Listen to a Londoner: Elizabeth Remes

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!

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.

Elizabeth Remes

Betsy is a city girl at heart and is proud to call London home for the forseeable future.  She works in development in the performing arts, sings in a chamber choir, loves the expat blogging community, and intrepidly explores the best (and worst!) that London has to offer.  Her boyfriend wants to you know that although she is assimilating very well to life in England she once fell asleep at a cricket match at Lord’s.

LLO: Where are you from originally, how long have you been in London and what brought you here?
ER: I am originally from Washington, DC, although I have also spent a significant amount of time in New York City and in Paris. I got my MA in London a couple of years ago and that allowed me to apply for a Tier 1 visa – I moved back in June 2010, happily! I now live in South London and work in North London.  (Yes, I do need a passport to cross the river!)
LLO: What have been your biggest challenges as an expat so far? Any advice for newcomers?
ER: I have found that the biggest challenges are the nitty-gritty! Expats should (and usually do) expect a certain amount of culture shock and so prepare themselves for that. I don’t think that most newcomers arrive ready to do battle with banks, mobile phones, and utilities companies. My advice for newcomers is: try to do as much research as possible on the nuts-and-bolts of living in a different country.
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LLO: Favourite London locations for a romantic or unusual date?
ER:
I actually just wrote a blog post on my top five London date spots – good timing! I think my favorite for this time of year would have to be the Somerset House ice skating rink. It’s a fun date in a gorgeous venue, and you can treat yourselves to a yummy dinner at Tom’s Kitchen afterwards.

LLO: Best place to spend a Saturday night out with the girls?
ER: For a classy girls’ night out, I’d recommend Purl, a new cocktail bar in Marylebone – it has a great speakeasy vibe and very imaginative drinks with secluded booths perfect for gabbing. If you want to be a bit more wild and crazy, though, try The Lexington in Islington – it’s a loungy bar with an incedible selection of whiskey, and they’ve played retro dance music every time I’ve been there!

LLO: You post “Frock Fridays” on your blog. Give us a few of your favourite London shop recommendations that aren’t on the high street, especially since the big NYE is coming!
ER:
I’ve brought my love of Anthropologie with me from the States (there’s one on Regent Street and another on the King’s Road in Chelsea). They’ve got great party dresses plus unique jewelry and quirky accessories. There’s an amazing vintage shop in Shoreditch called Absolute Vintage. They have tons of clothes from every decade you could want, plus shoes and bags galore. Trilogy, which has a couple of stores around London, has a great selection of jeans. And – I want to include this even though they don’t have any physical shops and are only online – I love Boden for basics.

LLO: Best place in London for people watching and fashion inspiration?
ER:
Depends what kind you want! But I think that one of the most entertaining places for people watching and fashion inspiration is The Book Club in East London. Go for breakfast with a newspaper, stay for lunch with your laptop, and then hang around for drinks and music in the evening. They cater for everything – and everyone goes! It’s eclectic and fun, though it can tread the line of too-cool-for-school.

LLO: Tell us about a memorable moment that could only have happened in London.
ER:
In early September my flatmates and I went to the Mayor’s Thames Festival, a free weekend event on the South Bank. We went on the Sunday, and it was packed! There were tons of food stalls as well as activities for kids and live music – in fact, there was a swing dancing spot in front of the Tate Modern! The day closed with a massive Carnivale-style parade and then an incredible fireworks display. The whole thing was so much fun, and it was amazing walking next to the river, seeing the sun set over iconic landmarks, and thinking, “I live here!”

LLO: Have you found a place in this city that always seems to make you happy? Where and why?
ER:
Borough Market always makes me happy! You can tell from my blog that I love cooking and entertaining, and my weekly (if I can afford it!) pilgrimage to Borough Market is an integral part of the dinner party process. I have a whole routine for my Borough Market Saturdays that includes my favorite butcher and Neal’s Yard Dairy for British cheeses – and the trip has to be concluded with lunch and scrumpy from one of the stalls. No matter how hungover I may be after a too-late Friday night, stepping out of the London Bridge tube station and seeing the sign for Borough Market always makes me happy.

LLO: Favourite quirky or unique London discovery?
ER:
There are so many options available to you if you want to get some culture, but my favorite discovery is that there are tons of possibilities other than West End shows and the most famous museums – check out the smaller venues for performances and exhibits that might be even more exciting than the big stuff!

LLO: If you were to leave London in the near future, which 5 specific things would you miss the most?
ER:

5.
Full English Breakfast – America does good brunches, but if you want to get down and dirty with good hangover food, you have to have a full English. 
4.
Borough Market and the guy at Laithwaite’s Wines (whose name I embarrasingly can’t remember!) who always helps me find the perfect wine to match my menu.
3.
Meandering along the South Bank and watching the sun set at the horizon of the Thames.
2.
All the commons – I love that almost every neighborhood has its own green space.  It makes the city seem more intimate and more spread out at the same time.
1.
My life with my English boyfriend of two years – even if he came with me to wherever I was going, I would miss the life we’ve been making here in London. Even just over the past six months, we’ve really set down roots here together. I’d definitely miss that.

Thanks Betsy!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

London Art Spot: David Walker

Most people’s first job involved burgers and fries. David walker’s first job was creating t-shirt designs for The Prodigy. After that, he started designing record sleeves and party art before running his own street wear label called “Subsurface” for five years. It was only three years ago that he started painting. (Pretty impressive he’s accomplished all of that considering he’s broken his hand over 10 times!)

Once a fan of only black and white (with a little bit of pink thrown in for good measure), David now paints with in explosions of colour following his discovery of a little treasure box of spraypaint tucked away in a studio. His portraits are realistically surreal – the sort of images that make you stare for ages.

For this week’s London Art Spot, David explains who the women are that he loves to paint, tells us about his current show on Kings Road and lets us in on where he’ll be hiding out this summer with possible big plans for 2011.

LLO: Which aspects of London life most influence your creativity and how?
DW: I like the randomness of cities and the anticipation that anything can happen (good or bad) and that in turn you can make things happen. I have lived in small towns where there is just not the same sense of possibility, so this is very inspirational for me. I feel privileged to be making art full time and the speed in which this city can move pushes me forward.

LLO: Faces are the main subject of your work. Who are the people you paint? Do you know them?
DW: I don’t know them at all. I like that they’ve never met me and they don’t know they’re being painted. I use found photography, old magazines, the web, snapshots, anything that’s not staged by me. The fact that the subjects are unknown also allows people to make up there own narrative to the portraits.

LLO: Do you have a muse?
DW: I’m still trying to find one, but I’ve been told that they find you so maybe I should stop looking.

LLO: Tell us about your approach to your work, your unique “no brushes” style and your choice of fantastic vibrant colours.
DW: I’m drawn towards the idea of making something beautiful out of what could be classed as lo-brow materials and methods. I don’t use brushes because I want the pieces to raise a question about graffiti and traditional painting as there can be strong preconceived ideas about both. People are normally quite surprised the work is made from spray paint and I think many are also surprised they actually like the work when its outside on a wall; suddenly they have connected with a scene that they previously had no time for at all.

As for colours, I’ve gone from two extremes. For two years, I only painted in black, white and pink (as it was cheaper and allowed me to concentrate on the subject more), then I came across a  box of random coloured spray paint that had been buried in the studio and started exploring as many colours as I could and all at once. It just felt right at the time and it’s been a lot of fun.

LLO: Favourite memory of painting on the walls of London?
DW: Pretty much every time I paint outside, someone comes up to me at the end of the day and says “I saw you doing this earlier and I thought it was gonna be a right load of old crap, but I like it now. Nice one.” I think this is a great compliment.

LLO: Which piece are you most proud of at the moment and why?
DW: I’m really happy with this one (above). There were probably at least ten times I wanted to throw it off the fire escape. It finally came together the night before it had to be delivered to a show, so I was glad she made it. It’s not been easy between me and her.

LLO: You’re part of the Scrawl Collective. Tell us about this group and how you contribute.
DW: It’s a bunch of artists with different styles and practises. We all dip in and out of it I guess. We do shows here and there, projects come up or one of us might get an idea and get others involved or sometimes nothing happens at all… It’s the 10th anniversary soon, so there are rumours we may be getting something together.

LLO: Do you prefer exhibiting in galleries or on the street?
DW: They both have there positives and negatives. Walls are great because you have room to be very expressive and lots of people get to see the painting. With gallery work you get to spend time developing techniques and immerse yourself without anyone watching you. I try to balance both but I need to get outside more next year.

LLO: Which other London-based artists do you admire?
DW: So many for so many different reasons. At this very moment: Adam Neate, Will Barras, Polly Morgan, Christopher Moon, Arth Daniels

LLO: Where can we see your work now? Any big plans for 2011?
DW: I’m pleased to be in a great show at the moment called In/Human running until 23rd December 2010 with five other artists at 595 The Kings Rd, London SW6 2EL. I may be doing a major solo show late 2011. I’m still toying with the idea. I will be hiding out in Berlin for the summer and making new work, so we’ll see what happens.

Thanks David!

For more from David, check out his colourful website.

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

Elephants 121-130

Elephants 121-130. If you could have one of these in your garden, which would you choose?

121. James Bond by Oliver Lloyd & Lucy Fleming; Queens Walk – Hungerford Bridge
James Bond

122. Roselephant by Jane Callan; More London
Roselephant

123. A Penny for Your Thoughts by Jane Morgan; 26 Audley Street
A Penny For Your Thoughts

A Penny For Your Thoughts

124. Elfreda by Jeff Hoare; originally at Tower of London
Elfreda

Elfreda

125. Lover by Jeff Royland; Berkeley Square
Lover

126. Untitled (Gajaraja) by Jitish Kallat; Leicester Square Gardens
Untitled (Gajaraja)

127. Gloria by Joanna Martin; Kings Road
Gloria

128. Cotee by Joanna Martin; Greenwich Visitor’s Centre
Cotee

129. Sally by Joanna May; Queens Walk – National Theatre
Sally

Sally

130. Celebrating the International Year of Biodiversity by  IYB, originally at the Natural History Museum
Celebrating the International Year of Biodiversity

For more photos, interviews and other info, visit my Elephant Parade page. Stay tuned for the rest!

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.

Elephant Parade 61-70

I think it’s time for some more elephants. Here’s numbers 61-70.

61. Shanti Haathi by Arabella Sim; Queens Walk, Royal Festival Hall
Shanti Haathi

62. Gaia Elephant by C Macleod, K Darke & C Jackson; Kings Road
Gaia Elephant

63. In Your Trunk (Turn the Bass Up) by Ashwan; Green Park
In Your Trunk (Turn the Bass Up)

64. Patron by Ashwan Khanna; originally on St. James’ Street
Patron

65. Burma by Baccara Smart; Holland Park Avenue
Burma

66. Phoolan by Carrie Reichardt aka The Baroness & Nick Reynolds; Natural History Museum
Phoolan

Phoolan

67. Elephant Chic by Benjamin Shine; originally at St. Christopher’s Place
Elephant Chic

68. Taxi Elephant by Benjamin Shine; The Royal Exchange
Taxi Elephant

69. The Clonakilty Irish Elephant by Bill Griffin; Covent Garden Piazza
The Clonakilty Irish Elephant

70. Dedicated to the Wonderful Chelsea Pensioners by Mark Shand; Royal Hospital Chelsea
Dedicated to the Wonderful Chelsea Pensioners

Faves from this bunch anyone? Taxi Elephant for me…

For more photos, interviews and other info, visit my Elephant Parade page. Stay tuned for the rest!