Category Archives: Life in London

Time of the month

shopping

Yesterday I visited Brent Foodbank and learnt that they, and other Foodbanks across the country, desperately need sanitary towel donations.

“No one should be worrying that the newspaper they’re using as a sanitary towel might leak” – Nigel Webster in the New Statesman.

If you can, please donate. Find your nearest Foodbank here.

Image: Tom Sodoge via Unsplash

Walking in London in 1992

Lee originally left this a comment on my post about Walking in London, but I think it’s interesting enough to share again here.

I wasn’t old enough to spend my days walking in London in 1992, but Lee’s painted a pretty different picture to the London I see on my walks today.

When I first came to London in 1992, I was doing work placements. Then I got my first job which paid 4.5k a year. My pay didn’t cover a flat, so I stayed in various places for free with friends. At the weekends, I’d walk everywhere. I hardly knew London, but with a Travelcard, a belly full of pound slices of pizza with dodgy coleslaw I discovered most of London. I’d walk from Belsize Park to Blackheath and back via Maida Vale, from Burnt Oak to Camden, from Greenwich to Oxford Street. I’d make it a rule to walk somewhere I’d never walked before. Detours were good. There was no plan.

I got to meet people and started to love London. It’s changed a lot. There are few places that offer solitude any more. The South Bank used to be quiet in places. I even saw Banksy before he was famous putting up an artwork (there were a few of them, it wasn’t him alone).

I loved looking up at buildings and catching glimpses of how things used to be, how they changed, imagining who lived in places and how and why areas evolved. The layers of history are still there to see.

What saddens me now, is that 24 years ago, the grottyness was old, the neglect was os something that used to be beautiful but was now falling down, or an old shop sign that had been left. This neglect was discovered and cherished (like Shoreditch) and made beautiful again (when it wasn’t redeveloped).Now the grottyness is new, plastic, cheap, gaudy or fake.

Lee Newham

Do you have memories of London from other years? I’d love to hear more.

13 ways to celebrate Christmas in London

christmas in londonChristmas spirit doesn’t have to be about consumerism. For me it’s all about finding ways to embrace the cold winter months and spend as much time as possible with my friends and family. Here are 13 things I do each year to celebrate Christmas in London.

Christmas in London

1) Carols by Candlelight

Union Chapel in Islington is a working church, live music venue and home to The Margins Project for London’s homeless. Each year the not-for-profit space hold a free Carols by Candlelight event that’s the highlight of my Christmas in London. Think classic carols, silly tunes and festive thoughts – with a side of mulled wine and mince pies.

2) Create your own Christmas Eve rituals

I think it’s because I’ve never celebrated Christmas Day that I’m obsessed with Christmas Eve rituals. I just find them fascinating! I love that rituals have been passed down through generations and that new families create their own special ones too (here’s a Christmas Eve ritual that I love).

3) Ice skating

Since breaking my leg I don’t take any chances, so you won’t catch me on the ice this year! However if you feel like taking the risk there are lots of places to go ice skating in London this Christmas. My favourite places to ice skate are at the Tower of London and on Hampstead Heath – although the view from the Natural History rink looks rather special too.

4) Christmas cocktails

I love a mug of mulled wine as much as everyone else but it’s good to mix it up every now and then… Fancy making your own Christmas cocktail? Try this apple pie cocktail recipe that’s guaranteed to warm you up on a cold day.

5) Cologne Christmas markets

Sometimes the best way to celebrate Christmas is to leave London! This year I went to the Cologne Christmas markets for the first time and they were wonderful. The atmosphere is relaxed, friendly and festive and there’s lots to see and do. Unlike Winter Wonderland in London, all the Christmas markets in Cologne sell reasonably priced mulled wine (3 Euros a mug) and excellent street food that will leave you with change from a fiver.

6) Go to the ballet

A few years ago my friend Emily arranged for us all to go to the ballet before Christmas. Not only was The Nutcracker at the London Coliseum a truly festive extravaganza, but it was also the perfect excuse to see your closest friends right before the big day. If you’re not afraid of heights, the seats at the top will set you back just £10-£15 – not bad when you consider tickets to see a popstar cost ten times that amount.

7) Take a walk through London streets

When everyone else is panicking in Oxford Street the weekend before Christmas, wrap up warm, grab your camera and take a long walk through your favourite London streets. That’s what I did in Bloomsbury a few years ago, before spending the rest of the afternoon at the British Museum. A pretty perfect day out.

8) Farewell to Christmas at the Geffrye Museum

Visit the Geffrye Museum on 6 January for their traditional burning of the holly and the ivy. I went in 2013 and loved every second. They’ll be carol singing, mulled wine and Twelfth Night cake outside in their beautiful garden – it’s not to be missed.

If you can’t wait to visit Hoxton, the Geffrye Museum can will still meet your festive needs in December with their 400 Years of Seasonal Traditions in English Homes exhibition.

9) Go to the theatre

My entire family love Elf, so when we heard they were turning it into a musical this Christmas we had to get tickets. We dressed up in our finest Christmas sweaters, donned novelty head ware and settled down for an evening of laughter at the Dominion Theatre.

10) Volunteer

Crisis at Christmas always need volunteers. Whether you have a specialist skill like hairdressing or just want to make sure the homeless are warm and fed this winter, Crisis need you. More information here.

11) Get crafty

Search Pinterest for Christmas craft ideas or attend a workshop in London to try making something new. The Wallace Collection has a couple of sessions that look good – the glass painting one looks particularly interesting.

12) Visit Trafalgar Square

One of these years I’m going to do what I’ve always said I’ve wanted to – visit Trafalgar Square on Christmas morning. I presume it’s super quiet and it must be magical to visit somewhere that’s usually swimming with people. Alternatively visit sometime before Christmas to see the tree and enjoy one of the many free carol concerts taking place in the run up to the 25th.

13) Visit the Charles Dickens Museum

Nothing screams Christmas in London louder than Charles Dickens. Take a journey through Christmas Past and see for yourself how Christmas was celebrated in Victorian times.

How do you celebrate Christmas in London?

London Life

Friends, family, a little wander and some new candles – what more could a girl want from a Bank Holiday weekend? It kicked off with a bang on Friday night, as I spent time with the lovely ladies I work with. Our resident expert baker treated us to a five-course meal, complete with champagne cocktails and the best homemade smoked salmon blinis I’ve ever had. 

  

Champagne and canapés 

Saturday involved a trip into the West End where we replenished our candle collection in Muji and I picked up my first bottle of Glow Tonic from Pixi which I’m already impressed with just two days in. Later on we headed back towards Mayfair for dinner and cocktails at Mamounia (review coming soon).

  
Surprisingly good cocktails (and unsurprisingly bad photography)

We woke up early on Sunday and headed to Colombia Road to pick up some flowers. Between the peonies and the candles our flat is smelling quite heavenly! Friends were coming over for lunch so we picked up beigels at the 24hr Beigel Bakery on Brick Lane. I think it’s the first time I’ve bought food there whilst completely sober…

   
Colombia Road Flower Market

 

What Instagram fan can resist snapping a classic car?! Seen near Colombia Road.

On Sunday evening I saw Pitch Perfect 2 which did not disappoint. It’s just as good as the first film and I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much at a film. Fingers crossed for a Pitch Perfect 3.

Today we went for another walk in Wanstead Park, followed by lunch at The Larder on Wanstead High Street again. It’s becoming an alarmingly frequent but most enjoyable routine…

Have a great week ahead!

P.S. A courgetti Pad Thai recipe I’m obsessed with

Christmas Eve rituals

christmas eve rituals

On Christmas Eve you’ll find me and my family in the living room with a cheese plate and plenty of red wine for company. We might play cards or put a funny DVD on, and laugh ourselves silly until we are fully relaxed. Then it’s an early night for me in festive pyjamas so I can wake up early in the morning.

I love a good tradition and once had a friend whose Christmas Eve ritual included receiving a special gift pack from her parents on the 24th. It contained the same stuff each year including chocolate, pyjamas and a new toothbrush which I thought was adorable! I also love the Icelandic tradition of giving everyone in your household a new book on Christmas Eve that A Cup of Jo shared recently. I can’t think of anything nicer than curling up in bed with a mug of hot chocolate and a new book (preferably with snow falling outside!).

I love hearing about Christmas Eve rituals and traditions. What do you get up to? Do you go out clubbing every year with friends or are you a homebody like me?

Life in London

I’ve had a great week in London. It ended on a high with a fantastic day at work on Friday followed by celebratory drinks, a Saturday afternoon catching up with good friends in London, a quiet Saturday night playing cards at home and a Sunday spent south of the river in Bermondsey (really regretting not visiting Pizarro again now!).

It feels so good to get out and about in the city again, just in time for summer. I may have overdone it a little this week as my leg really aches, but I couldn’t help myself. I have so much to catch up on. I’ll take it easy this week but when I was sofa-bound I promised myself that I’ll say yes to every opportunity that comes my way – and I’m not forgetting that promise in a hurry.

Here are a few photos from my week:

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Loving my five year journal – I’ve been filling it in religiously on a daily basis; tackling the make-up drawer and having a good clear out. The first eyeshadow I ever bought? Bye bye.

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Can you miss a station? Because I really missed Blackfriars and the view from the Northbank entrance; the cutest bag for Father’s Day.

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Lazy afternoon drinking Pimms with friends; tackling an epic list of stuff to do at work and drinking far too much coffee from my favourite mug (although it’s impossible to keep calm when you’re a Spurs fan).

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Playing Kalooki on Saturday night (this hand even produced my first ever Kalooki!); getting up to no good in a gallery on Sunday.

Have a great week, Carla