Listen to a Londoner: Marsha Moore

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.

Marsha Moore, 36

A native Canadian, Marsha has lived and worked in London for the past six years. Her first book, 24 Hours London (Prospera Publishing 2009), was inspired by her love for her adopted city.

LLO: Where are you from originally, how did you end up in London and how long have you been in this fabulous city?
MM:
I’m from Canada originally. I came to London six years ago as a teacher, met my husband here, got married and stayed! I miss Canada but London is home to me now. As a full-time writer, it’s got a fantastic literary scene and I’ve been able to meet and network with lots of other writers.

LLO: As the author of 24 Hours London and 24 Hours Paris, which city do you prefer and why?
MM:
Paris is such a beautiful city that you can’t help but be stunned by how perfectly groomed it appears to be. It reminds me of entering my mother’s room as a child – you’re fascinated by everything but afraid to touch it unless you somehow mess it up. London is greyer, less appealing visually, and less ordered, but you feel somehow like you can dig in and get your hands dirty. So I have to say – as much as I like Paris – I love living in London.

LLO: I’ve got 24 hours to kill in London and want to get off the tourist track. What do you suggest?
MM:
While it’s not exactly secret, wandering along the Thames on the  Southbank – preferably in good weather – is one of my favourite things to do. You’ve got the British Film Institute, The National Theatre, the Royal Festival Hall and the Tate Modern all within a kilometer, as well as brilliant views over the river! London’s markets also can’t be missed – try Spitalfields and Columbia Road on a Sunday for flowers to frou frou (and don’t miss out Brick Lane along the way), and Borough Market for food. In the north of the city is Hampstead Heath, where you can wander through the trees, fly a kite and take a dip in a pond…and forget you’re in a mega-metropolis!

LLO: What’s your favourite late-night London venue/activity?
MM:
The energy in Soho is so amazing I could soak it up all night! The buzz of the streets, the swarms of crowds outside West End theatres… for me, it’s what London is all about. There are loads of great spots in Soho but I like LAB for drinks, Pulcinella for pizza and Balans for late-night (or early morning!) dinners. The Curzon also has midnight cinema once a month, where you can chill out and watch films until morning.

LLO: Where in London do you go for new inspiration if writer’s block strikes?
MM:
London has so many great green spaces and I always find a wander through them clears my head! I love the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, in particular – there’s nothing better than grabbing a coffee at the Lido and watching the boats drift up and down. But my favourite writing spot is my office, where I can stare out the window for hours watching the double-deckers storm by and absorbing the rhythm of the street.

LLO: Favourite bookshop in the capital and why?
MM:
London’s bursting with brilliant bookshops – John Sandoe and Foyles, to name a few – but my favourite has to be Daunt. Enter here and you feel like you’ve entered a shrine to the printed word! Books are arranged by country –  you can seek out your interest and browse the novels, non-fiction and guides with awe. The store also has branches in Holland Park, Chelsea, Belsize Park and Hampstead, but it is the Marylebone store – located in an original Edwardian bookstore – that is truly amazing.

LLO: What’s the best part about living in your postcode?
MM:
I live in Kensington, and I love it! It has brash new shops and restaurants mixed with small independent ones that look like they’ve been around for ages. Pubs are tucked away off busy pavements, and elegant terraced houses with private squares line the streets. You get a sense of what the city must have been like a hundred years ago. You’re also close to Kensington Gardens – where you can lounge by the gazebo in the summer and listen to music – and Holland Park, with its wonderful peacocks.

LLO: Best London discovery while working on your book?
MM:
I’ve found out so many great things about the city while working on the book that it’s hard to narrow it down! But one of my favourite locations is Lower Marsh Street, close to Waterloo. I’d been to the station so many times, but I had no idea this small street – full of gems like I Knit London (where you can drink beer and knit) and Scooterworks (a café in a former repair shop) – existed!

LLO: Which London-based writers do you most admire?
MM:
Tough question!  I am massive fan of chick lit (I have my own chick-lit novel being published next year), and London has provided a great setting for many chick-lit novels. Helen Fielding, the author of Bridget Jones’ Diary, used to live in Notting Hill. Sophie Kinsella, who lives just outside of London, is also one of my favourites. I love to see the city through the eyes of their main characters.

LLO: Most unusual restaurant or pub you’ve come across that’s worth a visit?
MM:
Definitely has to be Ye Olde Mitre! Walk down Hatton Garden and between numbers 8 and 10, you’ll come to an arched entryway into an alley with a sign stating ‘Ye Olde Mitre 1546’. Enter the alley and you’ll see a pub many locals have yet to discover. Although the current building only dates back to the eighteenth century, the pub has existed since 1547 when it was built to serve the servants of the nearby Palace of the Bishops of Ely. The trunk of a cherry tree has been preserved in the corner of the bar, and legend has it that Elizabeth I danced the maypole around it!

Thanks Marsha!

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Listen to a Londoner: Marguerite O’sullivan

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.

Marguerite O’sullivan with daughter Zia

Marguerite O’sullivan lives in West Kensington with her 4-year-old daughter Zia.
She is currently a freelance writer and publishes her own blog Mythreefootstylist.

LLO: What brought you to London three years ago?
MO:
I came over from Australia with my daughter to accompany my then partner who was working on a UK film project.

LLO: You recently completed a voluntary internship with the award-winning GAIL’s Bread, one of the few remaining independent bread shops in the UK. Why should we stop in? What have they got to offer?
MO:
Wow, that is a hard one; there are so many delicious treats on offer! If I really had to choose it would definitely be GAIL’s amazing chocolate brownies. I would recommend anyone to stop by GAIL’s to experience true artisan food that not only tastes great but (because it’s all handmade and free from all the nasty stuff) is healthy too.

LLO: What are your other favourite independent shops in London?
MO:
Their Nibs is great for stylish children’s clothing; Yates Buchanan has great vintage accessories; The Cloth Shop has the most unusual array of contemporary and vintage European textiles.

LLO: Tell us about your blog, My Three Foot Stylist.
MO:
I’ve always had an interest in design, textiles and style which I inherited from my mother; because I also have an interest in scribing, it seemed natural to put the two together in a blog. I gave it that title because my 4-year-old daughter has taken to styling me each morning!

LLO: What’s the best thing about living in your postcode?
MO:
The gorgeous parks, including Holland Park and Kensington Gardens, the child-friendly cafes and the quirky shops.

LLO: Who are your favourite London-based designers?
MO:
Margo, which is  great for stylish but original pieces; Petra Boase, for eclectic framed prints and T-shirts; Stella McCartney, whose current line of children’s clothes for GAP is stylish yet affordable.

LLO: Describe your perfect London day.
MO:
I’d start by heading to GAIL’s on Portobello Rd for a dairy-free muffin and fresh OJ; I’d then wander down to Portobello Green market to nab a bargain. Weather permitting; I’d then make my way to Grand Union canal for a leisurely walk towards the gorgeous Cafe de Ville restaurant in Little Venice where I would stop for a light supper as the sun sets.

LLO: Working in the food industry, can you recommend a few favourite London restaurants?
MO:
If I had my choice I would eat at L’etranger every week, but with a 4-year-old child to cater for, my usual haunts are GBK and Prezzo because of their wonderful children’s offerings.

LLO: What’s your favourite London discovery?
MO:
The little park and stream near Station Road in Barnes.

LLO: If I had one day in London and wanted to wander off the beaten path, where would you send me?
MO:
I would direct you to Richmond Park for a spot of deer spotting followed by a picnic at Pen Ponds.

Thanks Marguerite!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

Dog-Lovers and Dog Toilets…

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Kathy in Toronto who is thinking about relocating to glorious London Town. Not without her two pooches though. She asked me if the capital is dog-friendly.

Kathy says: “How dog friendly is London, really? We’re pretty spoiled here with the many off-leash parks, dog daycares, dog walkers, groomers, boutiques, doggie spas and all around general love of the canine kind. Any thoughts and/or recommendations?”

Definitely not my area of expertise. I’m not a dog-lover (I’ll have a cat any day) so I tend not to notice these things unless there’s a ferocious animal staring in my general direction with fangs on display.

Thought I’d pitch it to you guys instead. Leave it in the comments if you’ve got some advice for Kathy.

I can, at least, vouch for Holland Park. Snapped this one as proof.

Dog Tiolet

A Perfect Night for a Picnic

Armed with our cameras and M&S carry bags full of bread, olives, cheese, fruit, chocolate and drinks, D and I sat on the cool grass in Holland Park after work to play catch up in our busy lives. A beautiful Spring night and flowers in full bloom. Holland Park has to be one of the most serene escapes from central London, sprawling (though not as much as Hyde Park and certainly nowhere near as large as Hampstead Heath or Richmond Park), yet properly maintained and beautiful. Quite often in the summertime people are outside among the flowers having wedding photos taken. Even this night, we were certainly not alone in photo-taking or picnicing. Here’s a few for the atmosphere:

Blue Tulips

Flower Gardens 1

Yellow Tulips

Bed of Purple & Purple

Red Leaves and Colour

Setting Sun

Setting Sun & Tree Reflection

Listen to a Londoner: Sue Hillman

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.

Sue Hillman, 52 

Sue runs her own travel company for visitors to London offering tailor made tours and has lived in London for over 30 years. Before that, she worked in HR at the BBC for 18 good years but felt the need to  try a different throw of the dice. She loves to travel and has notched up 50 countries so far but London is her favourite city in the world!

LLO: Having lived in London for 30 years, what dramatic or noticeable changes have you seen in that time?
SH:
So much has changed, but I guess one of the biggest turnarounds has been the South Bank which was a not somewhere I used to go at all. Now there are loads of bars and restaurants, the Globe, the Tate Modern, City Hall, the restored warehouse buildings, the Millennium Bridge and, of course, the London Eye.

LLO: Tell us a bit about your website, It’s Your London.
SH:
We design and organise tailor made tours of London for small groups. It’s a personal service and each visit is built around what my visitors want to do and see at the pace they want.  We take all the hard work out of visiting London and arrange the itinerary, the entry tickets and make sure we get to the right places at the right time, not wasting any time but not being rushed either. It’s great fun for all concerned.

LLO: What would you consider “your London”; where do you love spend a free day? 
SH:
I love being around the Thames on a fine day as the views are so beautiful – especially good is a walk from Westminster Bridge through to Tower Bridge. I’m also a museum buff so any excuse to go into the British Museum and travel the world ancient and more modern in a few hours is always a treat. Being a linguist, the Rosetta Stone is a big draw for me. A free day would have to include trying out a new bar or restaurant – or both! I love to find out the new in London. It’s such a vibrant city, there’s always something.

LLO: What’s the most unique itinerary you’ve been asked to create for a customer?
SH:
Some examples of what I’ve been asked for are: a tour of East End rag trade to see its history and Jewish roots, a photo opportunity in front of the Stock Exchange, to see a court in session at the Royal Courts of Justice, afternoon tea in Buckingham Palace (luckily not with the Queen!),  a tour just of up-and-coming fashion designers with the chance to meet and talk with them. There was also talk of a tour of iconic London gay men’s homes, but only those already dead! Often people don’t realise how big London is and want to pop Windsor into a full day tour of central London. They’ve not experienced our traffic….

LLO: If you were approached by a magazine photographer who wanted to find the most colourful and unusual parts of the city, what sort of itinerary would you create?
SH:
Best for visuals are views along the Thames, the streets of coloured houses in Notting Hill (I’m biased, but it is lovely!), views from the top of the Park Lane Hilton and from the London Eye. Unusual shots are easy to find by just turning off a main road in most places. I like the streets around Borough Market towards the river and the mews streets of London where you can just imagine the horses and carriages pulling in. There is one in South Kensington where the horses were kept up on the the second storey and you can see the walkways they went up – again an amazing image.

LLO: What’s your favourite London “discovery”?
SH:
Every time I find a new place/bar/restaurant I get excited. I’m very bad at picking favourites but most recent discovery were pigs in the middle of Holland Park in the swanky W11 postcode. Huge pigs living just next to where the open air opera is performed in the summer, who’d have thought that possible! 

LLO: What’s the best thing about living in your postcode?
SH:
Portobello Road and the fun of wandering up and down any day of the week to see how it changes. There are so many great little shops, bars and restaurants, it’s never dull. The whole area is beautiful with its terraces of white stucco houses and garden squares forming green oases. One more thing – as it’s so central, my friends can get here easily to visit so I see them far more often than when I lived further out. Then there’s always the fun of celebrity spotting. I saw Kate Moss yesterday!

LLO: You’ve recently returned from a month in Southern Africa. Where in London can we find a bit of African culture?
SH:
The British Museum has a huge number of African items and currently they have a major exhibition called Kingdom of Ife which has ‘exquisite examples of brass, copper, stone and terracotta sculpture from West Africa’, they tell us. Food is an important aspect of African culture and there is everything from the top end Moroccan restaurant Momo through to Lalibela, an Ethiopian restaurant where you can sit in traditional style to eat authentic cuisine, to the amazing Caribbean and African food stalls at the Notting Hill Carnival when the area enjoys a mad, mad weekend!  Then there are markets.  Try Brick Lane and Petticoat Lane and you never know what you’ll find. There’s Brixton market for African produce.

LLO: Favourite London pub or restaurant?
SH:
So many to choose from! I’m very fond of many of the places round my area and for the warmest welcome, I’d have to say Aphrodite on Hereford Road.  The Electric Brasserie on Portobello is pretty cool any time of day and El Pirata de Tapas is a favourite with my mates who come to stay with me.  At the upper end, I like Momo as it feels like an evening in Morocco, Maze has wonderful small plates of intense flavour, the Ledbury has Michelin-star French cooking and L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon is a real treat. Stop me now or I’ll go on for the rest of the page!!

Thanks Sue!  

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.