Listen to a Londoner. This is a weekly post where people who live (or have lived for a while) in London answer a few questions about the Big Smoke. If you fit the bill and want to be interviewed, give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org. Always looking for new volunteers!
Remember that recent post on Completely London magazine? I managed to get in touch with Donna – the editor of this new property publication that is cooler than your average property publication. She agreed to answer a few of my nosy questions. It’s a bit of a twist on the usual Listen to a Londoner posts, but she’s definitely a Londoner in the know! Here she talks about London’s secret river, tells us why Brockley is a cool place to live and lets us in on what to expect in the next issue of Completely London, out mid-February.
LLO: Completely London’s first issue is full of little London secrets. Which is your favourite?
DH: For me it has to be the River Fleet that flows under the streets of London, including right underneath the Zetter hotel in Clerkenwell where I’ve often had breakfast, completely unaware of what was flowing right beneath my feet. It’s a piece of London that can be traced right back to Anglo-Saxon times – a tangible link to the city’s past.
LLO: If you could move to any area of London, where would you choose and why?
DH: Mmm, a tough one. If money were no object and I didn’t have to worry about how easy it is to get to work in east London, then I’d say somewhere pretty and village-like. Maybe Hampstead – a place that’s so chocolate-box perfect, you could actually be in a country village. But to be honest, I’m a confirmed south east Londoner, so I’m not sure how at home I’d feel north of the Thames (see our next issue where we challenge two readers to a north/south swap for 24 hours). I also think it would be fantastic to live in Shoreditch where I work so I wouldn’t have the morning commute. Maybe in an open-plan converted loft apartment with vaulted ceilings and a private roof terrace where my dog Bob could go out and play around. Shoreditch is buzzy, exciting and vibrant without the crowded chaos of the West End. I love the shady old Victorian streets in Spitalfields where Jack the Ripper lurked – there’s a very real sense of history all around you.
LLO: There are plenty of areas in London that are artsy and eclectic, but compromise safety. Others feel secure, but the vibe isn’t as fresh or exciting. Where can you find the best of both worlds?
DH: I’m obviously biased but where I live now in Brockley pretty much hits the mark. It hasn’t quite got there on the social scene yet – when I bought my house 10 years ago there, estate agents were already calling it ‘up and coming’. A decade down the line and it still hasn’t quite made it but there’s been a spattering of trendy coffee shops, delis and bars opening over the last few years which might mean Brockley’s turning a corner. It has enough going on locally though to make it feel lively – you can dip into the foodie scene of East Dulwich which is next door, or soak up the arty atmosphere of Deptford and New Cross just around the corner. Brockley itself is one place in London where houses are still reasonably priced, so it attracts a lot of young families to the area – and for that reason there’s a safe sense of community. The East London line opens at Brockley station in June, and I’m sure when that happens, the area will be transformed, hopefully for the better, but it would be a shame if we had to compromise our sense of safety and community for the sake of a booming social scene.
LLO: Any advice for incoming expats looking to let their first flat in London?
DH: Research your area thoroughly before you commit to renting. Websites such as upmystreet.com give you information on the schools are in the area, the kind of people who live there, the crime figures, the choice of entertainment on offer and more. And as word of mouth is invaluable, you should ask like-minded people who have already gone through the renting process for their advice. Search online for expat forums where you can get first-hand advice.
LLO: What can we look forward to in the Spring issue of Completely London?
DH: The theme of our next issue is ‘Change’. And we’ve got lots to pique your interest – ways to breathe new life into your social life, interviews with people who have undergone life-changing situations, a peek into homes that had a previous life, a look at London gems that steadfastly resist change and much more that will redefine your views on our great Capital.
[Stop in any London branch of Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward to pick up a free copy of Completely London….]
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