With so many people living in London and millions of tourists visiting every year, it’s easy to stress over the little things like squeezing into a crowded tube carriage, waiting in a long queue for a loaf of bread, or walking behind a family block mulling over a huge map when you just want to get home. There’s also an incredible number of differences between people in such a diverse city. So I thought that this photo I shot in Shoreditch the other day carries a good message for the new year: Lets adore and endure each other.
One of the three “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries I had yet to visit in London, Nunhead is tangled, overgrown and disheveled but its beauty is only amplified by these characteristics. It’s a place of peace, with chirping birds and winding pathways lined with trees and monuments, trails off the main track and fantastic views over London. We only had about 30 minutes to explore a small corner before it closed, but here are some photos of this resting place tucked away in a near-forgotten corner of southeast London.
I captured this man having a quiet moment lost in his newspaper, letting the crowds of South Bank tourists rush on behind him. In a city as bustling and non-stop as London, it’s often difficult to steal a moment of peace.
Built on the site of the old St. Giles Leper Hospital which existed from 1117-1539, Phoenix Gardens has quite an interesting history. It was also once the site of a charity school, a tragic WWII bombing and a car park. It’s also the perfect place to escape Covent Garden crowds and find yourself a nice patch of shade.
It’s now a beautiful little sanctuary full of sweeping wildflowers, wooden benches with quirky inscriptions, a lively little fish pond and, as I was pleased to discover, some Stik figures standing guard over the far end.
It was only a few weeks ago that I discovered this little garden, lovingly looked after by a team of volunteers. My friend J and I were walking back from a documentary screening in Leicester Square about the Forgotten Women of India. This has nothing to do with the garden itself, but here’s a preview of the documentary we had been to see before discovering it.
We were on our way to find some dinner in Covent Garden and discuss the film.
His trusty iPhone map isn’t always so trusty so we managed a slightly wrong turn down New Compton Street and ended up here. There were a few people dotted about reading or chatting with a friend, but it was peaceful.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Always looking for new volunteers.
Chris Holt, 44
Chris Holt is a former journalist and anti-poverty campaigner who now teaches yoga, mainly in south London. Since moving to London in 1994, she has lived in Bow, Bloomsbury, Clapham, Brixton and Streatham.
She tweets as @brixtonyoga.
LLO: Having grown up in the Midlands and held jobs from journalist to anti-poverty campaigner to barmaid to fruit picker, how did you end up in London as a yoga instructor?
CH: I’ve kept following my curiosity. Started off wondering what other people were like – and found out a bit being a journalist asking questions. Then wanted to know more about why the world’s the way it is – so spent some years seeing life in developing countries working for an aid agency. And now I’m going inwards, looking after the one body I’ve got for this life, and exploring whether I’m anything beyond it?
LLO: I’ve seen people practising outdoor yoga everywhere from Hyde Park to a nook behind Liverpool Street Station and even in Trafalgar Square. Where’s your favourite outdoor yoga spot in London?
CH: I love practising yoga outdoors, best of all on a beach or hillside looking out to sea. As that’s a bit tricky in London, I make do with my back garden or somewhere like Brockwell Lido where at least you’re looking out onto either trees or water. I’m really looking forward to the yoga holiday I’m running in France in September, because we can practise in an open-sided barn looking out over beautiful countryside.
LLO: What are some other London activities that you enjoy when you’re looking for peace of mind?
CH: Art galleries, theatre at the Donmar Warehouse or National Theatre, dance at Sadlers Wells, performance poetry at South Bank or Apples and Snakes events – not always for immediate peace of mind, but at least to get the creative juices flowing, which I need to thrive.
LLO: What’s the best part about living in your postcode?
CH: SW2 for the madness of Brixton Road, the friendliness of neighbours, the views from Brockwell Park, the resurgence of Brixton Market, and the number of amazing, interesting people you meet – it is definitely NOT mainstream.
LLO: Best London shop to buy yoga gear?
CH: I confess to being a favourite T-shirt and leggings kind of yoga teacher – it’s not really about what you’re wearing; it’s more about how it makes you feel inside.
LLO: I see on your yoga retreat to France this coming September you’ll be eating organic, vegetarian food with the group you’re taking. What are your favourite vegetarian restaurants in London and the best places to buy organic foods?
CH: I get all my organic veg, fruit and milk delivered by the wonderful Ged, who runs Riverford organic boxes in Lambeth and Southwark. Most interesting restaurant (not strictly veggie – but great) is Brixton Cornercopea in Brixton Market – everything grown, made or sourced locally, including things like courgette fritters, watercress, feta and pea salad & summer fruit pudding.
LLO: You work in Brixton a lot. What’s the best place in the area to sip a relaxing morning coffee with friends?
CH: For comfy sofas and good music, The Lounge on Atlantic Road; for a quiet read of the paper overlooking the bustle of Brixton Road, Cafe Nero in Morley’s department store, but for the absolutely best coffee in Brixton, Federation Coffee in Brixton Market – with plantain cake to die for.
LLO: Favourite place in London to catch some live music and why?
CH: With two small kids, my gigging days are a bit sparse, but when I make it, I like more intimate venues such as the Jazz Cafe in Camden. Really want to try the Hideaway that’s recently opened in Streatham and getting rave reviews.
LLO: Have you found a place in London – other than your home – that always makes you happy?
CH: The views from Westminster or Waterloo Bridges; or the first room on your right as you go in the National Gallery for Cezanne, Gaugin, Van Gogh – and no queues.
LLO: Describe your perfect London day.
CH: Yoga, art, perhaps a good book and some time alone to wander and explore – after more than 15 years in London, I’m still discovering it.
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