Lifting my petticoats high, I raced down the track and leapt up onto the flying carpet today to join in with hundreds of other bloggers from all over the world who are participating in the One World, One Heart Giveaway. This is an annual event hosted by Lisa at A Whimsical Bohemian who started the party back in 2007 with just a handful of bloggy friends. It has grown immeasurably since then, and Lisa’s initial premise still holds true. She says, "The blogging world is vast with more blogs created all the time....and through blogging we can learn new things, read about other countries, learn of new ways to promote those vital issues, support causes as well as learn about new artists, writers, photographers, et al. By having a list of those with a giveaway it is like a home tour with a map......going from place to place to see how others "live" and perhaps along the way make fabulous new connections and maybe win a door prize in the process."
The door prize going to the winner of the Aerial Armadillo draw is this 8” x 6”acrylic/oil pastel painting of my interpretation of a twilight London. The painting is on 480gsm Fabriano 100% cotton rag and will be double matted, so you just need to pop it into a frame of your choice and voila – it’s ready to hang!
In order to participate, you should leave a comment after THIS post. The comments will close at 9 o'clock UK time on February 15th when I’ll do a random draw and then post the winner’s name the following day. I’ll be celebrating my birthday in Cape Town during February, so I will mail the painting (and a little memento from South Africa) to the winner of my draw from there…..so it may take just a little longer than normal to arrive with you wherever you are in the world!
“By seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can show.”
I thought it would be fun to have you all join me on the magic carpet today so that we can explore England together. More specifically, I felt you may like to know a little more about this country’s vibrant capital from the point of view of someone who lives there, so grab my hand, leap onto the flying carpet with me and we’ll join my daughter Alexandra in London. Alex knows London far better than I do so I’ll just ask the questions and she can do the talking!
How would you describe London?
Many people see London as the most creative and culturally important city in the world. It’s hard to disagree. The capital is home to some of the greatest museums, galleries, theatres and heritage sites in the world. London also punches above its weight in the creative industries and has produced a veritable wealth of artists, writers, musicians, film and theatre directors, architects and designers.
What does London mean to you?
London means the cosmopolitan, multilingual, polychromatic vibe emitted by carnivals, festivals and street markets which is significantly intensified by the silence to be found in some of the nation’s great monuments like the naves of medieval cathedrals, the galleries of the British Museum, the vastness of the Tate. It’s that contrast and juxtaposition that constitutes the excitement of London.
Is it important to have contacts before moving to a big city, or can you ‘go it alone’?
I think it’s vital to have contacts. London, like any major metropolis, can be very lonely if you don’t know anyone. I was lucky in that many of my closest school friends were already based in London when I started University here. They were fantastically supportive when I moved to the city which made everything so much easier for me
How long have you lived in London?
If you include the 3 years I was at SOAS*, I’ve been in London for nearly 8 years now. Yikes – that’s nearly a decade! (*School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London.)
Working life now?
I work for an independent classical music television company and absolutely love it.
I love what I do at the moment, but I’d like to get back to development at some stage and work for a grass roots organisation helping to empower women in Africa.
Is there anywhere you’d rather be?
Yes on a yacht in the South pacific, but I’ll settle for London at the moment!
Embarrassing story regarding city life that you can bear to admit to?
(Laughs) I’ve endured a lot of publically embarrassing moments in London, but I’d have to say the most toe curling experience involved a bus, a businessman and the Daily Telegraph.
I was on the bus when the driver (all notoriously bad at breaking suddenly – a requirement of the job apparently) simultaneously rounded a corner and slammed on the breaks. Trying to get into brace position in my perilously high heels I trod on a foot, tried to readjust, failed and ended up doing a ballerina-esque twirl into the lap of an elderly businessman who was deeply engrossed in his newspaper. We nodded politely at one another while I remained in his lap until the bus driver swung violently around another corner in the opposite direction at which point I was launched off the nice gentleman’s lap and back into the aisle where I slammed into the broad back of a very friendly Bob Marley look-a-like. Excruciatingly embarrassing, but one way I suppose, of getting to know the denizens of London!
Do you refute Prince Charles’ scathing remark that the London skyline is becoming "not just one carbuncle on the face of a much-loved friend, but a positive rash of them that disfigure precious views and will disinherit future generations of Londoners."?
I think London strikes quite a good balance between conservation and development.
There are some buildings I feel aren’t entirely fitting, but most of the more contemporary architecture complements the city skyline and more importantly it hasn’t been at the expense of those historical buildings and monuments for which London is renown.
London is home to many of the most impressive museums and art collections in the world, do you have a favourite?
For me it would have to be The Natural History Museum for it’s sheer size and the quality and quantity of their exhibits. The V & A is another favourite of mine and I love both the National Portrait Gallery and The Royal Academy for their exceptional photography and art exhibitions.
Give us a snippet about the last exhibition you went to?
I went to The Wildlife Photographer of the Year at the Natural History Museum. It was quite seriously mind-blowing. I was awestruck – both at the beauty the world has to offer and at the ability of those photographers to capture it on film.
There are new movie releases almost every week in or around Leicester Square – what have you seen recently that knocked your socks off?
In Search of a Midnight Kiss, an independent film set against the streets of New York on New Years Eve and The Visitor, which touches on immigration in Britain and is one of the most moving and beautifully made films I’ve seen in years.
The West End dazzles with its theatre billboards and thrums with the buzz of the latest productions. What is the most memorable/entertaining/shocking/beautifully crafted play you’ve seen lately?
Richard Greenberg’s Three Days of Rain at the Apollo was fantastic, as was Equus at the National Theatre. The latter lived up to the hype, which is rare in my opinion! War Horse at the New London Theatre is a must as well – take a box of tissues.
London is also famous for its huge choice of venues for the performing arts, which offer the very best of classical music, rock concerts, opera, modern dance and ballet. Any you’d recommend?
I would recommend Ain’t Nothing But The Blues on Kingly Str. It’s an intimate venue which offers the best live blues music in town and The Royal Albert Hall in South Kensington for classical music and opera. Of course there is no beating Sadler’s Wells for the best ballet the world has to offer!
What do you dislike about the city?
Tourists. But I do try and remember that I was one once so I try not to get irritated when they suddenly stop in their tracks to admire something and we collide!
What do you love about London?
I love the variety. London has so much to offer and despite having lived here for years, I’m still discovering parts of the city I didn’t know existed. I revel in the sense of diversity in this city, too. It’s wonderful when I’m on the tube or walking down the street and I see people of every different nationality and colour, speaking in different languages but all rubbing along together fine.
London, like New York, has its ‘villages’. Which part of London is your particular favourite?
I’m a North London Girl and rarely venture South. My favourite parts of North London include Camden, Marylebone, Notting Hill, Brick Lane and the Edgware Road.
The Big Smoke has plenty of green, open spaces and parks. Where would you go for a warm summer’s evening picnic with friends?
Parsons Green is great for a picnic with the girls. Greenwich Park is nice because it’s never too crowded and the views are wonderful. For people watching and Speakers Corner on Sunday it has to be Hyde Park.
The city still cuts a dash when it comes to global style. As a dedicated fashionista, where do you shop?
As a fashionista on a budget I tend towards Gap, H&M, East, Oasis and Zara.
All the top national and international designers have stores in London so if your daddy was on the Rich List, which couture house would you frequent?
Anya Hindmarch or Vera Wang.
What are the three must-have things you always need to hand?
An umbrella, an A-Z and plastic!
London has a vast miscellany of open-air markets which sell everything from organic produce, specialist food, antiques, art, clothes and general bric-à-brac. Which is your favourite?
Camden for clothes and Borough Market for food and sophisticated pub crawls.
The city is in the grip of a profound restaurant mania, despite the global recession. There are 43 starred Michelin restaurants in London, compared with 39 in New York, and ‘provenance’ (read locally raised”) is the buzzword on every foodie’s lips. Where do you eat out when you want a treat?
I try to take advantage of the fantastic restaurants London has to offer and use Top Table to book some of the more well known establishments because of the meal deals you can get via that site. Normally though, my favourite for brunch is the Wolseley and for sushi the wonderful Haki no Sana. Otherwise, there’s a really funky restaurant I like called Archipelago in Fitzrovia. The menu is a bit strange, you can have a wildebeest stew followed by a chocolate scorpion but the décor is fabulous – it’s like a little grotto full of plants and strange ornaments.
Where do you eat when you’re feeling skint?
At home … or round at a friend’s with a bottle in hand!
Where do you go to be defuzzed, manicured and coiffured?
Prince’s Palace on the Edgware Road – it’s a little ‘hole in the wall’ and the lovely lady who looks after me doesn’t speak English, but is ruthlessly efficient at defuzzing and a genius with coiffure! And it doesn’t cost the earth- and moon and stars - like many West End salons.
The London clubbing scene is reputed to be unrivalled. Tell us about your favourite haunts?
(Grins impishly) No idea, I’m far too old to go clubbing… If I had to go, it would probably be The Valmont Club in Chelsea or Mo*vida in Soho
London men – how do you rate ‘em?
It depends on where you are in London. The ‘Hooray Henrys’ are agonizingly boring, but I occasionally meet someone I like somewhere unexpected.
Sex in the city – how is it for you?
Well since my man and I parted nearly a year ago, it’s a bit like the Gobi Desert with only the very occasional oasis.
Being practical for a moment, London should be the greatest hunting-ground anywhere in Europe. Concentrated in a few square miles are literally millions of single men of all ages, shapes, sizes, nationalities and predilections. Is it as easy as it sounds?
Because the city is so big, and you tend to move in the same social circle it’s not always easy to meet new people. Therefore dating requires a certain amount of effort.
Any particular women who, in your opinion, have made an impact on the London scene in the last decade?
WAGs* - unfortunately, and Bob Geldof’s children, royal consorts and Gwyneth Paltrow. And lots of women who are regularly featured in gossip mags who don’t appear to do anything in particular. (*Wives and Girlfriends - of footballers)
If you could be some notable London luminary – now or in the past - for a day, who would it be?
Lady Ottoline Morrell. Her circle of friends – and lovers – was formidable!
It's impossible to think of life in London without taking into account what's underneath the city. What do you love, and hate, about the tube?
I love that you can get everywhere in London with a certain amount of ease. I don’t like the stifling heat of the Underground in summer or the ‘accidental’ bum graze when the tube is crowded.
Are London taxi drivers really as rude as their reputation suggests?
London taxi drivers are fantastic! They love to talk on a variety of subjects and are often very funny and almost always informative!
Of all the current movers and shakers on the London scene, who would you most like to have dinner with?
London’s major, Boris Johnson. He may look - and sound - like a caricature, but I think he’d be a great addition to a dinner party!
Your life as a newspaper headline?
African Becomes London Native.
Describe your London in one sentence?
Hey! Before you go, don’t forget the door prize!