Tag Archives: london

Does your mother know?

Food is love – so what better way to treat your mum on mother’s day than to take her out for a food-love celebration. Here is a piece I wrote for Food Network TV about where to take your mum for food loving fun tomorrow.

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Village East

We didn’t speak all night. I hadn’t seen the friend opposite me for eight years – but the food was too delicious to talk of anything else… click here for more of the Village East review.

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Franz Ferdidandy

Alex of Franz Ferdinand by gussifer.My friend and I were both in need of release, which is exactly what Franz Ferdinand provided. I had spent my day clearing up after a sick cat, and Friend had bought tickets for her boy, but since their break up last week, invited me along as a less painful alternative. As we snapped our heads back and forth to the irresistible Franz rhythm, the day’s worries trickled away with the sticky cider blackberry running below our feet.  The band… More…

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I spot a trainspotter

Trainspotters make me cry. Out of the hundreds of commuters passing through Victoria Station this morning, only two or three strayed off their morning routine to admire the Steam Dream train pulled into platform three that is taking a trainload of expectant passengers on a day out to Stratford.

As I stand amongst the excited passengers and trainspotters who have come up to the front of the train for the view, I feel a tear come to my eye. There is something about a grown man getting excited about a locomotive. A gentleman in beige trousers and a sensible jacket stands in front of the train as a stranger takes his photograph, “Yes, yes. Just press the button! Oh I can’t believe it! I was just passing by!” he manages to say through his grin, “This has made my day!” It just breaks my heart.

Well, it’s not that it breaks my heart exactly, but in that moment, I feel us both to be acutely human. There is the fragility of an obsession amongst the steam. It’s painfully beautiful. And reassuring… his hurried steps to get to the front of the train. The spiral bound notepad full of numbers I don’t understand, 390-001, 278-151, 340-003, and I can’t even see this mystical numerology marked anywhere on the train. I want to stop one of the men and ask him what he does with all those numbers. I want to buy him a cup of tea from Journey’s Friend and sit on the platform edge, our feet dangling over the rails, as he tells me which brand of pencil he prefers and I brush his comb-over.

I realise this obsession has more to do with what I lack, than what these unlikely Casanovas possess. We often take lovers who live out a side of ourselves that we cannot. I’m a successive failed poet via my previous boyfriends, but since they have not satisfied my untapped creative urges, perhaps trainspotters are the way forward? I often get frustrated by my fluctuations in self-discipline and dedication, and trainspotters have these by the carriage-load. As I make my way back to the main concourse, I wonder whether a trainspotter would help me be more focused.  The hotshot cityboys around me on the underground might focus on working nine to five, but I am unavoidably intrigued by someone who is willing to stand on a platform at five to nine in the morning, searching for a fleeting glimpse of a number amongst the steel and high voltage. I get out my notepad and begin to write, “trainspotters make me cry…”

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london calling

My first day back in London is spent sleeping and walking the streets of Brixton in a similar catatonic state. I feel isolated being back home, and even more so in a part of town where the taste, smells and sounds of the streets are far from what I know. And yet, as I relax into the unenthusiastic rain of an early September day, there is something reassuring in the isolation; it confirms the feeling I already have. The pound coin feels too heavy, the London accents shock me, I practise what I’m going to say in case I’m not understood, I even fall for the classic mistake of looking the wrong way when I’m crossing the road.

 

Dried fish heads, stalls specialising in African fabric, tripe, reggae CDs, jerk chicken, the errant green aroma of smoke on a street corner, intricate hair designs and large gold earrings. London is my home, but I don’t belong here. It is lively on the streets; a sister lays her brother across her lap and tickles his belly. He giggles, and laughs louder when he sees that I am watching. A man sells me two packets of bin liners, and thanks me for my business as if he means it. A vendor slips a silver watch over the wrist of a new customer. Butchers joke with a young apprentice, as he wipes his hands on his blood stained overall.

 

I am white, I think, as I cross the street. I walk through Brixton Arcade, looking up at the signs and rooftops with the obvious unfamiliarity of a foreigner. I can easily spot another foreigner abroad, just by the frequency with which they look at the tops of buildings. When you live in a city for a while, you cease to see that buildings even have a top floor; all that exists is the street level, until you travel abroad and start looking up. But when you start looking up in your own city, you give yourself away as a cultural refugee.

 

As I come back to London after two years in Vancouver, Canada, I have the self-elected exile’s plight of rootlessness. What do I expect when I refuse to stay in one place for more than two years at a time? Whenever I move to a new city, I am anxious to try each restaurant, immerse myself in my surroundings, meet people, join clubs, be outdoors, and be open to whatever life offers me. I had mistaken London for a place that I know, but is all new. All possible.

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