interviewee. He’s a London boy at heart and I’d just like to be in the same room as him. I think that’s a good enough reason!

LLO: What’s the best thing about living in your postcode?
AS:
I can walk pretty much everywhere from N1. All of the places I like to go – Camden, Shoreditch, Dalston, Stoke Newington and the West End, are all within walking distance. Sometimes I walk along the canal to Camden, which is really therapeutic. And most of my friends live in the vicinity, which is a bonus.

LLO: If I only had one night in London, where would you send me to eat and drink?
AS:
Mildreds, on Lexington Street in Soho, is my favourite place to eat in London. It’s vegetarian, which has put off a few of my carnivore friends, but they’re literally eating their words after the first course.

LLO: Is there somewhere in London you’d like to explore but haven’t had a chance yet?
AS:
The Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons.

LLO: Favourite place or activity to pass a summer evening in the capital?
AS:
Atop Primrose Hill with friends and wine.

LLO: Describe your perfect day in London.
AS:
A market, any market. London’s markets are so vibrant and chaotic but relaxing at the same time. I love going to Borough Market and then popping over to the South Bank for a stroll. Going to Columbia Road market on a sunny day is London at its best.

Thanks Abbey!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

Borough Market: Food, Glorious Food!

I can never resist taking photos (before or after stuffing my face) of the mouth-watering goodies piled up all on wooden tables, looking all organic and smelling like perfectly golden-brown melting cheese one minute and fresh fish the next. I can’t transfer the delicious scent, but here’s some pics! Think of smells….

Baklava

Oyster Awards

Melting Cheese

(That cheese ^^? Amazing. That black bar above it gets very hot and melts the top of the cheese chunks. The melted bits are the scraped off onto sandwiches. The queue for sandwiches was so long, they were using raffle tickets and calling numbers. The wait was well worth it!)

Heap of Veggies

Potatoes

Market Food

Cheese Cylinders

Buckets Full of Olives

Fresh Eggs

There were also delicious cakes and brownies, but I was too focused on choosing which ones I wanted to eat to take any photos…

*insert nostalgic chocolate craving here*

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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!