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!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

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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!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.