Every so often you come across a blog that grabs you. You inevitably find it at 11pm and before you know it it’s two in the morning and you’re greedily reading every post they’ve ever published.
The Humans of New York blog is one of those blogs. It’s a simple concept executed to perfection. Uplifting, inspiring, thought-provoking… all those adjectives that don’t come close to describing how you really feel.
I love it when a small piece of a New Yorker’s life appears in my blog reader during the day. Sometimes it’s just the distraction I need to focus.
“I was never once afraid to fight. I was a brawler. A bull. I even fought in Madison Square Garden. But it knocked me out for a whole year when my mom died.”
“Saddest moment? How am I supposed to choose between losing my parents and seeing my friends die in Vietnam? I don’t categorize those things. Listen, a person is like a rubber band ball. We’ve all got a lot of bad rubber bands, and a lot of good rubber bands, and they’re all wrapped up together. And you’ve got to have both types of bands or your rubber band ball ain’t gonna bounce. And no use trying to untangle them. You know what I’m saying?”
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” “A mom.” “What’s going to be the hardest part about being a mom?” “Bath time.”
“If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of people, what would it be?” “Be kind and thoughtful.” “What’s your greatest struggle right now?” “Being kind and thoughtful. Because I’ve got some friends that are driving me freaking nuts.”
“The mixture of difference and indifference can be described as cosmopolitanism. In social science this term does not refer to chic clothing or suave manners; it names more fundamentally a sense of comfort and security in the midst of strangers. The essence of this comfort I think can be explained as follows: cosmopolitanism consists of stimulation by the presence of others but not identification with them.” Richard Sennett
Each Thursday I post a photo from the past, usually with a few words about where and when it was taken.
As a teenager I was lucky enough to spend a week in the city of Boston. I flew over for a family celebration and on my last day there my cousins kindly took me on a trip around the city. I think we grabbed some lunch in Quincy Market and I must have taken this photo, of buildings reflected on a building, on our way there.
If you know what this building is, or can name the reflected buildings, please let me know!
A couple of months ago I received* a beautiful book, A London Year: Daily Life in the Capital in Diaries, Journals and Letters, in the post. It’s the type of mail you dream of – a heavy book desperate to be opened and read with a cup of tea. A London Year is an anthology featuring entries from Tudor times to the twenty-first century, covering 365 days of city life.
I never sat down that evening with the book and a cup of tea. Instead I decided to save it for the next day, and read one entry a day in keeping with the theme of the book. Obviously, this never happened.
Today, on Remembrance Day, I finally decided to pick it up and read what was said about 11 November. As we remember those who gave their lives so we could live our own, Siegfried Sassoon highlights what life in London was like in 1918.
I got to London about 6:30 and found masses of people in streets and congested Tubes, all waving flags and making fools of themselves – an outburst of mob patriotism. It was a wretched wet night, and very mild. It is a loathsome ending to the loathsome tragedy of the last four years.
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).
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.
There is a secret garden down a cobbled side street in front of a desolate church in London. It is a place of sanctuary amongst all the noise and bustle of the capital and I feel like I step back in time whenever I park myself down on a bench. It’s my secret place but if you want to visit enough then do a little research and you can enjoy it too!
When it is time to leave I pass this sign (your clue). It always makes me smile.
I romanticise New York all out of proportion. So much so that I dedicated a large chunk of my studies to the city as it fascinates and excites me. When I was younger there was no where else that I wanted to live.
As I’ve grown older and wiser my love for the city has started to fade. I’d like to visit again, but it is no longer at the top of my list. As for living there… well, I think London is more suited to my tastes. Which is just as well as I love my life in London and why risk trading that for the fantasy of a place I barely know?
There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these three trembling cities the greatest is the last — the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is the third city that accounts for New York’s high-strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion.
Here is New York – E.B.White
Oh what can I say… I will always find an excuse to worm a gem from Here is New York into a piece of writing.
Anyway, this post is really about a Financial Times article (Life & Arts section, naturally) that looks at creating attractive cities. Rather than looking to the future it compares a number of cities around the world and attempts to briefly identify what makes them beautiful. My favourite part of the article is the list of Edwin Heathcote’s ‘Beautiful moments in cities’.
His ‘beautiful moments’ take place in London, Istanbul and Lisbon, amongst others. I disagree with each of his suggestions which is simply wonderful as I truly believe that when we describe a city as beautiful, we are referring to our own special moment of beauty in a set urban space. It is personal, subjective and we believe it with unwavering conviction.
As a little project I’m working on a list of my own personal moments, and will share these soon. For now I would love it if you could inspire and educate us with your suggestions, so please share your own ‘Beautiful moments in cities’!
Sorry for the hiatus – I’ve been travelling to the exotic, exciting, cultural, incredible and beautiful city of Istanbul! Can you tell that I loved it?!
We were there for a week but still needed much more time to explore the historic city. There will be a post to come with pictures and I’m also thinking of putting together a travel guide blog post to Istanbul based on our time there.
There is so much to see and do in Istanbul; from the historic palaces, Ottoman influences and stunning mosques to the modern museums, independent shops and incredible restaurants, diversity and adventure is guaranteed.
I’ll be back on the blogging bandwagon in the next couple of days, but don’t forget to name your dream London location to win £200 to spend in London in the meantime. You can also check out a guest post from Hilary Osborne about her London life, guiding you through what Tottenham Borders can offer.