Listen to a Londoner: Kerry Hiatt

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.

Kerry Hiatt

Writer, relationship guru, alfresco sex junkie and sometimes basset hound thief, Kerry Hiatt talks to The Little London Observationist.

LLO: As well as being signed with Penguin and plenty of other work, you’ve written for The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express, LOOK and Psychologies and have made a freelance writing career work for you. Any dream clients?
KH: I have an amazing client list. I started writing for the national press when I was 18 and that had always been my dream. With every passing week there’s always another exciting client though. For example, this week, I’ve signed a contract to write a sexy, new board game.

LLO: What’s your favourite unique London discovery?
KH: You would think that I’d seen it all having lived here my whole life but that’s the most amazing thing about London, you can never see it all. One of the great things about editing www.getupandout.com is the plethora of new experiences we discover as a team. Just recently, I’ve tried out performing live stand up comedy, burlesque and zoo keeping in the city; all of which I would absolutely consider as a new career. Although, as my mother constantly reminds me, we’re from a family of travelers so if I were to do a career change, I’d likely end up working in a circus, which sort of combines all three doesn’t it?

LLO: You met your husband in Greenwich. Give us a great Greenwich date idea.
KH: Greenwich is so full of history and culture, I adore it. One of my favourite things to do is evening star gazing from The Royal Observatory. You snuggle up under blankets, sip hot chocolate and watch the incredible night sky. I spend most of my time trying to steal other peoples’ dogs in Greenwich Park though and Joe often has to come and drag me away. If he’d just let me have a basset hound it would save him a whole lot of trouble …

LLO: Your recent Time Out Magazine article on alfresco sex got a lot of attention. Can you share three of the best places to take it outdoors without getting caught?
KH: I love sex. It’s a very natural thing and people feeling inhibited is just silly. Having sex outdoors is a wonderful, primal feeling. Yes the article in Time Out caused a stir but I’ve also received tons of e-mails from couples who have tried it and loved it. As long as you’re safe and discreet of course. Greenwich Park has many a secluded spot to throw down a blanket, a bottle of wine and your three pack of Durex as does St. James Park by night. Personally, I’m keen on those occasional blacked out phone boxes you find around the city. If you see one, go for it.

LLO: As the editor of the newly launched site “Get Up and Out”, tell us what it’s all about and why we should visit immediately.
KH: www.getupandout.com is fab. It’s something that started off as a small blog because I just couldn’t fit all of the amazing date ideas I had into my features in Time Out. Within a month, it’s grown to huge proportions and we’re very proud. It encourages people to shrug off tired and traditional dating. You know, say au revoir to cruising along the River Thames by moonlight – everyone has done it already … twice. And those BOGOF cinema tickets for your local VUE? It’s dull. for a first or second date. Instead, we provide our readers with a plethora of quirk-a-licious date ideas as well as fashion, food and relationship advice. It’s very much a community blog.

LLO: Best thing about living in your postcode?
KH: Greenwich Market. I love how I can whiz over there on a Saturday morning, pick up freshly ground coffee beans (Jack Daniels flavour, natch), warm churros for breakfast and something completely original to wear for the evening. There’s something very special about the camaraderie of the market too. I’ve lived here on and off all my life so it’s lovely to walk into a bar and say hello to familiar faces.

LLO: One of your specialities is writing about relationships. Give us three favourite quirky date ideas for Londoners looking for something out of the ordinary.
KH: There are LOADS of things. Three of my favourites include The Italian Job Experience with smallcarBIGCITY, where you and your date don blue boiler suits, stash gold in the back of a mini and navigate your driver through the twisty backstreets of London to get away from the law. Circus Space also offer circus skills workshops for couples; juggling, unicycling and all that malarky. It’s so much fun, trust me. Simon Drake’s House of Magic is great for the ‘seen it done it’ type too. It’s a secret mansion house in London with haunted cellars, an enchanted garden, fortune tellers and magicians. He does occasionally public nights with drinks and dinner and they are crazy weird.

LLO: One of your loves is karaoke. Where’s the coolest karaoke bar round town?
KH: Without a doubt, it has to be Lucky Voice, which has venues in Soho and Islington. With its bubbly, Japanese kitsch party atmosphere, we often book a private karaoke room for two hours and invite friends down with us. The jukebox is easy to use (there’s even an ‘I’m Thirsty’ button, which sees your drink orders delivered at speed) and every room is equipped with a fancy dress box chock full of 70s sparkles, 80s mullets and, of course, the classic 90s shell suit. Perfect.

LLO: Give us a few ideas from recent book on your favourite childhood literary haunts around the capital.
KH: It’s still top secret but this city is a literary goldmine. Charles Dickens, 101 Dalmations, Mary Poppins, Peter Pan and Harry Potter are just a few covered in the book.

LLO: As a born and bred Londoner, what changes have you noticed most over the years? Anything you miss?
KH: London gets more and more exiting as the years roll by so I never feel too nostalgic. I do miss the old pie and mash shops that once littered the streets of the south; they seem to be disappearing. The only thing I truly miss though is busking with my Great Grandfather, Edwin. My family immigrated from Ireland after the war and he made his living by playing the accordion on the streets of London as well as other things. We would go to Portobello Market on Sundays and I’d sit on his case while he played. It’s one of the best memories to have. My love for London started young!

Thanks Kerry!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

Advertisements

Listen to a Londoner: Mary Higgs

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.

Mary Higgs, 30

Mary lives in Battersea. She’s an interior designer by day and a London dating guru by night. She set up the Great Date Guide to help give Londoners inspiration and advice on where to go for a great date in this fantastic city.

LLO: Tell us about the Great Date Guide.
MH:
I had the idea for the Great Date Guide a few years ago, when it started its life as a homemade book for my older brother. He had recently found himself new to London and single (after ending a 7-year relationship) and with an unenviable yet unavoidable lack of dating know-how. As it turned out, he wasn’t alone. I realised that I had so many friends in their late twenties who had hit the “make or break” stage in their relationships and had opted for “break”. This meant that their last “first date” was about seven years ago and often at university – a distant memory from a distant city!

Fed up with my brother’s constant emails at lunchtime on a Friday asking where he should take his date that evening, I decided to take action. I put together a book of eighty dates for him, written in the format of a travel guide. Each date was given a number based on its stage in the dating game (1 for a first date, 2 for early days etc.), and also a symbol to tell him what type of date it was – a heart for romance, a wine glass for drinks… you get the picture!

Anyway, he (and all his friends) absolutely loved the book and I kept an idea, in the back of my mind, that I’d like to do more with it.  A few years later I decided it was the right time to do something with the idea and here it is – a website designed to take the hassle out of dating for busy Londoners who need a bit of inspiration. Single, married or somewhere in between, we should all be dating. Whether it’s cocktails in a ritzy bar, a romantic dinner for two or just a leisurely stroll through one of London’s fabulous parks, it’s our belief that dating should be a firm fixture in everyone’s weekly schedule.

LLO: Would you consider London a romantic city?
MH:
Absolutely! Although, I believe that any city can be romantic if you approach it with the right attitude. It’s less about the city – more about how you interact with it. That is one of the reasons we started the website, to help people find the great dating spots in London that might otherwise have passed them by. I do think London is special though, and full of quirky romantic places.

LLO: Where’s the best place for a date in your postcode?
MH:
For a first date, I think my local pub, the Lighthouse in Battersea, is pretty perfect! There’s a great garden for the summer and a roaring fire in the winter. The atmosphere is seriously relaxed so you can start off with a glass of wine, and if the date is going well you can settle in and order food. If the date is going really well you can finish off with a romantic stroll around Battersea Park and then reward yourself with a cheeky kiss on Albert Bridge – definitely the most romantic bridge in London!

LLO: Tell us about the best date you’ve ever had in London.
MH:
I’m in the lucky position of having had lots of wonderful dates in London with my boyfriend. It’s hard to pick a favourite but I think I’d have to say when we took a day trip to Greenwich. Taking the boat down the river, you’re really reminded what a fantastic city London is. Then in Greenwich there is so much to do: fascinating museums, beautiful art, colourful markets, romantic walks with spectacular views, not to mention standing on the line where time officially starts! We finished off the date with a delicious meal at the Rivington Grill and then a very tipsy boat ride home in the dark, mesmerised by the lights of London and the romance of it all. It was a perfect day.

LLO: Any great date disasters you’re willing to share?
MH:
Hmmm, I had a pretty bad first date once when my date wanted to take me out for dinner, but it turned out he hadn’t booked anywhere. Every restaurant that we tried was fully booked until an hour later and we ended up going to Pizza Express – not exactly the height of romance! Then to top it off we went to a nearby pub after dinner to bump into a bunch of his male friends who were having a pretty boozy night and thought the fact that he was on a first date was cause for relentless “banter”. Anyway, it wasn’t too bad as we went on more dates and are still friends now!

LLO: Can you recommend a cozy, quiet, candlelit restaurant for us?
MH:
Of course! Plenty to choose from… We love Julie’s in Holland Park as it’s full of romantic little nooks and crannies, making it the perfect place for dinner. Clos Maggiore is another favourite – you’ll be hard pushed to find somewhere more romantic, with it’s indoor courtyard complete with roaring fire, fairy lights and blossom laden trees (all year round)!

LLO: Best place for a first date in London?
MH:
Again, there are so many options (we’ve got a section about this on the site)! Also, it sounds obvious, but you really have to think about who you’re going on a date with. If they’re an art lover then the top floor bar at the National Portrait Gallery would be perfect, but more of a foodie would like Moro in Exmouth Market, oh, and a music buff would like 606 Jazz Club in Chelsea!!

LLO: What about a date of people who have been in a relationship for a long time and want to do something completely out of the ordinary to help rekindle the passion?
MH:
Lots of options here but if you lead a busy stressful life and have forgotten what it felt like to fall in love, then a spontaneous candlelit supper picnic in one of London’s parks will do the trick (summer or winter). It involves a bit of effort and that’s what makes it so special – you’re saying you can do more than just pick up the bill. However, if you do want to go to a restaurant then Dans Le Noir would be perfect. From the moment you enter you are blind-folded so all your senses are heightened and you can focus on each other with no distractions.

LLO: It’s summertime and London is full of rooftop terraces just waiting to be filled with cocktail drinkers. Can you recommend the best place to wine or dine above the treetops?
MH:
We’ve actually got a list of our top 10 roof terraces on the website – we couldn’t pick a favourite! For the best view in town it probably has to be Vista at the Trafalgar, where, as the name suggests you can see the whole of Trafalgar Square and beyond. You do have to queue which is a pain but it’s worth it for the incredible view. If you’re in the City then Coq D’argent is a must with it’s roof terrace and garden and the kind of quality food you expect from the D&D group.

LLO: What’s your favourite unique London discovery?
MH:
I discovered the Chelsea Physic Garden recently. Like so many places in london I’d walked passed the entrance for years and never gone in! The gardens themselves are a complete oasis from the traffic on the Embankment and the bustle of the Kings Road. In the summer you can eat in the garden: either bring your own food and a picnic rug or tuck into the seriously delicious food on offer in the cafe. But, as you’ll have guessed from the rest of this interview I’m not very good at picking favourites!

Thanks Mary!

Get some great ideas from Mary and team at www.thegreatdateguide.com. They’re also on Facebook www.facebook.com/greatdateguide and tweet at @greatdateguide.

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

Guest Post: 5 Unique Free London Activities

Written by Yuli Linssen-Kaminitz. Yuli is originally from Israel but has been living in Holland for the last couple of years with her Dutch husband. London has always seemed to her like a tempting place to run away to which might have to do with the fact that her mother used to live here when she was the same age as Yuli is today…

London is one of the most vibrant cities in Europe with an unlimited number of museums, more than 100 theaters, the famous royal family, numerous vintage shops and of course Kate Moss. Even though London attracts more than 27 million tourists a year, many people from outside Europe still find it an extremely expensive destination to visit.

In order to make life easier for those of you who cannot afford to go to on a shopping spree or watch three theatre shows in a row, here are my top 5 free things to do in the city:

1. Speakers’ corner
Cumberland Gate Park Lane, North East corner of Hyde Park, London W1K 7TY, United Kingdom – 07533 098 035
Open Sun 12pm-7:30pm

Not only this attraction is free of charge, it is also worth visiting regardless! Where else would you be able to listen to extremely passionate people talking about their beliefs, ideas, conspiracy theories and rough opinions?  In 1872, Parliament decided to allow public speaking in the north-eastern corner of London’s Hyde Park. People from all over the country gathered to raise their important issues – the main discussions were: politics, religion, the economic situation and more. Until this day, every Sunday you will be able to witness people standing on small chairs in Hyde Park and lecturing the crowd.

2. Primrose Hill
Primrose Hill, Primrose Hill Road, Primrose Hill, NW3 3NA

This is the perfect spot to chill out, have a pleasant picnic and watch the spectacular sunset. Located in the north side of Regent’s Park, Primrose hill not only offers the most magnificent view of the city, the district which surrounds it is full of cozy cafes, trendy restaurants, tiny pubs and shopping streets. Start your day with getting a tan in the sun and finish it with a glass of wine. There is even a chance you will come across a celebrity such as Gwen Stefani, Jude Law and Ewan McGregor; all of them are extremely fond of this place.

3. National Theatre Square
South Bank, London, SE1 9PX

The National Theatre Square offers three different vast auditoriums where more than 20 productions are being played per year!  Even though most of the shows do cost money to enter, you would be pleasantly surprise to discover how many free performances are offered monthly. During the whole summer until September 26 you will be able to enjoy for free the spectacular outdoor theatre- “Watch This Space Festival”. This wonderful event includes: extraordinary circus, brilliant dancers, acrobatic performances and many more.

4. Richmond Park
Holly Lodge TW10 5HS

Richmond Park is located in Richmond, West London. It is extremely hard to believe that such an astonishingly beautiful nature area is just 12 miles away from central London! This breathtaking Royal Park is the biggest in London; it covers 2,500 acres of complete beauty and total freedom for the wild animals. Walking there, witnessing the deer running free and listening to the sound of birds, will make you feel like you are not in the UK but in a far away country which words cannot describe how striking is it.

5. Sunday UpMarket and the Backyard Market
Ely’s Yard (entrances on Brick Lane & Hanbury Street), The Old Truman Brewery London E1

Both of these markets are sort of hidden hotspots in the city. They are quite alternative and most of the people there are locals. The Backyard market, (open Sunday from 11am till 6pm and Saturday from 10am to 5pm) offers exceptional fashion from young, talented and upcoming designers. Even though the stalls do not offer free treats, you will surly enjoy strolling around and be inspired by the fashion forward clothes, one of a kind jewellery and the distinctive arts & craft treasures. The Sunday UpMarket which is located right next to the Backyard Market is similar with its unique fashion items, funky vibe and colorfulness. The major point of distinction from its neighboring market is the famous food area: Tempting cupcakes, Turkish and Moroccan homemade delicious meals, Spanish paellas, sushi and many more! The best part is: free tasting is offered to everyone!

Yuli works for EasyToBook.com, which specializes in discount rates on hotels all over the world that range from simple motels all the way up to celebrated 5-star venues. For more information about hotels in London, visit their site.