Listen to a Londoner: Chris Holt

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 littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk. 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.

Thanks Chris!

Keep up with Chris over on Twitter or her yoga site.

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

General Lying-In Hospital

Like The Polstar* who added this fabulous little find to the Flickr pool, I wouldn’t mind being admitted to this Waterloo hospital on occasion! Anyone else?

This is ideal for me at the moment

Now the question is: Do they do breakfast in bed?

(Apparently, it came about in 1767 after a proposal from the “man mid-wife” Dr. John Leake that suggested something “for the Relief of those Child-bearing Women who are the Wives of poor Industrious Tradesmen or distressed House-keepers, and who either from unavoidable Misfortunes or the Expences of maintaining large Families are reduced to real Want.”)*

*Capitalisation not mine!

Listen to a Londoner: Marsha Moore

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

Marsha Moore, 36

A native Canadian, Marsha has lived and worked in London for the past six years. Her first book, 24 Hours London (Prospera Publishing 2009), was inspired by her love for her adopted city.

LLO: Where are you from originally, how did you end up in London and how long have you been in this fabulous city?
MM:
I’m from Canada originally. I came to London six years ago as a teacher, met my husband here, got married and stayed! I miss Canada but London is home to me now. As a full-time writer, it’s got a fantastic literary scene and I’ve been able to meet and network with lots of other writers.

LLO: As the author of 24 Hours London and 24 Hours Paris, which city do you prefer and why?
MM:
Paris is such a beautiful city that you can’t help but be stunned by how perfectly groomed it appears to be. It reminds me of entering my mother’s room as a child – you’re fascinated by everything but afraid to touch it unless you somehow mess it up. London is greyer, less appealing visually, and less ordered, but you feel somehow like you can dig in and get your hands dirty. So I have to say – as much as I like Paris – I love living in London.

LLO: I’ve got 24 hours to kill in London and want to get off the tourist track. What do you suggest?
MM:
While it’s not exactly secret, wandering along the Thames on the  Southbank – preferably in good weather – is one of my favourite things to do. You’ve got the British Film Institute, The National Theatre, the Royal Festival Hall and the Tate Modern all within a kilometer, as well as brilliant views over the river! London’s markets also can’t be missed – try Spitalfields and Columbia Road on a Sunday for flowers to frou frou (and don’t miss out Brick Lane along the way), and Borough Market for food. In the north of the city is Hampstead Heath, where you can wander through the trees, fly a kite and take a dip in a pond…and forget you’re in a mega-metropolis!

LLO: What’s your favourite late-night London venue/activity?
MM:
The energy in Soho is so amazing I could soak it up all night! The buzz of the streets, the swarms of crowds outside West End theatres… for me, it’s what London is all about. There are loads of great spots in Soho but I like LAB for drinks, Pulcinella for pizza and Balans for late-night (or early morning!) dinners. The Curzon also has midnight cinema once a month, where you can chill out and watch films until morning.

LLO: Where in London do you go for new inspiration if writer’s block strikes?
MM:
London has so many great green spaces and I always find a wander through them clears my head! I love the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, in particular – there’s nothing better than grabbing a coffee at the Lido and watching the boats drift up and down. But my favourite writing spot is my office, where I can stare out the window for hours watching the double-deckers storm by and absorbing the rhythm of the street.

LLO: Favourite bookshop in the capital and why?
MM:
London’s bursting with brilliant bookshops – John Sandoe and Foyles, to name a few – but my favourite has to be Daunt. Enter here and you feel like you’ve entered a shrine to the printed word! Books are arranged by country –  you can seek out your interest and browse the novels, non-fiction and guides with awe. The store also has branches in Holland Park, Chelsea, Belsize Park and Hampstead, but it is the Marylebone store – located in an original Edwardian bookstore – that is truly amazing.

LLO: What’s the best part about living in your postcode?
MM:
I live in Kensington, and I love it! It has brash new shops and restaurants mixed with small independent ones that look like they’ve been around for ages. Pubs are tucked away off busy pavements, and elegant terraced houses with private squares line the streets. You get a sense of what the city must have been like a hundred years ago. You’re also close to Kensington Gardens – where you can lounge by the gazebo in the summer and listen to music – and Holland Park, with its wonderful peacocks.

LLO: Best London discovery while working on your book?
MM:
I’ve found out so many great things about the city while working on the book that it’s hard to narrow it down! But one of my favourite locations is Lower Marsh Street, close to Waterloo. I’d been to the station so many times, but I had no idea this small street – full of gems like I Knit London (where you can drink beer and knit) and Scooterworks (a café in a former repair shop) – existed!

LLO: Which London-based writers do you most admire?
MM:
Tough question!  I am massive fan of chick lit (I have my own chick-lit novel being published next year), and London has provided a great setting for many chick-lit novels. Helen Fielding, the author of Bridget Jones’ Diary, used to live in Notting Hill. Sophie Kinsella, who lives just outside of London, is also one of my favourites. I love to see the city through the eyes of their main characters.

LLO: Most unusual restaurant or pub you’ve come across that’s worth a visit?
MM:
Definitely has to be Ye Olde Mitre! Walk down Hatton Garden and between numbers 8 and 10, you’ll come to an arched entryway into an alley with a sign stating ‘Ye Olde Mitre 1546’. Enter the alley and you’ll see a pub many locals have yet to discover. Although the current building only dates back to the eighteenth century, the pub has existed since 1547 when it was built to serve the servants of the nearby Palace of the Bishops of Ely. The trunk of a cherry tree has been preserved in the corner of the bar, and legend has it that Elizabeth I danced the maypole around it!

Thanks Marsha!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.