Listen to a Londoner: Lisa Bolton

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.

lisa
Lisa Bolton

Lisa is a northern lass from the French countryside who is integrating into London’s Colombian community. She’s trying to get used to overcrowding and living like battery hens whilst growing very fond of cultural diversity, chips and Primark!

LLO: How long have you been in London, where are you from originally and what brought you here?
LB: I’ve been in London for 2 and a half years. I was born in Salford, Manchester but have lived in nearly all my life in a forest in Normandy France which is where I call home. I came here for work and a new beginning. After finishing my studies and working in Spain for 2 and a half years there was little work in France so I made my decision one morning to come to London and find a new job!

LLO: Which area of London are you most familiar with and what’s the best thing about it?
LB: Having lived in various areas in London I really love Elephant and Castle and Brixton. As I said I grew up in a forest 2km outside a village of 467 people. I had a pretty sheltered life to say the least. I had heard so many horrible things about these 2 areas I was scared to death, but there is a really sense of community. Even though I have moved away from the area now I still enjoy going to Weight Watchers every week in Brixton and the Ritzy cinema is brill and there is a lot of different shops. And Elephant is the best place in London as there is so much going on, transport is excellent and you feel as if you are in another world. You can walk into central London in 30 minutes!!!

LLO:  Tell us about your favourite unique London discovery.
LB: Uhmm, quite hard. I think it depends on what you are into and unless you are in that scene you wouldn’t know about it. Thanks to my circle of friends which is made up of Colombians I suppose it would be the Vallenato sub-culture and the private parties, functions, festivals and carnivals.

I would also say that the Fitzrovia live radio performances are a great discovery and brilliant. They often perform at the Globe’s pub The Swan. I discovered this through my friend and ex-flatmate who is an actor.

But of course my most precious unique London discovery is my fiancé Carlos who I met here.

LLO:  Where are your top choices for a night of dancing?
LB: I LOVE dancing but mostly salsa. However, I REALLY like G-A-Y to let your hair down and for cheap drinks! People there are really friendly and will come up and dance with you.

I don’t really like the “Latin” places here. The music is not that great and the dancing is quite the same. I believe La Floridita is great and it has been recommended, but I’ve never been. There is one place in Brixton called “La Mazorca” which is a bit of a dive and there are a few dodgy characters BUT if you go in a group they play great music and have a great dance floor. Otherwise, I have always had the best dancing time at improvised parties in various little bars and open air festivals like “Carnival del Pueblo”.

LLO: Give us an unusual or quirky idea for a date in London.
LB: To be quite honest I have no idea, probably not been on enough dates to know. But I recently met up with a former flatmate who told me he had had a few dates since we had last seen each other and one guy took him to a taxidermist shop! Needless to say he didn’t go out with him again!

LLO: If I only had one night in London and wanted to head away from the tourist trail for food and drinks, where would you send me?
LB: Gosh, this is a hard question as it depends what type of food I fancied. I have my favourite Colombian restaurant, French restaurant and Indian restaurant! But I suppose if I weren’t here I would be living outside the country and therefore it would probably have to be a pub where I could have steak and ale pie and chips. It’s not off the beaten track but the Horneman over-looking the river on the south bank near London Bridge is easy access and the food is quite nice also, but most good pubs could probably do the same.

LLO: If you want to experience another culture in London, what’s your first choice and where do you head to find it?
LB: WOW, the choice is incredible as London in itself is a cultural mish-mash. The first time I went to Whitechapel, I thought I was in some Asian country. It was incredible. Elephant again springs to mind. Latin American and African cultures are predominant and you can get by just speaking Spanish!

LLO: Tell us about a London memory that could only have happened in London.
LB: I am an English teacher on Oxford Street and I have large, very culturally diverse groups of people who maybe have never left their country before. They have strong preconceptions about different nationalities, colours, cultures, sexual preferences and, of course, religion. As a Teacher it is very hard to approach such sensitive subjects especially concerning homophobia and the stigma which every Muslim/Arabic student is viewed with. Some Latin American students have never met a Muslim let alone a woman in traditional dress. But one day in a class in which I had Baptists, born again Christians, Catholics, Buddhists, Russian orthodox, Shintoists and Muslims (from Turkey, Russia and North African countries) the debate turned to religion which I allow as long as everybody respects each other’s beliefs. The students all found common ground within their different religions and traditions using English. They all got along so well and were respectful of each other. I know sounds corny, but I really warmed my heart that despite all the war and hatred in the world, people from  incredibly different walks of life found they were all the same.

LLO: Who is the most interesting Londoner you’ve met and why?
LB: Everyone in London has had an interesting life and a story to tell. But one of my students, Maria, had come from the slums of Lima, Peru, and had been to a school run by nuns and financed by fundraising from Europe. She had worked her way up to become an English teacher and came to England to better her skills.

Doing the job I do has been a real eye opener to see that intelligent, highly qualified people who are psychologists, engineers, lawyers, film directors etc… perform menial jobs due to their legal status and language skills in order to learn the language. It really angers me when you see office workers ignoring cleaners knowing that they are probably for more qualified than them. It cost nothing to smile or acknowledge someone.

LLO:  If you were to move away from London in the future, which five things would you miss the most?
LB:
1) Cultural diversity
2) The choice of different products and restaurants
3) The different events
4) Primark
5) Public transport especially the tube (despite all the strikes, hahhaha!)

Thanks Lisa!

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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!

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Listen to a Londoner: Steve Cotton

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.

Steve Cotton

Steve likes street art, graffiti, punk music and taking walks with his camera. His website Art Of The State shows off some stunning images of London’s most impressive street art and all sorts of other London-y stuff (it’s a perfect place to procrastinate, but don’t say I encouraged you).

LLO: How long have you lived in London?
SC: Since I was three years old – any more of an answer would be telling you my age!

LLO: Tell us about your website, Art Of The State.
SC: Art Of The State is just a reflection on the parts of London that catch my eye. Typically that’s architecture, street art and punk rock, but over recent years it has pretty much expanded to anything worth taking a picture of. So recent updates have included the stair case of the Monument and Southgate Tube station.

LLO: Where are your favourite places in London to discover random graffiti or other street art?
SC: Well the best place to discover street art is around Shoreditch, but that’s not my favourite place. It’s kind of a jaded scene around Shoreditch. You could drive a full size paper mache buffalo spinning plates of jelly on the front of a neon triple decker bus around there and nobody would bat an eyelid because they’re so used to ‘urban art interventions’. So the answer I would give to this question is where you would least expect it – seeing a tag by serial rail trackside graffiti vandal 10Foot in the toilets of ‘mums with their chums’ eatery Giraffe on the South Bank ranks pretty highly on this scale.

LLO: Best part about living in your postcode?
SC: Hmmm, good question. I’m not sure there is a best part so I looked up my post code on upmystreet.com. That didn’t really help – it just went on about single parents, betting, bingo and satellite TV being popular pastimes and then oddly said that the Scottish Record was the most popular paper. So really I think the best things are the A30 and Tube into Central London. I realise that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of where I live.

LLO: Who are the most impressive punk bands around London these days and where’s the best place to catch a gig?
SC: I like Refuse/All for straight down the line / no nonsense punk. I go to see them at the Fighting Cocks in Kingston, but I understand other venues are available. I also like Gallows, but I’m not terribly sure if they’re cool or not. Whatever, I often play their song ‘Misery’ on the iPod when walking around London. It just works really well, it’s a slow burner but by the time it’s finished I’m normally up for whatever is next.

LLO: Any cool new up-and-coming London-based street artists to look out for?
SC: Really London is pretty quiet at the moment regarding street art. That said ROA’s animals are pretty neat. Most of the work is by out of towners and often on walls where they have been granted permission. Graffiti on the other hand is kicking on in my humble opinion. Old hands like Shok-1 and Lovepusher are in a league of their own with their respective styles but are only working legally as far as I know. Illegally, the nine members of Burning Candy are some of the most prolific often working up at rooftop level to avoid their work getting removed. They’re really getting about – a trip down the new London Overground line through Shoreditch will get you first class views of lots of BC member Mighty Mo’s work.

LLO: Favourite established London-based artists who started their work on the streets?
SC: Got to be Banksy and Dface as established artists. Banksy is still on the streets, Dface less so – which is a shame as he had scale and ambition.

LLO: Do you think the way street art is viewed in London has changed since you started photographing it back in 2001?
SC: Yeah. Back in 2001, I was photographing a stencil near Vinopolis and I got a mouthful of abuse from a dustcart truck driver along the lines of “Oi saddo, what do you want to photograph that for.” I could have pointed out to him that he was wearing a Spurs shirt, but that’s another story. Anyway fast forward to 2008 and I’m in the same location and another dustcart pulls up. This time a different driver sees me taking a photo, gets out of his cab and proceeds to reel off the location and names of all the street art he has spotted on his round. All the talk used to be of vandalism but now it’s all “Banksy…blah…blah…£100,000”. All the stories in the paper seem to be centred around the money street art is supposedly worth.

LLO: Where is your favourite place in London to take your camera if you’re not photographing street art?
SC: Probably along the South Bank – there is always something going on there no matter what time of year it is. I like the highs and lows of London too. I love to go high up on the roofs of the tallest buildings and down in the depths on it’s dark, dank tunnels – but getting access is always hard.

LLO: Share one of your favourite shots with us?
SC: This is taken on the South Bank. Rain and the light at dusk really add something to a scene. I watched this man waiting forlornly in the drizzle with an umbrella and a bunch of flowers in his hand. Seconds after I took this picture he kind of shrugged his shoulders and threw the flowers into the Thames. It’s a picture for me but for him I guess it could have been a total turning point in his life.

Thanks Steve!

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Listen to a Londoner: Chelsea Menzies

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.

Chelsea Menzies, 24

Chelsea is a freshly qualified teacher who, for some reason or another, choose to relocate from the friendliest country in the world to East London.

LLO: Where are you from, how long have you been in London and what brought you here originally?
CM: I’m from British Columbia, Canada and arrived in London in September 2010.  I came here with the promise of a teaching position, but moreso came for the adventure.

LLO: What’s been your biggest challenge as an expat in London so far?
CM: Navigating a city that I’m totally unfamiliar with, and learning to trust my instincts.  Having grown up in a fairly small Canadian town, the idea of London is pretty intimidating and took a while getting used to.  I still get a little overwhelmed when I lose my bearings, but I’ve discovered that you’re never too far away from a tube station or a street map.

LLO: Which part of the city are you most familiar with and what’s your favourite thing about it?
CM: I go exploring in central London almost every weekend, so I have Oxford Circus to Trafalgar Square down pat.  I love everything about it: the shopping, the food, the people… every time I’m there I discover something new that I love about London.

LLO: Best cosy London bookshop with that lovely book smell and fantastic atmosphere that keeps you coming back?
CM: West End Lane Books in West Hampstead.

LLO: Is there a place in London that always seems to make you happy?
CM: Every time I see the Big Ben, I can’t help but smile.  I don’t know what it is about it, maybe because it’s so quintestentially “London” and always reminds me of how incredible it is that my life has brought me here.

LLO: Favourite book or movie based in London?
CM: Not to sound incredibly cheesy, but it has to be “Love Actually”.

LLO: If you were to leave London, which five things would you miss most about it (people not included)?
CM:
1. Primark and all the other great (and cheap) shopping
2. Pret A Manger…yum yum yum!
3. free museums and art galleries
4. the big red buses
5. being in a city with so much history

LLO: Which London market keeps you coming back and why?
CM: I admitedly haven’t been to as many markets as I’d wish, but I really love Camden.  The people-watching there is amazing.

LLO: If I have one night in London and want to get away from the tourist chaos, where would you recommend I go for diner and drinks?
CM: For my birthday this year, my friends and I went to a little restaurant in Soho called Inamo.  It’s a sushi place that has an interactive ordering system, where the menu is projected onto the tabletops, making them like computers.  While we waited for our food to come, we also played games like Battleship, and could watch what was going on in the kitchen with a chef-cam.

LLO: Favourite London discovery?
CM: Well, I met my boyfriend here, so that’s a pretty great discovery.

Thanks Chelsea!

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Listen to a Londoner: Ellen Burney

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.

Ellen Burney

Ellen Burney is a London-based fashion journalist who has written for titles including Vogue, The Guardian and The Sunday Times. She is currently on a ‘six-month city sabbatical’ and living in Rye, East Sussex with her partner and their one-year old daughter Doris.

LLO: As a former ELLE columnist, W correspondent and current contributing editor to Lula, you must know quite a few of London’s best-kept fashion secrets. Where are your favourite places to spend a day shopping away from the high streets?
EB: The staple second-hand designer shops such as Bang Bang on Goodge Street and Retro Woman in Notting Hill. For the best old rags try Beyond Retro on Cheshire Street off Brick Lane and the surrounding stalls in Spitalfields Market. For contemporary labels such as Marc by Marc Jacobs, See by Chloe and Sonia Rykiel I like Diverse on Upper Street, and for hair bows try the crate of bow-ties, visit Episode on Chalk Farm Road! For antique lockets and charm deals, charm the woman with the very long and curling yellow finger nails and tall, fancy barnet in Grays Antique Market in Mayfair.

LLO: You’ve got a love for the printed word. What are you reading now?
EB: Well, I have finally finished A Week In December by Sebastian Faulks, which I loved. In general I read slowly but surely yet with this it was a race against time to finish it before its television debut in December. I made that mistake with Money by Martin Amis, buying it long before I read it and then couldn’t touch it after the pretty dismal television screening earlier this year.

LLO: After a bad day, you’re feeling like a little retail therapy in the form of lingerie and shoes. Where are you going?
EB:
Myla. They have a classic five-pack of tulle knickers with bows for £35 but a lot of my earnings have gone on their frilly tap pants and pearl bras. The frou-frou sleepwear is forever on my wish list. For shoes, Russell & Bromley for their classic loafers which I have in burgandy to match my tipple. I like my shoes clompy rather than sexy and so Miu Miu for platform heels. French Sole for black quilted ballet pumps, a classic cliche I refuse to snap or step out of.

LLO: Where’s your favourite place in London to people watch for some street fashion inspiration?
EB: Anywhere with really mad old, well-dressed women. The type that use their walking sticks to push old bits of bin bag into the gutter while proclaiming it ‘a dirty sock.’

LLO: Top three London bloggers we should all read with our morning coffee?
EB: The Enchanted Hunters, Caroline, No, and Canned Fashion.

LLO: Tell us about an inspirational fashion moment that happened to you or someone you know in London.
EB: Well, I will always remember that the late Isabella Blow took time out to call me with advice on getting work-experience on magazines. It was 9/11 and she was in New York and so it was very, very kind of her.

LLO: You’ve written quite a lot about fashion during the credit crunch for Elle. Where’s the best place in London for some creative but cheap fashion buys when you’re skint?
EB: These aren’t necessarily creative but some good value investment buys are a good starting point. Very soft black leggings, £12 from Topshop. I find tights are an easy way to give some sort of style hint. Navy or grey rather than the predictable black. Wool makes for a nice texture as do ribbed. Falke or Wolford and there’s no point in spending little as they rip, no matter how soft you think the Boots bamboo pairs appear. But maybe that’s just the way I sit. I’ve always relied on a hair accessory or style to perk up my mood. A hair bow or cheap pink scrunchie from the chemist. Chelsea boots are a staple for me. At the moment I have a brown pair from the local ‘Country Store’ but last year’s were £22 from Portobello Market. I live and breathe Breton tops and the best fit and quality I have found are £35 from Labour & Wait on Cheshire Street. I have both red and blue. The sailor souvenir type shop in Greenwich has some great ‘sailor basics’ including heavy fishermen’s sweaters. My hairdresser Zoe Irwin keeps a bowl of accessories from her travels on dressing table and wears each day to spice up outfits, such as a Sonia Rykiel brooch worn as a hair grip.

LLO: Favourite up-and-coming London-based fashion label or designer that deserves our attention?
EB: TBA and Charles Anastase for princess-wear and the magnificant Maggie Cassidys for made-to-measure spectaculars.

LLO: I’m heading to London for one night only and want something to eat and drink away from the tourist trail. Any recommendations?
EB: The Grapes pub on Narrow Street in Limehouse for a candlelit dinner in a tiny, seafood restaurant  above the River Thames. Charles Dickens was a regular and the pub features in Our Mutual Friend. Today, Old Gandolf the Grey is the Guinness-drinking regular. If you’re still around the next day, there’s lobster bisque and rare beef sandwiches. Other traditional pubs I like include The George on Commercial Road for a piano-filled knees-up and The Golden Heart in Spitalfields. In Islington, the organic gastro-pub The Duke of Cambridge for vodka and plum juice never dissapoints. I’ve been going there for over a decade, as well as Frederick’s in Camden Passage, Islington, for fine-dining. A memory of an old gentleman and gentlewoman sitting side by side to survey the folk is a long-time fond memory.

Thanks Ellen!

Ellen’s fabulous blog Vagabondiana is highly recommended!

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