Guest Post: Good Bye London

Words and photo by Ramble who came from India to enjoy the little things London had to offer for a while. She blogged here about her London experience, but now it’s time for her to move on to the next adventure. She wanted to share her goodbye to London with us.

Your assorted collection of people from all over the world, your cold rainy mornings which give an excuse to crib, the kiss of smooth snow on your grumpy old roads, the haughty rail tracks which boast about being your arteries, your toddlers who have a secret religion of waving and smiling at every passing stranger, your manicured leafy parks who put on unconvincing make up to try a hand at idyllic beauty…what am I going to miss most about you?

They were wrong. You weren’t fake, gloomy, cold or soulless; nor were you overflowing with riches and opportunities. You couldn’t afford to give me even the meanest of wages. You were so poor that you had to sell everything at exorbitant prices.

And, you weren’t a city which will just be a mild drizzle over wax, leaving every thing the same as before. You do know to leave your mark without colouring it with loud melodrama and tantrums. The split seconds which makes one age as old as the chronicled calendar years, leaving behind the vestiges of teenage carefully wrapped and carried into a decade of adult hood…. the moments which remind that being a traveller means having faith in the kindness of strangers….the warm sun of your autumn and the cool breeze of your summer which reassures that home is a place within one’s heart…. Well, there is much that you have given, beyond the limits of shoddy ‘thank you’ notes.

So, good bye from one among the ‘platform’ souls, we who are always waiting for a few wheels to make a journey to somewhere else. Always acquiring only that much which can be left behind.

And, try to be kind to those who come in, saluting yet another flag, mouthing yet another piece of jingoism, swearing allegiance to yet another ‘invincible’ nation, learning yet another ‘great’ language….. so as to call a few feet of land ‘home’.

Listen to a Londoner: Michele Gorman

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.

Michele Gorman, 43

Michele Gorman is an American writer, and now a card-carrying Brit, who has made London her home. Her debut novel, Single in the City, charts the misadventures of 26-year-old American Hannah who, upon moving to London, blunders her way through life and love amidst a population who doesn’t always see the funny side of her cultural misunderstandings.

LLO: Give us the basic details first – How long have you been in London, where are you from originally and what brought you here?
MG:
I’ve been here 12 years, and am in fact now a card-carrying Brit. I moved from Chicago, but was raised in the Northeast, in a rural town in Massachusetts. I came to London because I followed my heart. My then-boyfriend was transferred from the States and I figured it’d be fun to live in a new city. I was right!

LLO: Interesting that you decided to write a book called “Single in the City” when you personally moved to London for love. What inspired the idea?
MG:
The story is definitely fictional, since, as you rightly point out, I was very much attached when I moved here, and for many years afterwards. So the idea didn’t come from being single myself. Actually it was born out of spite. My background is in literary fiction rather than chick-lit, and I’d just picked up my first chick-lit book, which I thought was terrible. Yet it was a best-seller. I knew I could write something better than that, and my expat experiences were such natural fodder that the book practically wrote itself. I knew Hannah had to be single because the story is a comedy, and a single girl’s misadventures are ripe for humour (though not always to her!).

LLO: Which aspects of British culture baffled you most when you first arrived?
MG:
Just about everything was baffling, from the British approach to getting what they want (and never directly saying what it is that they want), to daily routines like getting on the bus or ordering a sandwich. I quite like to cook, and translating the names for ingredients from American to English took some time (and I’m still not sure what treacle is).

I used to find queuing odd, but now find myself gravitating toward them and standing patiently. My family says I’ve become ‘too civilised’ for America now. I guess that’s the natural result of having to share a little island with 60 million people.

LLO: Share a little story about a challenge you’ve had to overcome as an expat.
MG:
If I had a pound for every time a Brit has said to me ‘But you’re not like most Americans.’ I wouldn’t need to work. Overcoming the stereotype of a ‘typical’ American has been a constant challenge. Part of what they think of as typical about us is that we tend to see our time in the UK as temporary.

The Brits I’ve met over the years have generally been reluctant to make friends with expats if they don’t think we’re going to stick around for the long haul. Many have told me that they don’t want to invest in friendship if that friend is just going to leave, and this has been one of the biggest hurdles against making British friends. It took more than four years before I was invited to my first proper English house party, despite having several English men and women that I counted as acquaintances. I knew I’d finally convinced them that I planned to stay when I got that invitation! And we’re still friends today.

LLO: What do you love most about your adopted city and is there anything besides family and friends you’re missing from the States that you can’t find here?
MG:
There is a gentleness about London that is surprising for a big city. What it may lack in efficiency it more than makes up for in peacefulness away from the crowds. Even in frenetic central London you need only to step down a side street to find quiet neighbourhoods, cafes, little independent shops and green squares.

It used to be the case that American products were hard to come by. Like many of us, I imported certain goods like my favourite deodorant, Tollhouse morsels and corn syrup for baking. Going into a Walmart when back in the States was unbearably exciting and my suitcases came back laden with useful gadgets. Now though, most baking and food products are available (if not in the shops then online), as are those useful gadgets. Plus Mom still regularly sends packages of things I don’t realize I need until I see them. Those plastic bags you attach to a Hoover to shrink wrap clothes and bedding are an excellent case in point; how have we lived without them in London’s tiny flats?

I do miss having access to plentiful, cheap or free live music. Coming from Chicago where hundreds of bands played each weekend in bars and pubs across the city, it was an adjustment to realize that you have to book ahead for everything here.

LLO: You’ve written for UK Cosmo, Sunday Telegraph, The Observer, Guardian, Evening Standard, etc. How did you build up your reputation as a writer having started from scratch as an expat? Any advice for others in the same boat?
MG:
All of my articles have come off the back of the publicity for Single in the City. I have a great PR through Penguin who has arranged all of that. But if I hadn’t been lucky enough to have that kind of help I’d have approached the newspapers and magazines myself. If you’re new here, go into the newsagent and write down the titles you see. And don’t discount the tabloids, though be prepared to write from a salacious angle. The editors on all these publications have to fill them each week/month and are always looking for articles (though they don’t often pay for them, so it’s not generally a lucrative career). Also, blog sites are really great for writers because they are always looking for good content.

LLO: What’s your favourite London discovery?
MG:
The Southbank. It’s perfect for a stroll along the river, for having a coffee or drink, or popping in for a free concert/exhibit/reading. There are also of course amazing performances on all the time, and it’s easy to walk back across the bridge into Covent Garden.

LLO: I’ve got one night in London. Recommend the best place to go for dinner and drinks.
MG:
It depends on what kind of experience you’re after. If you want upscale, have a drink at the bar at the Sanderson Hotel (50 Berners Street, W1T 3NG). It’s beautiful and funky inside, and has a great all-season courtyard that is very cool, trendy and a bit romantic. Then go to Hakkasan (8 Hanway Place, W1T 1HD) for mouth-watering, very interesting Chinese.

For a more casual experience start with drinks at the The White Horse (1-3 Parsons Green, SW6 4UL), then dinner at the always chaotic and friendly Sale e Pepe, for good Italian (9-15 Pavilion Road, SW1X 0HD).

LLO: Have you developed any amusing British tendencies in the past 12 years that you’d like to share?
MG:
I queue. I tut and mutter under my breath when someone jumps in front, but rarely say anything anymore. I walk on the left instead of the right and find myself getting cross when others try walking on the right. And I now ask ‘Are you all right?’. It’s official. I’m British.

LLO: What are you working on now?
MG:
If Single in the City sells well, then I’m ready to write a follow-up.

I’m also writing a book for an older audience. It’s still chick-lit, but the heroine is 39. She doesn’t have ‘issues’ though, no cheating spouse, big behind, social life-crimping children or ticking biological clock. She’s single, well-adjusted and independent, optimistic and enthusiastic about her future. I don’t see much of this kind of writing, despite all of the real-world women like this that I know. So I’m writing one for them.

If you’d like to buy a copy of Michele’s book, Single in the City, head over to Amazon.
For more about Michele and her work, visit her website: www.michelegorman.co.uk
Follow her tweets @expatdiaries or show some support by joining the Single in the City group on Facebook.

Thanks Michele!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

Listen to a Londoner: Danielle Zezulinski

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!

Danielle Zezulinski, 29

Danielle started Bloody Brilliant before leaving New York for the cobbled lanes of London. The blog is a record of her journey, and new life in Big Smoke.

LLO: Give us the basics first – Where are you from originally, how did you end up in this fabulous city and how long have you been here?
DZ:
I grew up in New Jersey, and spent most of my twenties hopping back and forth between New York City and Philadelphia. I most recently lived in Brooklyn before arriving in London just over two years ago by seeking out a transfer to my company’s London office.

LLO: Favourite place in London to get a taste of home?
DZ:
Byron Burger – tasty burgers and Brooklyn Lager in a bottle – heaven! They just opened a restaurant in Islington so I don’t even have to go far.

LLO: Is there a place you love to go for a head-clearing run or bike ride
in the city?
DZ:
I love running up Regents Canal from Angel to Victoria Park and back. The route is about 8-10 miles depending on how you go and Victoria Park is really pleasant and relaxing, though the towpath can get really crowded so it’s best to do it in the early mornings.

LLO: Best independent coffee shop to take a friend for good conversation?
DZ:
Oh excellent question, and a toughie! I love Tinderbox in Angel, Flat White in Soho and Dose in Smithfield. I can’t choose!

LLO: What’s the coolest thing about living in your postcode?
DZ:
Hrm… N1 is pretty great for the combination of its location and its own amenities. It’s really close to the center of town – I actually walked home from Covent Garden last night and it only took 35 minutes – as well as Shoreditch and Hackney, but it also has everything you need and more within its boundaries. If I wanted to, I could probably go for months without leaving the area and never realize it! If I had to pick one thing, it would be all of the markets in the area. I’m a
sucker for a good market.

LLO: Most unique London discovery?
DZ:
Sir John Soane’s House. It’s not quite a discovery, as an old colleague who is English tipped me off to it, but it is one of the most experiences to walk around an old house in candle light and look at a man’s collections and obsessions. Very London! I highly recommend everyone go.

LLO: Share a challenge you’ve faced as an expat?
DZ:
Where do I start! Actually, expat life isn’t that difficult except for all of the red tape around processes. I just applied for the Tier 1 visa and I had so many issues with my bank getting all of the necessary paperwork. And doing US taxes is such a pain in the neck! Resources from the US government are woefully lacking, and I think the main issue is that no one really knows the rules for sure. Everyone is just guessing and giving each other advice they think is true, so all expats are working off of a network of assumptions and Chinese whispers.

LLO: NYC or London?
DZ:
Tough one. They each have their virtues and vices, but I’d say London to live, New York to love.

LLO: What’s the most unusual experience you’ve had since moving to London?
DZ:
  I think that the weirdest thing for me has been getting used to sick on the street. It’s just not done in the US, and it’s pretty shameful if you have to hang over the gutter on a night out. I was shocked when I realized what was all over the sidewalks on Sunday morning… and even more shocked when I did it once. I’m still ashamed of myself!

LLO: If I only had one night in London, where would you tell me to eat and drink?
DZ:
This is really hard – there are so many choices! If you were American or wanted a distinctly British eating experience, I’d say 32 Great Queen Street for a fantastically authentic and delicious meal and then a pub/bar crawl starting from Freud in Covent Garden to Soho ending at Bob Bob Ricard for Champagne at the touch of a button. But if you’re looking for something more special, I’d say hunt out Ms MarmiteLover and eat in her front room in Kilburn. There are tons of great pubs in Kilburn to hit afterwards… just watch out to make sure you make the last tube home!

Thanks Danielle!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

London Art Spot: Hartwig Braun

With the observant eye of a professional architect, Hartwig Braun knows when he can break the rules – and he does so often with a mesmerising outcome. Somehow managing to maintain a pretty high level of accuracy, he twists up aerial views of a city and plays with perspective to create something akin to a caricature. With itty-bitty details in place, Hartwig chooses some of the most important features of an area to highlight and, after many drafts, presents to the world a playful rendition of a cityscape. His images – drawn freehand – come out with a “fish-eye” effect. Collaborating with Isaac Lilos who introduced me to Hartwig’s work in their Greenwich Market shop, Arty Globe, last weekend, Hartwig has been able to build a successful business out of his passion for illustration.

On the side, he loves cooking exotic meals, engaging in heated debate and learning languages – he speaks four fluently, probably a result of having lived in so many different cities.

For this week’s London Art Spot, Hartwig shares loads of fun images, tells us about the intricate process of creating his artwork and how Isaac pushed him over the last six years to where he is now.   

London Eye

LLO: How long have you lived in London and how does this city influence your creativity?
HB:
 I am still relatively new to London, I only moved here in November 2008 after spending about four years up north in Nottingham and Lincolnshire. I’ve always been a big city person. Before coming to the UK, I lived in Berlin for 10 ten years, two years in Amsterdam and for a while in Paris. So London is the place to be in the UK for me. I really love living here and I definitely unpacked my suitcase.

My fascination for the vibrant metropolis is also reflected in my work. I love the hustle and the bustle, the dynamics and the great energy of this city, the cosmopolitan mix, which can really give you the feel of a global community. I want to capture the wealth of architectural diversity, the juxtaposition of old and new and the abundance of different impressions, which change at every corner. I am a passionate “flâneur” love strolling around town, discover and absorb all the little amazing detail London has to offer.

London

LLO: Describe your artistic style.
HB:
 I call my images illustrations with an emphasis on cityscapes and architecture. I wouldn’t call them maps as some people do, as they are not a depiction of reality but always my own interpretation of the existing city (you wouldn’t use them for finding your way in town).  In my illustrations I want to give a feel for the pace of the city so the drawing sets it in motion – the horizon curves, streets bend and the buildings swell. I love playing with the rules of perspective, deliberately breaking them and creating my own rules.

Besides all the quirk, I want to be quite accurate and include buildings or detail that define a specific location and make it recognizable. I also want to catch the very essence of a building. As for a caricature of a person you need to analyze a building and define the key features, which make it recognizable and make “the spirit” of it.  Then you know where you have the freedom to exaggerate and to play with the perspective 

Berlin, Winter

LLO: Your cityscapes are very detailed, intricate and intriguingly accurate in an obscure sort of way – a result of your background in Architecture?
HB:
Well, I guess so. Probably it is the architect inside me who, whenever I take the soft, thick felt pen I use for the first impulsive doodles of curves, lines and blobs, says: “Ok, those streets cross each other in such an angle and over there needs to be this particular building which is very characteristic. I’ve always had an attention to detail and when I start something I like I really dive into it and so the artwork becomes more and more intricate

British Museum

LLO: Tell us about the process that goes into creating an image from idea to finished product.
HB:
First I try to get as many good aerial photographs as possible. They are always the best source of information. Then I do a little layout sketch to define the best angle for the most dynamic view, I decide about the area I want to show and try to arrange the given elements of the city (rivers, bridges, streets, landmarks and other key buildings, green spaces) together with the curved horizon as a dynamic and balanced composition. As a next step I project a simplified street map onto my “globe” to define the horizontal distortion of the street layout (e.g. straight lines as the Mall become smooth curves).

Having done this I walk around the area and take lots of pictures on street level and watch out for the special little detail.

The next step is a rough 3-d version of the first sketch. Buildings become cubes or blobs to define the right size, proportions, angles and degree of distortion. Then I need to transform those cubes into individual buildings by tracing over my own sketches again, again and again. Each time I do more fine tuning, add more detail or correct things if necessary until I am completely happy with the result. At the end of this lengthy process I need to bring all the different parts and pieces together on one big contiguous line drawing, which I scan. Most of the times I need to put the scans in parts together again before I can eventually start the digital colouring process 

Greenwich

LLO: How many drafts do you typically sketch before you are happy with a result?
HB:
It really varies. Some buildings are easier to do and may be finished after 3 or 4 steps. On the other hand, very technical constructions as the London Eye or baroque churches as St Paul’s Cathedral can be really hard to do with all their fiddly little detail. I need to find the right balance between giving a realistic image of the construction and not overloading the drawing with too many lines, which could would be rather a mess. So I easily end up drawing and fine tuning certain buildings 20 or 30 times until I am completely happy with the result.

LLO: What are you working on right now?
HB:
I just finished an illustration of Canary Wharf, which hopefully will be on the cover of a magazine soon. The next project is finalizing the designs for a range of greeting cards comprising London and some other cities for a well known UK card publisher.


London Retro

LLO: When did you meet Isaac Lilos and how did the two of you come up with the idea to collaborate in a business venture?
HB:
I met Isaac over six years ago in Paris and we hit it off straight away. It was thanks to Isaac that I moved to the UK from Berlin several months later. About two years later Isaac spotted a little postcard design of Amsterdam I drew some years before when I was living there, which I sent to my family and friends for Christmas. He started pestering me to do something bigger and bolder with my style and to draw a bigger panoramic view of London as he felt that together with his entrepreneurial skills it could be developed into an exciting venture. I did not really believe him in the beginning!

I was working as an architect and my spare time was fairly limited – I could just not see the opportunities he saw at the time I guess. After six months of pestering I had to get him off my back so I promised I would make a start and see what happened and that’s how, nine months later, the first panoramic image of London was born.

To be honest I was quite amazed myself when I finished the image as I had no idea I could create something as complex and intricate. It took me a few more years to develop the portfolio of images I currently have and it took us some time to find the best way to build a successful commercial venture around the artwork but it has definitely been a very rewarding process and journey since. 

New York

LLO: Your work has been sole at Arty Globe in Greenwich Market for about one year now. How has the business grown in this time and where do you see it going in the next few years?
HB:
The business has grown substantially in the past year especially as more and more local people who discover us keep coming back and bring their friends and family with them. Isaac and I are constantly busy developing new merchandise to keep our collection fresh and diversified. Having our own shop and talking directly to customers also enabled us to refine the range and designs over the time.

It is really great to see that over 50% of our customers are locals and Londoners who seem to really appreciate my style and take on the city. They also tell us that our merchandise makes great gift ideas to send or take on visits to family and  friends.

We feel that the time is right now for our products to be sold in other shops around London. To achieve that we will be taking a stand at “Top Drawer” (the trade show) in September where we would hopefully be able to show our full range and launch the wholesale side of our business. We also have some very exciting opportunities to do more bespoke work for some of London’s most famous establishments – something we will be pursuing in the coming year or two…

Regent Street

LLO: You’ve had commissions from, among others, the London Eye, the British Museum and for Hamley’s 250th anniversary this year. Do you have a dream client or a list of others you’d love to involve in your work?
HB:
Being seen on Transport for London Posters on Tube stations or drawing the Olympic sites for London 2012 would be really great. I can see a great affinity to my work since it is very much about London scenes and architecture and being an eye catcher and getting people’s attention. Of course it would also be nice to have such great exposure.

Transport for London Competition

LLO: Who are your other favourite London-based artists?
HB:
I admire Wolfgang Tillmans’ photographic work. He manages to turn those little every day scenes and objects into true art, and makes you look at things differently. Lately he started experimenting with abstraction and photography, two things you wouldn’t think can go together.

I also love the work of Hannah Dipper and Robin Farquhar the guys behind “people will always need plates”. They feature some of my favourite international style buildings from the 20s and 30s here in London on their beautiful line of ceramics. And I adore Emma Nissim’s wonderfully sophisticated and elegant textile designs with a very personal style.

Thanks Hartwig!

For more of Hartwig’s work, check his website: http://www.artyglobe.com/

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 littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk. 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?
SO:
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?
SO:
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?
SO:
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”?
SO:
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?
SO:
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?
SO:
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?
SO:
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?
SO:
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?
SO:
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.
SO:
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.