Listen to a Londoner: Paul McConnell

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.

Paul McConnell

Paul is a born and bred londoner. Having lived in Central London his whole life, he spent his childhood within a 15 minute walking distance of Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. His favourite thing to do in London or anywhere else is to hang out with his friends on a Saturday afternoon watching the football, or spend it with his lovely fiancee going around all the markets and shops.

LLO: As a born and bred Londoner, how has the city changed since your childhood? Anything you miss?
PM: The city has changed a ton. There is a lot more diversity now, with many different cultures, and its made london more of a melting pot. You really can get anything you like from any culture in the world in london.

LLO:Which part of the city are you most familiar with and what’s the best thing about it?
PM: I’m most familiar with central london as I’ve grown up within walking distance from Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. My favourite part of London is the Southbank and all the bridges that cross the thames – so relaxing and beautiful.

LLO: Best London discovery?
PM: Great family run Italian restaurant near Notting Hill called Ffionas. You have to be there early though because they only have 8 tables.

LLO: If you’re in the mood for some last minute live music, which venues would you check first to see what’s on?
PM: Brixton Academy have shows all the time where you can always pick up tickets on the day, or if you walk through Camden you’re sure to find something you like.

LLO: Tell us about a memorable moment that could only have happened in London.
PM: It has a be a marathon weekend which consisted of 3 live football matches, 3 nights out clubbing and about 3 hours sleep during all 3 days.

LLO: Know of any great little hole-in-the-wall pubs, restaurants or coffee shops that are worth stopping by?
PM: The Black Horse just behind Oxford Street is a great pub, great food, all fresh the same day.

LLO: If you were to leave London in the near future, what 5 things (people not included) would you miss the most about the city?
PM: 1.) Arsenal football club 2.) The London Eye (near where i proposed to my fiancee) 3.) Being able to hear Big Ben on a quiet night from my house 4.) Fish and chip shop on Sutherland Street in Pimlico (best fish and chips on earth) 5.) My mum’s roast dinner

LLO: Best pub to watch your favourite football team on match day?
PM: Either the Barley Mow in Vauxhall or Victoria’s Sports bar above Victoria station

LLO: What about a great venue to go watch some live sport (not necessarily football!)?
PM: Wembley or the Emirates Stadium, or Battersea Power Station where they have live festivals, extreme sports/extreme Winter sports.

LLO: Share a random London fact that not many people would know.
PM: The actual City of London is only 1 square mile. All other major roads such as Oxford Street, Piccadilly and Regent Street actually come under “The City of Westminster”.

Even though being the sovereign of The UNITED KINGDOM, Her Majesty the Queen is not allowed to enter the City of London with seeking the permission of its Lord Mayor.

Thanks Paul!

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Listen to a Londoner: Steve Slack

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.

Steve Slack, 30

Steve is a writer and researcher working in the cultural heritage sector. He writes audioguides and museum interpretation and is currently writing a book about what happiness means to us in a modern context.
He blogs at www.steveslack.co.uk

LLO: Tell us a bit about The Happiness Project you’re working on at the moment.
SS:
Happiness is an enormous subject. It’s vast. The more I learn about it, the more questions I have. Down the ages, the great and the good have tried to get to grips with happiness. What is it? How we define it? Thinkers and writers have produced millions of pages on this subject – so much so that I wonder if it’s worth even trying to answer such a huge question that seeks to define happiness in broad terms. Instead, I’m interested in what makes us happy as individuals. So, I started looking at some historical characters and tried to find out what they said about happiness – Aristotle, Henry VIII, Churchill. I found that an understanding of happiness is contextual – to truly appreciate what makes someone happy, one has to understand the world they live in. So one aspect of this project is looking back at some figures from history who’ve had something interesting to say about happiness. These are juxtaposed with the modern section, which involves me going and interviewing lots of people from different walks of life today, asking them what happiness means to them and what makes them happy. The idea is to build up a picture of what happiness might mean to us in a modern context [http://steveslack.co.uk/happiness-project/part-two-contemporary/].

LLO: How do you choose who to interview for your project and what has the response been like so far?
SS: I’ve been interviewing people who have something interesting to say. To be fair, every single person has a unique perspective on happiness – there are no two answers the same. But for this project I’m trying to find people who have a unique contribution. I’ve had to rein it in somewhat, so I’m now looking for people who are living in the UK today. I’ve spoken with a Holocaust survivor, a homeless guy, Woman Farmer of the Year, a hip-hop MC, a psychiatrist, a Buddhist writer, a blind extreme sport enthusiast and more. People are really happy to put their minds to my questions and to talk. After I’ve interviewed them I write up their answers and edit it into a post for the website [http://steveslack.co.uk/happiness-project/].

LLO: Any thoughts on the general state of happiness among Londoners? What could we do to be a bit more cheerful?
SS:
Londoners love to have a grumble about the city. It’s expensive, it’s dirty, the infrastructure is ageing and the people are rude. But that’s only one perspective. I’ve lived in London for 12 years and I find that while some of that is true, London is still the greatest city in the world in terms of inspiration and creativity. There’s so much to do here, you can never complain of being bored. From bars and clubs, shopping, some of the best food in the world to an unrivalled cultural scene. I’ve worked in the museum sector for about a decade and I find there’s so much here to keep me going.

There’s a great blog called the Happiness Project London [http://thehappinessprojectlondon.wordpress.com/] which celebrates all of these things and more. It’s a celebration of all the wonderful things to do here and it’s great way to make sure we don’t take London for granted.

LLO: Is there a place you’ve found in London that always seems to make you happy?
SS:
I have a favourite picture in the National Gallery that always makes me happy. It’s a picture of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza by Honoré-Victorin Daumier  [http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/honore-victorin-daumier-don-quixote-and-sancho-panza] – I don’t know what it is about the painting, but it does something very strange to me. I can stand in front of it for ages and never get bored; I’m just content and happy. I find the combination of colours very relaxing and pleasing and the overlapping lines of the picture never cease to interest me. The rest of the world seems to disappear whenever I’m in the room with it. If I’ve got five minutes spare and I’m near the Gallery, I’ll pop in and have a quick look. My partner recently bought me a framed print of the picture. That made me enormously grateful that someone had gone to the trouble to think about what makes me happy.

LLO: Working in the museum/heritage sector, which London museum is your favourite and can you recommend a good one that’s a bit quirky or out of the ordinary?
SS: The Geffrye Museum [http://www.geffrye-museum.org.uk/] in Hoxton is a real treat. It’s the museum of English domestic interiors. As well as some great displays it also has a charming garden and a great cafe. On the other side of the city I love the calm tranquillity of Dulwich Picture Gallery [http://www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk/]. It’s a hidden gem in London, but it doesn’t deserve to be. The building and gardens are beautiful and the collection – although somewhat obscure – is a time capsule of late 18th-century art collecting. Less than a mile away, but very different in tone, is the fabulous Horniman Museum [http://www.horniman.ac.uk/] with its wide-ranging collection of musical instruments, African objects and natural history.

LLO: Give us a London fact you’ve learned while working that most people probably don’t know, but might put a smile on their face when they hear it.
SS: There’s a stuffed walrus [http://www.horniman.ac.uk/ten.php] in the Horniman Museum’s natural history collection. When the skin was sent to the UK from Canada in 1870 the taxidermist assigned to stuff it had never seen a live walrus. He stuffed it full of filling, like he’d stuff a horse or a dog, until it was completely full. But, of course, walruses are supposed to have rolls of blubber to keep them warm. You can still see the lines in his side where his flab should be, but unfortunately he’s far too big. It’d be a nightmare to undo the work, so he’s left there, looking rather uncomfortable. He’s supposed to be fat, but not that fat!

LLO: Tell us about the most fascinating Londoner you’ve interviewed in your life, either through museum work or your personal projects.
SS:I wrote the audio guide for an exhibition at Lambeth Palace Library recently and got to interview the Archbishop of Canterbury for the introduction. He’s a real pro when it comes to the media – he spoke directly with confidence and ease. And he did it word perfect, in one take. I guess fluent speaking goes with the job! From his study we could see the amazing gardens of Lambeth Palace. Apparently it’s the second largest private garden in London, next to Buckingham Palace.

LLO: Where’s your favourite place to go to unwind over dinner or drinks?
SS:
I love water, so I’m often to be found near the river. But in the summer it can get quite manic, so I’ll head back towards my home in south London. Camberwell and Peckham are having are real renaissance right now. There are loads of great bars and restaurants in which to eat, drink and just hang out. My back garden also has a little suntrap, so I can sometimes be found there on a summer evening with a glass of wine, watching the planes heading into Heathrow.

LLO: Favourite London discovery?
SS: I’d always assumed that if you wanted good curry in London you should head to Brick Lane. But I’d never thought of Drummond Street (near Euston Station) until a friend took me there. It’s great row of restaurants if you like south Indian food.

There’s also a great pop-up bar on top floor of a multi-storey car park in Peckham called Frank’s Cafe and Campari Bar [http://www.frankscafe.org.uk/]. It’s a unique blend of sculpture, food and drinks in the open air, with a privileged view of the London skyline.

LLO: What’s the best part about living in your postcode?
SS: Camberwell gets a bad reputation sometimes, but I think it’s a fabulous place to live. It’s relaxed and artsy and has loads of places to get coffee, food, free wi-fi and evening drinks. It’s such a creative area, there’s something for everyone and for every mood. I maintain that the best tapas in London is at Angels and Gypsies [http://www.churchstreethotel.com/restaurant-menu.asp?menu=6332] at the Church Street Hotel. Camberwell Arts Week [http://www.camberwellarts.org.uk/] each June is a real treat – this year we sat on the roof of the church hall and watched movies projected onto the wall at night!

Thanks Steve!

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Listen to a Londoner: Janine Clements

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.

Janine Clements, 37

Janine Clements is a freelance journalist, travel expert and mummy blogger who has been living in London for 12 years. She has lived in Holloway, Maida Vale, Westminster and now Fulham, where she has lived for four years with her husband and 2-year-old daughter.    

LLO: Living in London for 12 years, what are the best and worst changes you’ve seen in the city?
JC:
 The increase in gun and knife crime and scary dogs, but better transport facilities and better shopping with the arrival of Westfield. All the attractions have definitely become much better at catering for young children.    

LLO: Top three favourite things about living in Fulham?
JC:
Lots to do for children (e.g. Fulham Palace, Coffee and Crayons, Gambados, various parks). It’s got great pubs such as The White Horse and The Sands End. There are lots of families around so there is a real community feel.    

LLO: Tell us a bit about your blog http://21stcenturymummy.com.
JC:
My inspiration from my blog came from the fact I love writing. I decided to set up a blog that was an account of my take on life as a modern-day mum, as my daughter, who is two, grows up (and I grow older!). I also wanted to help other mums by providing useful information, advice and opinions, reviews and an insight into parenthood for other people to read. My blog covers everything from news and reviews of the latest products to family travel.  

LLO: Do you think London is a child-friendly city and why (or if not, what would make it more so)?
JC:
London is an exciting and vibrant city, and yes, I think most parts are very child-friendly, there’s so much to do for all age groups.  

LLO: If I had one day in London and wanted to explore the bits that don’t show up in the guidebooks, where would you recommend?
JC:
The parks are all fabulous. I love Holland Park, St. James Park and Kensington Palace Gardens. Battersea Park Zoo is fun for younger kids.

LLO: As a travel enthusiast, have you found a place in London you can go to feel like you’ve travelled without actually having left the city?
JC:
I’ve always been a big fan of Little Venice and its waterways and canal boats. It is so peaceful and very different from inner London. Or further out is Richmond Park, acres upon acres of parkland and loads of deer. 

LLO: What’s your favourite kid-friendly restaurant in London and another one you love when you’ve got a child-free night out?
JC:
Konnigans in Wandsworth is great for brunch. It’s got a relaxed atmosphere, good food and great kid’s menu. For the two of us it would be Tsunami, a fabulous Japanese restaurant. There’s one near Tottenham Court Road and another in Clapham.

LLO: Do you have any advice for travelling mums about to pop over to London for a week with the kids?
JC:
There are so many things for kids. Popular things to do include Buckingham Palace, the London Aquarium, and the Science Museum. Depending on the age of your kids, a West End show is a great idea. Hamleys or the toy shop at Harrods is also fun. When it’s sunny, the parks are fabulous too.

LLO: Favourite London discovery or a place you’ve heard is really cool but haven’t had a chance to check it out yet?
JC:
I’ve heard the Victoria and Albert Museum is great for kids, but I haven’t been yet.

LLO: Describe your perfect Spring Saturday in London.
JC:
Head outdoors if it’s sunny, so my 2-year-old can run around and burn off some energy. Somewhere like Fulham Palace or Cannzaro House (in Wimbledon) or Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park. Each has a nice cafe to grab lunch at too.

Thanks Janine!

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