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

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)?
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: Joshua Jost

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 Always looking for new volunteers. 

Joshua Jost, 35 

Joshua was roped into moving to London while on his way back to the States after 12 years of living in Scotland. He hasn’t regretted it since. He now works with his best friend from university in a tech company and spends his idle time dreaming about how to make the world a better place.  One of these days he might just do something about it.

LLO: How long have you lived in London?
I moved to London in December–though I’ve been in the UK for 12 years–so I’m still quite new to the city, but exploring at a fast pace.  It feels like I’ve been here for months already.  Hard to believe that I can still count it in weeks. 

LLO: Where are you from originally?
 I’m originally from California, but I’ve lived all over the US and the pacific.  The last 12 years I’ve been in Aberdeen, but I’ve made occasional trips to the city to visit friends, for business, or just to touch civilization again. 

LLO: Best thing about London?
Opportunity!  There is so much to do here and so many opportunities to grow, prosper, explore.  The city is filled with new avenues waiting to be discovered and re-discovered. 

LLO: Worst thing about London?
Infrastructure – You get spoiled in cities where things really work and flow well.  I often feel the system here is stacked against itself.  I’d hate to be a politician in London.  It must be aggravating.  Nothing feels particularly user-friendly. 

LLO: North, south, east or west?
South/West.  In my short time of exploration, I’d have to say that I really like the South/West.  I love the buzz of central London or the creativity of Camden, but the South West feels most like home to me so far.  I like Earl’s Court quite a bit. 

LLO: Best restaurant?
Best restaurant so far is Gourmet San in Bethnal Green.  It’s an authentic Beijing style restuarant (a girl from Beijing introduced me to it).  I’ve never had Chinese food like it and it’s cheep!!!  You’ll spend less than £20 a head including drinks. 

LLO: Best place to escape the city?
 The gym.  I took out a membership at Virgin Active when I got here and it’s a lifesaver when you need to slow down in the sauna or burn some aggression on a weight machine. 

LLO: 2012 Olympics – stay or go?
Stay, but… I’m stoked it’s here.  I was in LA in 1984 for the Olympics there and the whole city was buzzing. I have this sort of cringe hesitation though about it, like when you watch someone on X-Factor that you think may bomb it painfully.  I’m worried that the infrastructure and bureaucracy is going to let us down.  We are following the footsteps of China.  That is hard to compete with.  Our contribution to the millennium was a dome and a ferris wheel.  What are we going to bring to the Olympics? 

LLO: How do you spend your time on the tube?
 Studying an Underground map! I’m still not at the place where I can jump on and off trains without thinking about it. I try and confidently blaze from one train to the next and then find out I’m heading the wrong direction and have to, embarrassingly, change tubes and head the other direction. 

LLO: Most random thing you’ve seen in London?
 A techno-didgeridoo busker in one of the underground stations. 

LLO: Best place to catch a gig?
 I love The Troubadour in Earls Court.  Epic.

LLO: Favourite London discovery?
I love Beyond Retro.  It’s the coolest vintage clothing store.

LLO: Favourite market?
The markets in Camden are amazing.  I couldn’t believe that this place existed in London when I first saw it.  I don’t think I actually need to buy anything there when I go, I just love seeing what’s on display.

LLO: If you were to dress up as one of the tube station names for a costume party, which would you be?
Oxford Circus – I’d go as a posh clown.

LLO: Best place for a first date?
I went to the Mahiki Lounge the other night. It was great. You couldn’t take anything too seriously when you’re drinking from a coconut while being served dim-sum by waitresses with crazy hats and aloha shirts.

LLO: Boris is……
The mayor???  Did I get it right?

LLO: What would you change about the city if you had the power to do so?
 I’d change the transportation system, upgrade the tube system and re-engineer the roads. I don’t think anything is engineered to be user-friendly. That said, I have to say the Oyster cards are one of my favourite aspects of travel here.  That works.  But the congestion charging scheme is a joke.  The EZ-pass system used in many cities in the US is far better.

Thanks Josh!

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Little London Lunch Break: Your London

Little London Lunch Break posts will appear every Wednesday around lunch time. I’ll ask a questions or start a discussion, give my answer and leave the comments open for the rest of you the same when you have a minute or two. If you would like to suggest a question, please email me at

Question: London is so incredibly diverse and intricate that one person’s experience of it may be completely different from the next. Where is “your London”? Which areas do you feel most comfortable in, which are the most familiar?

My Answer:
There are a few places that feel like “my London”.

Notting Hill all the way down through Portobello Market, Ladbroke Grove, through to Kensal Green – the 52 bus route, basically. I lived in Kensal Green for 2.5 years, and have worked in Notting Hill for almost two. You would think I would have been tired of the walk between the two, but even on weekends I used to spend a lot of time in Portobello Market.

Spitalfields/Brick Lane also makes my list, the spread of market stalls and exotic food, the slightly run-down, creative atmosphere with graffiti splattered walls and vintage clothes shops. It’s all about the vibe.

I spend some time in the area between Oxford Circus and South Bank – down Regent Street, past Piccadilly and Trafalgar Square. It’s tourist-heaven, but it always makes you feel like you’re a part of something bigger than yourself. South Bank at night always reminds me of when I first fell in love with London.

Hampstead where I used to work and the amazing heath in the summer, Knightsbridge where I lived when I studied abroad and Hyde Park’s romantic willow trees, Blackfriars Bridge which I used to walk across into the sunset when I was doing work experience at a publishing company, Camden for the madness of the market, for Marathon’s hidden jazz nights and gigs generally.

These are not the only areas I spend time in, but they are places either connected to my life or that I have explored time and again.

And “your London”?

Oxford Circus Crossing

Loving the new Oxford Circus crossing area unveiled yesterday after a £5 million makeover. It’s modelled on a crossing system used in Tokyo where traffic is stopped in all directions so people can cross diagonally. Bit scary with the madness of London traffic, but considering the usual congestion, especially around the holidays, a welcome change.