Author Archives: londonisforliving.com

Unadopted street, Hampstead

Frognal Way unadopted street sign, Hampstead, London

I was taking a stroll through Hampstead recently when I came across this street sign for Frognal Way, one of the most expensive streets in the UK. I’d never noticed ‘unadopted’ text on a sign before and I was rather intrigued.

Apparently an unadopted street is a street that is not maintained by the local Highway Authority at public expense. This official description is taken from the new snazzy gov.uk website:

‘Unadopted’ roads are those roads not maintained by a highway authority as defined by Highways Act 1980. The description of such roads covers a wide range of circumstances.

For most unadopted residential roads the duty to maintain it falls to the frontagers, ie the owners of the property fronting that road, which may include those where the side, or length, of their property fronts the unadopted road. Those buying property on an unadopted street should be made aware of the situation regarding their property and their related liability for the road. Under Highways Act 1980, local highway authorities may adopt streets that they are not currently responsible for maintaining, but this is purely a matter for local decision.

Mystery solved, although I’d love to hear from someone who lives on an unadopted road about their responsibilities for it.

New releases: Books about London

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Last week I received two new books in the post; London Villages: Explore the City’s Best Local Neighbourhoods by Zena Alkayat and A London Year: 365 Days of City Life in Diaries, Journals & Letters.

London Villages is a beautifully designed book that explores ‘villages’ like Exmouth Market, East Dulwich and Columbia Road whilst A London Year is an anthology of diary entries from famous diarists, with one entry for every day of the year.

I’ll let you know my thoughts in due course – A London Year could take me quite a while to plough through, but I’m looking forward to the experience!

Do you have a favourite book about London? I’m interested in your suggestions for both fiction and non-fiction (it’s always good to add to the stack of books on my bedside table).

Thanks to Frances Lincoln for the books.

Battersea Power Station Open House London

Where to visit during Open House London weekend

Battersea Power Station Open House London

Battersea Power Station, Wandsworth (c) Battersea Power Station

It’s Open House London this weekend so head out and explore some of the capital’s amazing architecture.

Be inspired by Modernist homes and Victorian buildings. Take a look around Battersea Power Station one last time before it is developed into fancy pants apartments or head underground to Churchill’s original bunker in Neasden.

There are so many places I want to visit so I’m going to have to narrow them down to a select few. I fancy the Lloyd’s of London building, the Bank of England and Bells and Belfries at St Botolph Aldgate. I love the City of London, especially on a Sunday when it is eerily quiet, so I’ll be walking the back streets to get to each destination.

Where will you be visiting over the weekend?

Homemade bread for Ploughmans lunch

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Today I made bread for the first time. Just a simple white bloomer but it has given me the bug and I won’t be buying bread from now on (says she in her post first loaf glory).

First bakes rarely turn out well for me but this bread turned out better than I could have imagined. The house smells fantastic, the first warm slice with some cheese and red wine made a delicious Sunday supper and I’m looking forward to a Ploughmans packed lunch tomorrow.

Have you ever baked bread? Let me know what you suggest for round two!

A Cup of Jo: 10 Surprising Things About Parenting

A Cup of Jo is one of my all time favourite lifestyle blogs. Her posts are consistent and the writing is just so likeable, for want of a better word.

As the queen of blogging prep she lined up a series of guest posts to keep the content coming whilst giving birth to her second child, including a series about motherhood in different countries. Parenting is not a topic I ever read about but learning about different countries and cultures through this perspective presented a unique take on different lifestyles.

I thought I’d round up the 10 most surprising facts I learnt about parenting, and life, in other countries through reading the posts. Here goes:

On appliances in Northern Ireland: ‘Priorities are completely different when it comes to home appliances. Washing machines are tiny. Refrigerators are tiny. I haven’t had a freezer for a year and half. But every home has an electric tea kettle. EVERY SINGLE HOME.’

On clothes in Congo: ‘Congolese women have serious style. Everywhere you look, they’re wearing fabulous, wild-colored, curve-hugging dresses. Old, young, thick, thin. There are no allowances for “mom-uniforms,” like workout clothes. If I wear sweatpants on a vacation day, the nannies all give me looks and suggest I have a dress made. Hiring a tailor for some custom work is not something reserved for the rich in Congo.”

On greetings in Mexico: ‘Mexican mamas do this really great thing where they teach their children to greet adults with a peck on the cheek. It doesn’t matter if the child is 2, 12 or 22. It doesn’t matter if the child runs into you at the local market or comes into your home for dinner. A well-mannered child will always saludar bien—greet properly with a kiss.’

On walking to school in Japan: “All the kids in our town meet in the road and walk to school together…as young as seven. The elder people in the neighborhood volunteer to make sure the kids safely cross the roads.’

On being a woman in Abu Dhabi: ‘while I was pregnant with Elena and went to the local hospital for routine visits, my husband would have to sit in a separate male waiting room.’

On street art in Mexico: ‘Diego Rivera, one of Mexico’s most beloved artists, believed that art should be enjoyed by everyone—especially the working class and the poor. So he dedicated himself to painting murals in public spaces. Mexico City is all about this idea of “art for the people.” ‘

On friendliness in Norway: ‘there’s no American pressure to be friendly and “on” all the time. It’s okay to be quiet and keep to yourself. I love getting a haircut here because I don’t feel pressure to make small talk with the stylist.’

On breastfeeding in Congo: ‘Mama NouNou told me that in her experience, if there is a baby crying on the bus, all the women on the bus shout, “Feed the baby! Give it the breast!” She explained it as, “Everyone wants the mama to know that she should feel comfortable feeding her baby—no matter where she is.”‘

On community in Japan: ‘Community is everything here. The town holds lots of events, and everyone goes. Once a month everyone gets together to clean the neighborhood and local Buddhist temple. When you’re out walking around you always have to “do greeting,” which is a formal bow and hello. It’s so nice, but also sometimes I think, leave me alone! In New York I could be anonymous and never know my neighbors.’

On school in Norway: ‘Most kids here start Barnehage [pre-school] when they’re one year old—it’s subsidized by the government to encourage people to go back to work. You pay $300 a month and your kids can stay from 8am to 5pm. They spend a ton of time outside, mostly playing and exploring nature. At some Barnehage, they only go inside if it’s colder than 14 degrees.’

On midwife visits in Northern Ireland: The absolute best part of having a baby in Northern Ireland (besides it being free) is that you don’t have to leave your house for any pesky doctor’s appointments. The first week I was home with Ollie, a midwife came to my house every day to weigh him and see how I was feeling. Once she finished all her visits, the “Health Visitor” took over, and now I never have to leave the house to take any of my kids to their wellness checks. It’s amazing. I’m still trying to figure out why the U.S. doesn’t do it. It would solve so many early postpartum issues.

On birth in Congo: ‘For a woman who gives birth in one of the many tiny maternity clinics around the city, the result of not paying the bill is often hospital lockdown—for mom, baby or both. We visited a friend’s charity clinic where women can receive care for no fee, but most American women would be shocked by the conditions. We wrote about them here.’ Please take a look at the photos – Carla.

Read all of A Cup of Jo Surprising things about Parenting around the world

I really encourage you to take a look at some of these posts. Living in the UK I found that reading the Northern Ireland one allowed me to see elements of British culture, life and politics so clearly. The 12 year old boys who sit around drinking tea after pushing each other around in the mud, the healthcare system which allows you to get whatever you need during pregnancy for free and the children’s books full of dark, adult humour that is just so typically British… it all made me smile.

These posts also gave me a glimpse into how others live around the world. There are cultural elements in practice that I adore and it felt like a privilege to learn about them.

Annie Hall at Fulham Palace London

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Annie Hall is one of my favourite films (it’s up there with Manhattan, and yes I most definitely am a Woody Allen film addict) so I was excited to see it as part of the Nomad Cinema line-up.

The Nomad Cinema is a roaming pop-up cinema that screens films in beautiful and sometimes scary locations across London. Last year they screened The Shining at Brompton Cemetery but I wasn’t brave enough to face a night of terror like that.

As part of their programme for this summer they screened an Evolution of Rom-Com series in Fulham Palace, London. The location was admittedly rather romantic and I gushed at the fairy lights all night long.

Have you been to an outdoor cinema before? It is great fun especially if you take a picnic and watch the sun set around you. My only tip is to take lots of blankets, cushions and warm clothes – even in August it gets rather chilly at night. I didn’t take enough so was shivering through the whole Annie Hall in LA scene – not ideal.

As you might have guessed from the picture there was a photo booth and obviously we couldn’t resist the opportunity to act out the lobster scene. It was great fun and really got us in the mood for the film. For those of you that haven’t seen it, I’ll leave you with a few of my favourite Annie Hall quotes:

“I was thrown out of college for cheating on the metaphysics exam; I looked into the soul of the boy sitting next to me.”

“Don’t you see the rest of the country looks upon New York like we’re left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers? I think of us that way sometimes and I live here.”

“You, you, you’re like New York, Jewish, left-wing, liberal, intellectual, Central Park West, Brandeis University, the socialist summer camps and the, the father with the Ben Shahn drawings, right, and the really, y’know, strike-oriented kind of, red diaper, stop me before I make a complete imbecile of myself.”

For those in London you might like to know that the Nomad Cinema is run by the same people behind the Lexi Cinema. So the next time you feel ripped off paying extortionate megaplex ticket price head to the Lexi instead.

Tickets courtesy of Samsung Smart TV

Nicholas Hawksmoor: Methodical Imaginings photography exhibition at Somerset House

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A month ago in the heart of British summertime I went to see the free Nicholas Hawksmoor photography exhibition at Somerset House. Nicholas Hawksmoor was an English architect who is best known today as the man behind a number of London’s churches.

I rather like churches. I find many quite scary inside, especially when there are few people around and an echo is rumbling around the large open spaces, but that’s my imagination running away with me. From the outside I marvel at the architecture and if there is a bell tower I’m always enticed to step inside.

The spiritual flame burned brightly in the Church of England at the opening of the eighteenth century‘ and the commission for building fifty new churches was created. Nicholas Hawksmoor was appointed one of the surveyors and the Methodical Imaginings exhibition at Somerset House looks at the seven remaining London churches still standing today.

Hélène Binet is an architectural photographer who according to Daniel Libeskind ‘exposes architecture’s achievements, strength, pathos and fragility’ every time she takes a photograph. Once again my knowledge of photography is minimal but I must admit this statement rings true – the fragility of the churches certainly came through in the photographs.

I walked around the exhibition with a sense of amazement although I can’t articulate why. One question I asked myself was what does their London location add? Even to an uneducated eye these churches are magnificent in their own right, but what they add to the history and architecture of London increases their importance. Knowing that these churches influenced other architects and their future London masterpieces as well as realising that his work has appeared in the literature of T.S. Eliot, Charles Dickens and Alan Bennett (amongst others) elevates their standing in contemporary London further.

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Only 12 of the 50 churches were ever completed, eight of which were designed by Hawksmoor. The exhibition might have come to an end but seven of the buildings are still standing today:

  • St George-in-the-East
  • St Anne’s Limehouse
  • St George’s Bloomsbury
  • Christ Church Spitalfields
  • St Luke, Old Street in Finsbury
  • St Mary Woolnoth in the City
  • St Alfege in Greenwich

I quickly created a Google Map to give you an idea of the distance between each Church. If you fancy a walk that takes you to the London Wall, lets you stop for beigels at the Brick Lane bakery and really stretches your legs this could be quite a nice one. Perhaps leave St Alfege in Greenwich for another day and take the time to hike up Greenwich Park too to get a great view over the city of London while you are in the area.

All images: Hélène Binet

Exhibitions at Somerset House

Somerset House is a beautiful building located on the Northbank of the River Thames. Until 1775 it was a Tudor Palace but today it is a neo-classical building and ‘an inspiring space for art, culture and creative exchange’.

When a building is this beautiful on the outside it is a shame at times to be confined to the inside. This is why I love how they use the outdoor space in different seasons, with open-air cinema screenings and water fountains in the summer, and London’s most romantic ice rink in the winter.

Over the next few days I’m going to blog about the inside, specifically three different exhibitions I attended recently. On the hottest day of the year and between numerous breaks for iced coffee I explored: Nicholas Hawksmoor: Methodical Imaginings; Blumenfeld Studio: New York 1941 – 1960 and Miles Aldridge: I Only Want You to Love Me.

I’ll do my best to translate my mesmerised thoughts into articulate prose over the next couple of days. Please feel free to chip in with your comments too – I’ll update the blog with your thoughts.