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: Lucy McDonald

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 littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk. Always looking for new victims volunteers….

Lucy McDonaldLucy McDonald, 25
(Usually, it’s 10 questions, but Lucy likes questions, so she answered 30. Bonus.)

Lucy is from the most rural county in England but her soul is a Londoner. She likes tea, merry-go-rounds, walking along the Thames, lists, the radio, food and getting dressed several times a day. She works as an admin monkey at a language school in Bloomsbury.

LLO: How long have you lived in London?
LM:
I accidentally say I’ve lived here for five years, despite the fact a year of that was spent in Mexico. Actually I similarly used to answer ‘?Donde vives?’ in Mexico with ‘Londres’ for an irrationally long number of months. I’ve known I wanted to live here since I was eleven.

LLO: Where are you from originally?
LM:
The shire, the middle of nowhere, where England meets Wales, the green and pleasant and beautiful land, the most rural county in England – Herefordshire.

LLO: Best thing about London?
LM:
It’s still possible for me to get excited about the little things – being able to jump on the tube and end up in a place that looks and feels completely different to the one I’m in now, popping and seeing the Houses of Parliament and all the sites tourists come to see. The many and glorious parks, the way people dress, the interests people have – a general and indescribable Londonness that is strongest I think at Sunday brunch time, when Saturday revellers are in recovering in cafes, wandering the streets and dressed in their most interesting togs.

LLO: Worst thing about London?
LM:
Being ground down by the insularity and commuting. The fact that travelling from one side to another – east to west, north to south – seems like an epic challenge worthy of Tolkein. Light pollution and other grubbiness. The 25 bus, expense, Victoria Coach Station. Being from elsewhere in England, it can be irritating that people from the South East don’t believe in any realistic sense that the rest of the country exists. Most bad things in London are the same in the big metropolitan cities and the mindset that puts you in. The best-worst thing about it, London is a difficult place to leave.

LLO: North, south, east or west?
LM: East. No question. 

LLO: Best restaurant?
LM:
Moro.

LLO: Best shop?
LM:
Atlantis Art Materials, Hanbury Street. I like to peer in the windows of the rope shop and the umbrella shop in Bloomsbury, and Blade Rubber Stamps.

LLO: Best place to escape the city?
LM:
Hampstead Heath or the top of Senate House Library, depending if you need glorious openness or protective dusty rooms and books.

LLO: 2012 Olympics – stay or go?
LM:
I don’t know and can’t decide. Is that significant?

LLO: How do you spend your time on the tube?
LM:
Reading. If I can find another participant I like playing tube chicken, empty tube platforms allowing.

LLO: Most random thing you’ve seen in London.
LM:
Somebody stopping to help a stranger – tee hee – gallows humour.

LLO: Best place to catch a gig?
LM:
The Union Chapel, Islington

LLO: Best local band?
LM:
The Correspondents

LLO: Favourite book, song or film about London?
LM:
1599 by James Shapiro. 

LLO: Favourite London discovery?
LM:
Signing up to go and see free recordings of radio and TV programmes, Sam Smiths Pubs and the many retro nights.

LLO: Best place to spend a Sunday afternoon?
LM:
Ah, I’m too predictable – Brick Lane.

LLO: Best museum or gallery?
LM:
Tate Modern during the week, otherwise The Museum of Childhood. It’s not my favourite, but if you haven’t been you should go to The John Soane Museum. I like to sit in the big leather chairs in the National Gallery to read.

LLO: Favourite market?
LM:
Predictability reigns, Brick Lane Sunday – the Upmarket, Spitalfields and everyone along the edge of the lane.

LLO: Give us a funny London story.
LM:
I’ll cheat and copy and paste from previous writing –
Waiting on the platform at Leicester Square for the train to come, and a drunken suit, pink shirt, grabs my hand and begins to twirl me around the platform, asks what my dance would be, if I could dance any, here on the platform, between the yellow line and the commuters and the couples. I decline. He presses my hand to his heart and asks my name. I guess his instead. It’s not Charles and it’s not Jim. He takes my hand, asks my name, asks if I’ve seen the most recent exhibition at the British Museum. He tells me the last exhibition was a disappointment. Not enough artefacts. Central London has a different class of drunk.

LLO: Most influential Londoner?
LM:
Can’t think of one person.

LLO: Best London magazine, newspaper or website?
LM:
C’mon – the national British media is solely a London set of magazines and newspapers – so the Observer on Sunday.

LLO: If you were to dress up as one of the tube station names for a costume party, which would you be?
LM:
High Barnet. My hair loves a good backcomb.

LLO: Best time of year in London?
LM:
Impossible question – Autumn on Hampstead Heath, Christmas in Covent Garden, Summer in Russell Square. 

LLO: Best place for a first date?
LM:
Dates? In London? Don’t people just get drunk and fall on each other inappropriately?

LLO: First place to take a visitor?
LM:
To St Pauls, across the wobbly bridge, to South bank and along to the London Eye. Or a trip to The Globe.

LLO: Favourite place to be on a Saturday night?
LM:
The George Tavern, Commercial Road. And as far as possible from Leicester Square.

LLO: Best and worst things about tourists?
LM:
Worst thing – they get in the way and behave as if the place you live has been placed there for their own enjoyment, loud voices, big bags and not getting out of the way on the tube. Best thing – they talk loudly and think they can’t be understood so always good for an eavesdrop.

LLO: Boris is…
LM:
…a muppet.

LLO: What would you change about the city if you had the power to do so?
LM:
Not sure – I want to say make it smaller and cleaner and cheaper, but it wouldn’t be London anymore. I would take the violence out of it, and (sorry for the nod to Boris) I do hate the bendy buses.

LLO: Most interesting recent news story.
LM:
Anything told to me by John Humphrys as I drink my first cup of tea in the morning.

 Thanks Lucy!

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