Columbia Road Flower Market Video

Coincidentally, Where The Art Is happened to be at Columbia Road Flower Market the same day I took those pictures that I posted on the blog a few days ago. Rather than photos, Where The Art Is captured a great little video that really picks up the vibe of the market and has shared it in the LLO Flickr pool. You’ll notice a lot of the same characters that were in my photos including the lovely fox doing a bit of embroidery in the window.

Did any of you manage to go last weekend? It wasn’t exactly ideal with the cold and the rain creeping back in. I spent my Sunday shopping…!

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A Sunday in Columbia Road Flower Market

If you’re looking for something to do tomorrow, a Sunday is never badly spent in Columbia Road Flower Market with lovely scents, quirky crowds, live music and Cockney vendors shouting for business. Last weekend, one of them held up a tray of herbs and yelled, “Get your marijuana! We’re allowed to sell it here by the tray!” which brought a few giggles from passersby. The flowers are cheap, the shops behind the market stalls worth a browse and it feels like Spring, especially if you can find a patch of sunshine to lounge in for a while with a cold drink. Here’s some photos from last weekend.

I had to save my favourite shot till last. This blinged out vendor turned around and looked at me the second I took the shot.

So, tell me… how are you spending your weekend?

Any plans to visit the market tomorrow? Do you have a garden to plant flowers in in London?

Little Londoner with a Big Heart

It doesn’t seem so long ago that my brother and I would set up a lemonade stall on our suburban New York street waiting for thirsty grown-ups to walk by and pay us a few cents for a glass. Usually, it was just a few stragglers and grandma dressed up as a stranger trying to trick us into thinking she was a real customer. At the end of the day, we would take down our lopsided “Lemonade 4 Sale” sign, divvy up the coins and head to the Corner Store to gorge ourselves on penny candy.

On Sunday, heading back over to Brick Lane from Columbia Road Flower Market with my visiting family, we stopped by a small girl with a little wooden bear stool selling tiny cupcakes she decorated herself. She was 8-years-old and standing there alone by the pathway. She wasn’t at all intimidated by nine adults towering over her asking questions.

“How much are your cupcakes?”
She replied, “They’re a donation.”
“How much do people usually donate?”
“About one pound,” she said.

Photo taken by Pat Sadler

After she answered more questions about the treats topping each one – dark chocolate, sprinkles, Smarties, we asked what she was going to spend her money on.

“I’m not keeping it,” she explained slowly. “It’s for a charity, for an orphanage in South Africa, for children, so they can have a nicer place to live.”

How precious is that?  

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.

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!