A Brisk January Walk

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It is definitely January in London: Christmas trees with dried out needles heaped in the middle of the pavement waiting to be collected, shiny pavements from incessant rain, dark walks home in the evening, sales in all the shop windows and everyone on diets. I returned from the Canary Islands quite refreshed though. It’s amazing what a bit of sunshine can do.

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But back to the dark rainy days in this city, it’s been preferable to spend my free time curled up with a travel magazine and a cup of tea than go out exploring much with my camera, hence the lack of London posts!

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I did head out over the weekend though to meet an old friend who was here from the States.

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We started at Liverpool street and wandered for a while.

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We walked up Brick Lane, past the guy selling pineapples with little pink umbrellas as if this were the Caribbean, past the mixed aromas of cuisines of so many different countries wafting out of the Sunday UpMarket, past the murals and love locks around Shoreditch station.

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And a few bits of street art I hadn’t seen yet.

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Then we walked through the City where everything is eerily closed on the weekend and along the north of the river, all the way to the bright lights of Piccadilly Circus.

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But it was more talking and catching up then exploring.

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I didn’t take very many but couldn’t resist a few pictures along the way.

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I’ve been focusing on different things since this year began: my new blog Little Observationist, where I’ve been posting much more often than here. I’d love it if you’d follow me there. It will start to include London stories soon.

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I’m also working on some freelance writing, learning more Spanish since it’s always going to be a part of my life now, planning our wedding for June, baking once in a while and updating my Etsy shop.

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So tell me, how was your transition from 2013 to 2014? Any good New Year’s stories? Resolutions? What are you most looking forward to this year? Update me…!

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Quiet London Nights

Walking along the Thames at night is where I really fell in love with this city. It was 2004 and I was here on a study abroad programme. It was an Autumn night, quiet except for the distant sounds of boat parties and someone playing guitar. It was magical and peaceful and I was hooked.

These photos were added to the Flickr pool by jamiefraser1. Thanks Jamie!

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Do you remember where you were when you fell in love with London? Or your own city for that matter?

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.

Listen to a Londoner: Professor Femi Osofisan

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.

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This interview was conducted by Efemena Agadama for Little London Observationist. Efemena is a poet and playwright, originally from Nigeria, who is working on his first novel. He normally contributes articles to his Amnesty International blog.

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Professor Femi Osofisan

Oh! See how the stage drums are welcoming Professor Femi Osofisan.  He is a renowned playwright, poet and novelist with the pen name “Okinba Launko,” who has won the Folon-Nichols Award, ANA prize(s) for literature and poetry, regional Commonwealth poetry award, City of Pennsylvania Bell Award for Artistic Performance and several other awards and appointments spanning several continents.  He has published over 50 literary works, and has also been part of the revered literary story of London.

LLO: What interests you most in or about London?
FO:
I am generally excited about big cities, about the environment they offer for creativity, experimentation, and adventure—as well as for their opposite, death, destruction and atrophy. You are constantly challenged, as an artist in a big city, by this threat of death and/or rejuvenation. London to me is like that.

LLO: You have published over fifty respected plays.  How does your inspiration come?
FO:
From politics, that is, from history as daily experienced. The aim is to make the present and the future better for all of us.

LLO: Tell us some of the countries where you have performed your plays.
FO: 
The UK, Germany, the USA, Sri Lanka, Australia, Canada, plus different African countries.

Taken while Professor Osofisan was directing JP Clark’s OZIDI at the Arts Theatre at the University of Ibadan.

LLO: Over the years, Nigerian and African writers have identified with London.  Do you find London as an interesting environment for Nigerian and African writers?
FO: 
It should be, given the large population of African and African Caribbean people in London. The city also has a long history of creative activism in the arts.

LLO: Do you find that literature from a different culture, such as English or Greek, tends to influence the themes and styles in the work of African writers?
FO: Yes of course, just as the reverse is also true. The best works anywhere always transcend their geographical and temporal frontiers, to speak to humanity all over the world and in all ages. Artists drink from all sources. That is how all cultures thrive, from the cross-pollination with other cultures.

LLO: What advantages can theatre professionals derive by performing their plays and organizing literary activities in London? 
FO: The usual advantages: well-mounted productions with skilled directors and actors; a good publicity; plus a fairly good pay.

LLO: Which London library interests you most?
FO: I have been using the same library for years—and this is the SOAS library, by Russell Square. Its collections on my area of interest are simply breath-taking!

LLO: What is your advice to inspire the new voices in African literature living in London to succeed as writers?
FO: 
The same as I give to all aspiring writers everywhere, whether African or not—namely, that the best way to write is by writing, and reading. Read as much as you can; and never stop writing.

LLO: Do you have upcoming events being planned for London to keep our readers timely informed?
FO: 
Not in the immediate coming months, I am afraid. But I shall probably be delivering this year’s Pinter Lectures at Goldsmiths in October. 

LLO: And kindly tell us how to purchase your literary works (poems, plays and novels).
FO: 
Most of them are published and sold in Nigeria, and can be purchased from The Booksellers bookstore run by Mosuro in Ibadan. They have a website, I believe. But in the UK, the best contact for my works is the African Books Collective, in Oxford.

Thanks Professor Osofisan and Efemena!

If you are interested in reading more about Professor Osofisan, visit his website: http://femiosofisan.org/default.aspx

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

Little London Escapes: Spitalfields City Farm

Walk down Buxton Street from Brick Lane and you’ll find yourself face to face with grazing sheep and horses and a lovely garden. Spitalfields City Farm is the closest to the Square Mile and a nice little escape from the bustle of the markets. Here’s some pics.

Welcome: Spitalfields City Farm

Graffiti Rock

Sheep

Coriander Club

Spitalfields City Farm Garden

Yellow Building and Birds

Hand Washing

Horse

http://www.spitalfieldscityfarm.org