Listen to a Londoner: Natalie Lester

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.

Natalie Lester

Natalie has a BA in English, BSc in geography and MA in publishing; She loves English literature and her outlet is writing. Her favourite gelato is found in London at Gelato Mia in Notting Hill (dark chocolate and Biscotto). She loves the theatre and when she was younger, wanted to be Christine in Phantom.

LLO: How long have you been in London, where did you come from originally and what brought you here?
NL: I’ve been in London for a little more than a year – I just finished my MA in publishing at UCL…turned in my dissertation in September so here’s hoping for the best! I grew up in Idaho (in the US) and during my undergrad I did a study abroad in London. Ever since I have been planning to come back. In my opinion everyone should live in London for at least a little bit!

LLO: What’s your favourite way to pass a Saturday afternoon in London?
NL: Nothing beats the markets in London on a Saturday. I live right next to Regent’s Canal (Little Venice) and you can easily walk along the canal to Camden Market. If you go early enough then usually you are the only one along the canal and you get to breathe in the crisp air all by yourself. On my way to Camden I sometimes take a detour into Regent’s Park with my book… but I always make sure I get to Camden for my favourite treat in London – Chocolate covered strawberries and pineapple on a banana leaf!

LLO: Where is your favourite place to pick up an American treat if you’re craving something from home?
NL: One time I was in desperate need of some Root Beer and happened to be in the Leicester Square area so I had to pop into Ed’s Diner and pay a ridiculous price for a can of some A&W…it was worth it!

LLO: Which part of London are you most familiar with and what’s the best part about it?
NL: Well, I live on Edgware Road, which is pretty central London, so probably that area and then the Regent’s Canal area I was talking about earlier. London is great for its diversity and there is no better place to see this than Edgware Road with its plethora of Middle Eastern restaurants. And while the rest of London seems to close ridiculously early, you can venture onto Edgware at midnight and it still has the liveliness of midday.

LLO: If I told you I would be in London for one night only and wanted to get off the tourist trail, where would you send me to eat and drink?
NL: Ok, maybe this is still a bit touristy, but you can’t beat their chicken and leek pie at Doggetts Pub. It is right on the southbank by Blackfriar’s Bridge and if you want a nice meal you can go up top to the restaurant and sit by the window and watch London light up at night.

LLO: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an expat in London?
NL: Maybe this is a lame challenge to have, but I miss my clothes dryer every day! Jeans just don’t fit the same here with nothing to dry them back into shape. Like I said, lame, but other than that…oh, and trying to find a frozen turkey at Thanksgiving (an adventure that ended with my flatmate and I carrying a frozen turkey in our arms for 45 minutes on our walk back from Camden). Other than those two things I have very few complaints about London.

LLO: Tell us about a favourite London memory that could only have happened in London.
NL: Keeping on the Thanksgiving theme, last year my flatmate and I were hosting a Thanksgiving party for a lot of people and we had purchased two turkeys. Somehow we forgot that this wasn’t America and not only did we not have room for them in our fridge, but we didn’t have two ovens. On Thanksgiving day we rang up some friends that lived about 15 minutes away to ask if we could borrow their oven. We ended up carrying the pre-cooked (but stuffed and seasoned) bird down the road and stuffed it into their oven which was even smaller than ours. Four hours later I picked up the bird—who was now full of juices and twice as heavy—and proceeded to walk down the very busy Edgware Road with a 20lb bird and turkey juice sloshing all over me everytime I placed a foot down! Surprisingly, after all that poor turkey had been through, and my arms shaking for about 20 minutes afterwards, Thanksgiving dinner never tasted so good!

LLO: Favourite London discovery?
NL: My favourite place in all of London is one I discovered with my fiancé. He is a Londoner and loves to walk on the southbank by the London Eye at night when the trees have their blue lights. While we were sitting, gazing up at the Eye through a sea of blue, we noticed that there was a break in the hedge and on the opposite side of the trees was a park…with swings. Now, it isn’t like this playground is exactly hidden, but it is further back from the main southbank walkway and I had never noticed it before. We quickly climbed over the rest of the hedge and snuck into the playground to swing (my all-time favourite past-time). In front is a large tree, and when you swing at night you catch glimpses of the London Eye lights through the trees and it looks like the London sky is full of stars that you can almost touch. I think it is one of the most magical places in London.

LLO: What would you suggest if I asked you to plan a creative, off-the-wall or otherwise unique date in London?
NL: Saturday morning head down to Borough Market, bring your appetite! Spend the first little bit just wandering around the stalls and take advantage of the free samples. Then, just about midday choose something that either a) you can’t possibly resist or b) something that is really strange and you have never tried before. Don’t eat it yet, but walk to Shakespeare’s Globe and wait in line for the groundlings so that you are the first ones in. While you are waiting break open lunch and enjoy! When they open the gates make sure that you get front and centre and you can lean up against the stage! Enjoy!

LLO: If you move back to America in the future, what five things will you miss most about London?
NL: Where do I start, once you have lived in London it becomes a part of you and I think there will always be something that I miss. But, if I had to choose 5, I would have to say 1) waking up on a crisp Autumn morning, getting a Chocolate Milano at Café Nero and crunching through the leaves in Hyde Park; 2) Big Ben at night…it just looks so magical and everytime I see it at night I think that Peter Pan will come land on the hands of the clock at any moment; 3) Amazing fish and chips the the hole-in-the-wall chippies (they are always the best); 4) Christmas time in London, from the Harrod’s Christmas Parade to the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park; 5) Low-tide on the Thames on the southbank skipping rocks.

Thanks Natalie!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.


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Elephant Parade 2010: Cako Martin

Bright and cheery ellie Colorful Hope is chillin outside of Harrods in Knightsbridge. I had the opportunity for a little chat with her enthusiastic creator Cako Martin who lives and works in Brazil. His work as been published in Cent Magazine in the UK and many others in the US, Brazil, Germany and Greece.

Read on for a bit about Cako’s elephant painting experience in Elephant & Castle, his participation in the Cow Parade in Sao Paulo and why London feels like a second home.

This is Cako:

And this is the lovely Colorful Hope:

As you can see, it was a teensy bit crowded over near Harrods with all of the weary tourists resting their feet. I went by a few times to get better pictures, but still the same.

Luckily, Cako’s letting me nick one from his website so you can see Colorful Hope more clearly.


(This one was taken by Murphyz on Cako’s site.)

LLO: First of all, tell us about your elephant.
CM: After my last exhibition called Peles/Skins that I used famous faces to compose my art, I’m studying more about it that how your skin can tell me something. In this moment, I composed this lines with maximum colors that I could use. Like my cow in Cow Parade, Brazil 2010, the Colorful Hope is so colorful. When I went to paint in London, it was funny ’cause we painted inside a “store” in a small mall in Elephant & Castle. You can find a thousand of different cultures there. Every day people asking me about my elephant, asking to take pictures. Well, lovely people interested in my work. It’s so nice! I choose the name thinking about this cause. My elephant is colorful and with this event we need to have hope for this elephant. I think Colorful Hope is a lovely name.

LLO: Since this is a London blog, what’s your favourite thing to do or see when you’re in London
CM:
I love London. I feel this place like my second home. I think London breathes fashion, design, history and architecture in every place. It is a big reference to me. Normally my favorite place is the museums. You have a lot of them and I love it.

LLO: You’re also participating in the Cow Parade in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where you live and work. Your cow has a very similar pattern to your elephant. Give us a bit of insight into the Cow Parade?
CM:
Yeah, my cow and elephant are living in the same world. The purpose of Cow Parade is similar of Elephant Parade – help a cause – but in this case, Cow Parade helps institutions here that take care of children.

LLO: What are you working on now and where can we see more of your work?
CM:
I’ve started my draws about next solo exhibition. It will be the part II of Peles/Skins but now with colors and Cow Parade and Elephant Parade I could show a little bit of. I’m Art Director/Illustrator of Young & Rubicam Brazil. It’s an advertising agency, and I am working in the design team. You can google it (laughs). Normally, I’ve posted my select works on Facebook, MySpace, CargoCollective, Society 6, Flickr and in my website: www.cakomartin.com


(Taken by Murphyz on Cako’s site.)

Location: Knightsbridge, outside Harrods

To read more about the Elephant Parade in London, click here