Listen to a Londoner: Claire Watson

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 Always looking for new volunteers.

Claire Watson, 26

Claire works in social media strategy and lives in Islington. She wishes that running everywhere, and subsequently being able to go to the pub in your lycra, was socially acceptable. She’s currently working on the Boutique Run and training for the Guernsey marathon in August. She’s set up a JustGiving page if you’d like to support her efforts.

LLO: Give us the basics first: How long have you lived in London, where are you from originally and how did you end up here?
I’ve been in London for 3.5 years. I lived in Clapham Junction for few years, and now been up in Islington for the past 9 months. I grew up in leafy north Hertfordshire so would often come into central London on the train at weekends and have always wanted to experience living and working here.

LLO: As a runner preparing for a marathon, where’s your favourite place in the city to train?
I’m really lucky to live within a 15 minute run of Primrose Hill – it’s a great place to train… Not only is powering up the hill some of the best conditioning training you can do, it’s such a beautiful view when you reach the top.

LLO: Tell us a bit about the Boutique Run coming up in Battersea Park this July. What brought about the idea and what can we expect?
All the stats show that women would exercise more if the facilities were of a better quality, if they could do it with friends and if the competition was friendly – not fierce. So Boutique Run is a new event concept which leaps these hurdles with style. Women can take part in a 5 or 10k run followed by a post race experience unlike any other. We’re talking free champagne, hot showers, massage, a fabulous after party and a special ‘Bouti’ bag full of goodies!

LLO: Favourite shop in London for sports gear?
Sweaty Betty is fantastic – they do really great clothes that are really flattering and feminine. They normally have really good sales and if you sign up to the catalogue list you get another 10% off your sale items (as well as a nice catalogue in the post every few months)

LLO: Best place for pampering and massage after a long run
I don’t tend to get massages in London, as they are so expensive! My boyfriend kindly got me (and him) a day’s introduction to massage course as a Christmas present this year, so we’re now pretty competent at getting each other’s knots out! It was a really nice activity to do together on a rainy Saturday in London and now we’re saving money not having to go out to get them. Although I’m yet to find a massage deal that I would like, I’d recommend signing up to, as they have some great health and beauty offers across several really nice London spas and beauticians.  

LLO: And of course, the reward – favourite place to enjoy a night out in the capital?
There are so many great places to go out that offer something completely different for whatever your mood. Is it really sappy if I say it’s more about the people than the place we go, as there are so many fun places? I have the best nights out with my girlfriends from school. We live all across London so tend to congregate in Covent Garden as a centre point. Cocktails at Sophie’s Steakhouse are great and you can’t go wrong with 1/2 price happy hours at Jewel.

LLO: Any advice for busy Londoners looking to stay fit but might not quite have the energy for all these marathons?
Everyday activities. Instead of standing to the right on escalators on the tube, walk up them (really squeeze your buns as you do it to give them even more of a work out). There are loads of great parks in London, so just get out there and walk or jog around them.

I also took up softball a couple of years ago through work – there are loads of leagues taking off in London, predominantly based around companies. It’s more about socialising in the evening sun than anything else… And a great way to meet people.

LLO:  What’s the coolest thing about living in your postcode?
Freightliners Farm – hearing cows mooing when we have the windows open, or being woken up by the cockerels.

LLO: Tell us about something, somewhere or someone that you’ve discovered in London and think the rest of us should know about.
The Thai Green curry man who sets up his stall every lunch time in Goodge Place – thoroughly delicious. Also, if you have a friend who works for PWC, ask them to take you to the Turret meeting rooms in the Embankment office – one of the best views of London I’ve been lucky enough to see.

LLO: Is there somewhere in London you’ve love to explore on a long run but haven’t had a chance yet?
The Thames path out in Richmond – I did a quick run down there a few weeks ago and will definitly be carrying out some of the hard 20 milers out past Richmond, towards Ham and Kingston- it’s really beautiful and you feel 1,000 miles away from a busy city.

Thanks Claire!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

Listen to a Londoner: Sarah Orrick

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview post with people who live (or have lived for a while) in London. If you fit the bill and want to be interviewed, give me a shout at Always looking for new volunteers. 

Sarah Orrick, 24

If you can find another native Kentuckian in London, you earn a cookie. Sarah came over in September 2008 to earn a Master’s degree in International Politics and Human Rights, and enjoys working for a children’s charity in Kentish Town.

LLO: How long have you lived in London and where are you from originally?
I’m from a tiny village on the border of Kentucky and Illinois, smack middle in the bible belt, land of fried chicken and all things unhealthy. I came here in September 2008 and never looked back.

LLO: What’s the best thing about living in your postcode?
I live in Camden Town and madly love it! There’s always a store open late, always something going on, always the most unusual people hanging out. Plus, it’s well-connected enough that night buses from nearly all parts of the city roll through.

LLO: Favourite place to find a taste of home?
I miss great Mexican food from home, so La Perla in Covent Garden is pretty good when it comes to my Mexican cravings. Their Margaritas are to DIE for!

LLO: Best London “discovery”?
That it’s legal to drink in parks? Weeee! (See last question)

LLO: If I only had one day in London and wanted to spend it off the beaten track, where would you send me?
A Sunday roast (assuming the day is Sunday) at a pub in Kentish Town called the Pineapple or perhaps exploring Borough Market and ending with an evening bottle of wine at Gordon’s Wine bar..yes, not exactly unknown to London, but that’s what I envision FAR FAR away from Oxford Street.

LLO: Favourite pub, club or other place to spend a Saturday night?
I’m madly in love with Retro bar, a gay bar hidden in an alleyway next to Charring Cross.  You really have to search for it, but it’s classy, clean and has board game nights! Otherwise, The Black Heart is your typical indie pub in Camden, also hidden in an alleyway, that’s full of ‘misunderstood’ but exceptionally nice people. They serve pizzas named after the seven deadly sins and banana bread beer. Highly recommend both, as alleyway pubs are the way to go!

LLO: What’s the most random thing you’ve ever seen in London?
About 200 people dressed up in Santa costumes on a pub crawl in Camden. In January. They were a little late…

LLO: What’s the most interesting or unusual food you’ve eaten since moving to London and where did you go to eat it?
A couple weeks ago, I went to dim sum with friends and tried baby octopus, duck tongue, beef stomach and beef tongue. Everything was good except the duck tongue….ugh.

LLO: Most quirky or unusual place you’ve discovered in London?
I live in Camden, you want only one?! All I have to do is walk outside my flat and I see strange things everywhere. Especially in The World’s End.

LLO: Describe a perfect Spring day in the capital.
A sunny, windy day for a picnic on Primrose Hill with great friends. The lunch includes some amazing hummous, pita, cheeses and wine, and the wind is helpful in flying our infamous dolphin kite. Bring on the summer!


Thanks Sarah!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

London Art Spot: Kathy Archbold


Photographer Kathy Archbold was born in Essex, but has spent most of her life in London. After a foundation art course at Harlow she attended Newport Art School in South Wales, which, she said, was only really notable by the attendance of a student dropout called ‘Woody’ – who later became Joe Strummer.

After her fair share of bartending during college, she found a job painting faces at a mannequin company. A few years later, she left to run a stall in Kensington Market, but because the skill she picked up painting mannequins is so peculiar, she continues to take on freelance work today. In 1983, Kathy relocated to New York to train mannequin artists. She returned to London in 1987 and has remained, in various parts of the city, ever since.

Derelict House
LLO: Tell us a bit about your background as a photographer.
Although I’ve done quite a lot of illustration work, I always thought of myself as a pretty rubbish photographer. I knew how I wanted my pictures to look, but never got to grips with the technical aspects of [photography] or owned a decent camera and getting a film back was always a real disappointment. I only actually joined Flickr as a good way of keeping in touch with a pal who moved to Australia. But in doing so, I discovered that with digital and Photoshop, I could maybe alter my images to look the way I intended. I know a lot of people are opposed to any form of photo editing, and I’m not always a fan of what I call ‘The Science Fiction Look’, but I can say quite honestly that no one would even notice my pictures, especially when I started, if I hadn’t or didn’t edit them. Through Flickr, I discovered a lot of photographers whose work I really admired, and have been trying to emulate ever since, with varied results! I know Photoshop is open to much misuse and abuse, and neither is it quick or easy to learn. There’s a temptation to do something just because you can, and if I look at my earlier images, they often look overdone to me now. But four years on, I’m still learning, and although I am now experimenting with toy and vintage film cameras to get the look I want, My digital point and shoot remains constantly with me at all times, and has still produced most of my favourite photos. 

Roupell Street, SE1

LLO: How does London influence your creativity?
I think I’m definitely a city person, and what I miss about London if I leave is a certain diversity you don’t really get anywhere else. On the tube the other day, I sat opposite a Japanese girl wearing a flat cap, Jimi Hendrix T shirt, and talking to a friend about an Indian meal in a Manchester accent.

The John Snow, Broadwick Street W1
LLO:  This set of photos is called Scuzzy London. What criteria do you consider to decide if a photo falls into this category?
KA: Definitely things that fall outside the tourist category, off the beaten track that maybe not everyone would notice, although its actually not about ugliness. I just find them more interesting, beautiful, or even humorous. A lot of the things I include are no longer there when I go back, so its also a bit of an affectionate document of my personal history with the place. I think cities suffer sometimes from being too gentrified and expensive, and all need a bit of sleaze and danger. When things get too expensive, and creative people can’t afford to live or work there, it all becomes very boring. Look at New York now – safer, but no one could say its anywhere near as exciting as it once was.
Salvador Dali’s Bike
LLO: How long have you lived in London?
: I first moved here in 1972. Although I left in ’83, so it hasn’t been consistent. But I’ve remained here now since 1987.
Covent Garden WC1
LLO: What type of camera do you use?
 A Panasonic Lumix TZ2 – a point & shoot. I’ve had it about 3 years, and although there are times now when I’d like a big serious ‘proper’ camera, its just so damn handy to carry around, has a great 10x zoom and people don’t notice it. As I quite like a ‘vintage’ look, I’ve also got some toy/old film cameras like a Diana Mini, Holga, Viv, etc. I just got a seconhand Lomo lca which I’m really looking forward to using, but the Panasonic is still the one I use most. 

Strand Station: closed in 1994, now a photobooth

LLO: Which image in the Scuzzy London set are you most proud of and why?
KA: That changes, but I think maybe this one. I was scared the cat would run of before I took it, but it has a lot of elements I like, and the the little Winston Churchill in the shop window just makes it for me somehow.
LLO: Which area of London is your favourite for taking photos?
KA: I live very near the Southbank, so do take a lot of pictures there, although its one of the most over photographed areas I still seem to find something. But what’s so great about london is that no matter how well you think you know it, you can always find some area or something you’ve never seen, and when this happens, that’s my favourite! I just set off somewhere and walk, and have the whole of London at my disposal!
Kilburn High Road
Thanks Kathy!
Check out Kathy’s work on Flickr, Etsy or Red Bubble.
NOTE: All images are copyright Kathy Archbold. Please do not use without strict written permission.

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

Listen to a Londoner: Rakeem Neil Peebles-Nazir

Listen to a Londoner. This is a weekly post where people who live (or have lived for a while) in London answer a few questions about the Big Smoke. If you fit the bill and want to be interviewed, give me a shout at Always looking for new victims volunteers….

 Rakeem Neil Peebles-Nazir, 33

Rakeem is a journalist and writer who moved here, studied here and will, most likely, live out his days here; a naturalised Londoner, who discovered that it’s much more interesting to be Scottish somewhere other than Scotland!

LLO: How long have you lived in London?
I’ve lived in London for 11 and a half years. I moved here in may ’98 when I was only 22. The day before I moved to London, I didn’t know I was moving. It was a snap decision at about 7.30am!

LLO: Where are you from originally?
I’m originally from Edinburgh. Beautiful place, but too cold for my liking.

LLO: Best thing about London?
The best thing about London is the fact that it’s so big. There is so much to do and see. I think I could live here the rest of my life and not see most of it.

LLO: Best place to catch a gig?
Best place I’ve been to catch a gig was the Dublin Castle in Camden. I’ve been quite a few times and am rarely disappointed by what’s on.

LLO: Favourite London discovery?
: My favourite London discovery is a cool little Polish vodka bar behind Holborn station. The way the alleyway is built, it’s totally hidden from view from the main street. It’s not very big, but they have every flavour of vodka you could think of and some really nice Polish beers too. It used to be called Na Zdrowie, but I don’t know what it’s called these days… I must go check soon! [Editor’s Note: Because no one could pronounce the name, it’s now called Bar Polski.]

LLO: Best time of year in London?
RNP-N: The best time of year in London is definitely the middle of summer. If we’re lucky enough to be enjoying a heat wave, there’s no better place. All the parks fill up with people, the streets are awash with happy faces… even the traffic seems to slow down a bit. The only downside is being on the tube for any length of time!

LLO: First place to take a visitor?
The first place I’d take a visitor to the city is the London Eye. I can’t think of a better way to show someone the city than to see that view of it from over the rooftops before setting out to explore it.

LLO: Boris is…
…probably going to go down in history as London’s greatest ever mayor. He’s pure comedy value, which is where I think half of his votes came from and the other half are from those of us that think he’s a lot more astute than he let’s on. He might well witter when he’s speaking, but he’s still got a good head for politics. Well, I think he does, anyway.

LLO: What would you change about the city if you had the power to do so?
If I could change one thing about the city, I’d have the tubes running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For the relatively small amount of people that would use it through the night, you could easily afford to have some of those Police Community Support Officers on every train during the night and London would be that bit safer.

LLO: Best place to spend a Sunday afternoon?
For me, the best place to spend a Sunday is quietly reading my newspaper over breakfast with friends somewhere in the city centre. I’m a big fan of Covent Garden, but down by the river’s really nice too. Then slope off somewhere to watch the football. It’s what Sundays are all about!

Thanks Rakeem!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

Photo Scavengers – October

This will be quite a long entry as is it is a result of the Photo Scavenger hunt for October. The main site is here if you want to check it out or join in. Some of these photos have already been posted here, so I will make them smaller.

1.   Cosy
Strangers snuggled up under a willow tree in Camden
2.   A stranger
For this one, I did something I never did before and worked up the nerve to approach a stranger for a photo. I got talking to her because she was selling lapis lazuli jewellery from Afghanistan in Camden Market for a man who was away to see his family in Kabul. When I asked her, she was amazingly cooperative, found a cool place to stand. She said, “You know, I’m flattered. I used to be a model you know. Many years ago. I ain’t got the face anymore, but I’ve still got the body.”

3.   An icon of your city
Two for one deal – Big Ben and the London Underground.

4.   Childhood
This little girl was hanging out in Hampstead on Sunday while we were watching the Morris Dancers.

Something red and green
Not the best image as far as photography goes, but instead of red and green foliage photos, I chose this one because I thought the concept was pretty cool to fit the key word (along with the colours, of course).
6.   A pattern or texture
This was taken near St James’s Park.
7.   Street art
This is above a garage on Portobello Road.

8.   An image that could be a book cover
For some sort of thriller novel…This is from the edge of the City.

9.   Old
A lively Morris Dancer in Hampstead, taking a break from his performance.

10.   New
New growth, Ravenscourt Park, West London

11.   A shadow or silhouette
A silhouette of branches against the sunset over Parliament Hill, Hampstead Heath in North London.

12.   Language
Bilingual English/Bengali street sign off Brick Lane, East London

13.   Music
Camden Market

14.   Autumn
So many Autumn photos this month, but this is Hampstead Heath.

An animal
Okay, I have some fluffy ones as well, but decided to opt for the bird on a sign. Found this one in St. James’s park one evening. The bird just stood there looking about, not a care in the world.

16.   A place to contemplate life
Hampstead Heath again… what can I say? It’s a good place for photos. And comtemplating life…

17.   Something that begins with the letter O
O is for “orange”, a coloured building that stands out in Covent Garden.

18.   A reflection on water
St. James’s Park

19.   An interesting perspective
D and a lonely tree in Hampstead Heath.

20. A self-portrait
Just me in my room.