It’s annoying that September’s over.

Firstly because I can no longer legitimately get away with saying “it’s my birthday” in October, but also because it’s getting dark which means I’ll have to stop walking home along the Regent’s canal in the evening.

Strictly speaking, I don’t have to stop.

It is indeed my right as a human person to continue walking home even when it’s dark or cold or a bit rainy – but let’s face it, walking along an unlit stretch of canal just isn’t as good in the pitch black.

And when I say isn’t as good, what I mean is “not as safe because I might get set upon by a predator lurking in the shadows”.

You know, just so we’re clear.

Granted, before it got dark, there were other things to be wary of.

Such as:

  • Falling in
  • People who can’t walk in a straight line
  • Wonky neck syndrome while going under bridges
  • Angry swans
  • Idiots
  • Idiots on Boris Bikes
  • Flying jogger sweat
  • Guilt that everyone else is exercising and you’re not
  • Cyclist bells

In fact, there’s a bit of an unspoken war on the tow path between cyclists and walkers. But that was almost what attracted me in the first place.

canal geese

This was my first summer of being able to walk home from work. 

Before this, I’d look longingly out of the bus window and see all these enraged cyclists driving up the rear of walkers along that skinny little tiny towpath, furiously ringing their stupid bells as if they’ve got right of way (they haven’t), and think I want to be one of those people getting in the way of cyclists too.

Then I moved jobs and finally it would take me 55 minutes to walk instead of 2347897345 hours – so all through spring and summer, it’s been a little high point of my day. I could become one of those indignant walkers with Right Of Way.

So it’s been good, the walk home. All that mucky green water, seeing loads of dogs, watching geese attack each other, marvelling at the amount of people who seemingly have nothing better to do with their day than sit alongside the canal drinking Red Stripe on a Wednesday, peering into houseboats, it’s been a lovely time.

But I’m afraid it’s goodbye for winter, Regent’s Canal. You dangerous dark place, you*.

(*Unless it’s the daytime at weekends. Then it’s fine.)

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I work in Farringdon.

Or maybe it’s Clerkenwell.

Farrenwell? Clerkendon?

I’m not totally sure what the difference is between the two, but I really like it here in EC1.

I’ve decided to write about it because I’m not really going on Facebook any more, so this is my new platform for making people wish they were me.

Plus, it’s not like you can just rock up to Clerkenwell at the weekend and expect to discover the brilliance.

It’s all over by then.

Done. Finished. Kaput.

And I’m a little bit worried you’re missing out.

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Clerkenwell is a Monday to Friday type place.

In that sense it’s a bit like Victoria or Aldgate or Bank, but without the briefcase wielding, red wine-cheeked buffoons milling around yelling “BUY BUY BUY, SELL SELL SELL”.

Plus, no one here would be seen dead using a Blackberry.

As a single lady, it’s difficult not to notice all the men.

They aren’t the estate agent types you get in Angel; they don’t have the TV tans of Soho, and there’s a little less hat action going on compared to down the road in Shoreditch.

In Clerkenwell, you get the strong, aloof types.

You get a man who doesn’t even flinch while accompanying his girlfriend down Hatton Garden, past 30 different shops selling diamond engagement and wedding rings at competitive prices, only to come out the other side bearing nothing but a caramel flavoured iced coffee and a croissant from EAT.

But most importantly, you get a man who isn’t afraid to rock up to the office in rolled up jeans and a pair of pool slides.

pool slides

Casual. Barefoot. That’s just how they roll.

But the best thing about working around here is lunchtime.

To be fair, the best thing about working anywhere is usually lunchtime, but in EC1, lunctime’s especially good because that’s when all these well-jeaned, excellently shod men congregate on Leather Lane, where every weekday from 11am-3pm, there’s a market.

It’s a bit like Westfield shopping centre, except instead of Debenhams, Habitat and Zara you’ve got table tops selling knife sets, last week’s magazines for £1.50 and children’s books; piles of duvets on wooden pallets, stalls hawking Topshop clothes with the labels cut out and Completely Legitimate Longchamp Bags™, and LOADS of food.

Oh, the food.

leather lane market

You’re quids in for food round here, especially if you like falafel.

It’s pretty serious. There’s even a website dedicated to rating the falafel on Leather Lane and an accompanying Twitter account to update you on the area’s latest chickpea dramz.

It’s basically war.

falafeloff

In fact, rumour has it that you can eat a free falafel-based lunch every day from Chick simply by walking past the bloke giving out free samples 14 times in one hour.

Through recent observations, I’ve concluded that this is a genuine lunchtime strategy for some, but for those not relying on handouts, I recommend Victus and Bibo wraps and the Thai green curry man. Worth the queue, every time.

Aside from the market, there’s a few shops too.

The best one is the off licence where the only permanent member of staff appears to be this fairly nonchalant cat.

cat in offlicence

Whenever I pass in the morning, he’s always there.

Busy taking stock, advising customers on this week’s best offers, or as on the day when this photo was taken, on security detail.

If you’re in any doubt as to the versatility of the shops in this area, or perhaps you just really want to impress that special someone in your life, opposite Agent Provocateur and next to Wildabout Flowers, you’ll find a magic shop.

An international Magic Shop.

Where they sell books of spells*, perfect for any romantic occasion.

*I have no idea what they sell in a magic shop. Probably anything you want if it’s really magic.

international magic shopClerkenwell also has a lot of pubs. 

So many pubs.

More pubs than you could ever want or need, located down every road and side street. Pubs, pubs, pubs.

Some have clever yet area specific names like “The Clerk and Well”, while others like The Coach and Horses (Twitter name: Pumpkin and Mice – see what they did there?) focus on providing impeccable value for their many loyal, pissed, and easily confused local workers.

great deal

After all this, I know what you’re thinking.

Firstly, you’re trying to remember how up to date your CV is and how soon you can hand in your notice to come and work where I do.

Secondly, you’re wondering:

If I’ve got an urgent letter to post and it’s after half past 6, aka the normal time for letter collections from post boxes in London, where on Earth can I go to post my letter?”

Ding ding, that’s correct.

Rosebery Avenue, in CLERKENWELL.

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Honestly, I’m not sure what else you’d really need.

I hope you are suitably jealous of me working in Farringdon and / or Clerkenwell.

You should be. It’s well good. 

You may return to looking at Facebook now. 

I went to Secret Cinema the other week.

You’ve probably heard of them from all the BBC News coverage this summer.

They recreated the set from Back to the Future next to the Olympic Park in Hackney, charged £53 a ticket and then cancelled the first few shows, ruining lives and wasting thousands of 1950s fancy dress outfits in the process.

Nationwide trauma ensued.

All over the UK, upset BTTF fans wept tears of anguish onto their Facebook page, while everyone on Twitter made fun of them using pithy puns and clever film references.

clever film ref mate

We should also congratulate those who took the much more original route of mocking people who live in Hackney.

roh roh roh hipsters roh

Ah, lolz.

Alas, I was just a casual bystander. 

After attending a brilliant (but slightly pricey) screening of The Third Man back in 2012, I filed Secret Cinema under Things I’d Definitely Do Again – If It Was Free.

This made me immune to the hype, ticket scrum and exhalations of joy that occur whenever people you know attend an event that costs them £53, and you don’t.

Because here’s the thing: Secret Cinema is excellent. It’s very well done, it’s fun, it’s an experience to bore people with for at least two days afterwards – but £53? Yowch. They’ve lost me. I’m out.

You know, unless it’s not £53 and instead it’s free.

Which this time, unexpectedly, it was. I took the ticket in return for my BLOGGING SOUL, which as we’ve established before, is occasionally a fair exchange.

Actually, it was probably free in return for me saying “oh hey look East Village sponsored the whole thing and they’re located next door to the Olympic Park”, but I can handle that.

**Please note: East Village apartments are not free (I asked)**

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Aside from not having to pay to get in, avoiding Opening Night Cancellation Trauma, and also seeing the film and all its fancy pants live scenes played out around us – which was well good - there was one other really amazing feature of Secret Cinema’s Back to the Future screening:

The removal of mobile phones.

Lie back for a minute, and try to recall the last time a group of people watched TV without picking up their phone mid way through the programme.

Now – and this one’s tricky – envisage a world where you walk past something brilliant or unusual on the street, and everyone’s just smiling and going “oh cool, look at that” or “can’t believe I’m here!”, and not taking photos with their massive faces plonked front of it.

Case in point.

olympic park selfie

The face, the face. Why so much face?

Impossible to imagine, non?

But this, my friends, is precisely the world that Secret Cinema created under the glare of the Westfield branch of John Lewis.

At first I was a bit skeptical about their motives, because once inside, mobile phone firmly off and away, staff were selling disposable cameras for £6 a pop.

“Oh, come on. At £53 a ticket, they could at least give these away for free.” I proclaimed loudly, as my kind sponsor paid the man and gave me one for free.

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But the best was yet to come.

I soon realised why Secret Cinema didn’t give them away for free. Why would you?

They’d realised that in the age of our click-happy hands and 16GB memory cards, disposable cameras were a veritable goldmine.

You see, everyone continued to use their disposable cameras in the same way as their iPhones; snapping ten or fifteen photographs of the same moment in quick succession.

(Granted, winding it on between each shot did slow the pace).

It was a bit strange to watch; this instance of old technology meeting newly wired brains, and it undoubtedly made old Secret Cinema a nice bit of extra cash as people quickly ran out of film.

But it had another benefit.

When the sun set and the film came on, and cars were racing round and things started exploding - everyone just kind of…took it all in.

You know, with their eyes and minds.

Some couldn’t resist a sneaky video – like the girls next to us – but then other cinema goers actually told them off. It was great.

So Secret Cinema might not be perfect, it might charge slightly too much for tickets, but it also puts on a brilliant night and does lots of things really well.

And making people put their stupid phones down for a few hours was definitely one of them.

These photos aren’t mine because my disposable camera isn’t developed yet. So thanks to Bex Walton & Mike T via Flickr for the images. Also Hollie for being the KING and sorting all this out.

A few of us are turning 30 this year.

Maybe you’ve seen us around: we’re the ones with the fear in our eyes, skinny jeans on our legs and double rum and cokes in each hand, yelling “BUT WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?” on the Kingsland Road circa 3am.

Over the last 29 years I’ve come to realise that not only is London a brilliant place to grow up, but it’s also a brilliant place to work and live when you’re not ready to grow up.

And, I hope, it’ll be an even better place to drag myself kicking, screaming and consuming huge amounts of medicinal gin into my thirties.

So in an effort to prove that the wild nights, hungover days and numerous flat rentals have been worth more than the thousands of pounds they’ve cost me financially, here are some things I’ve learnt about living, commuting and working in this massive city so far.

1984

Navigation.

1. Londoners are not unfriendly.

In general, the good people of this city will try and help you if they can – unless you’re a chugger, it’s 7:30am, or their bus is coming.

2. But no, they’ll never want to chat on the tube. 

The underground is like a sanctuary. It’s the only place we can stop, put our music in, and have a little quiet time. Don’t ruin it with your campaigns to make it otherwise.

3. You should always have at least one spare Oyster card handy.

Keep one in a drawer. Stash one in your wallet. Hide one under the mat. You’ll need it – and if you don’t, I definitely will.

4. The bus is loads better than the Underground.

Imagine the tube, but cheaper, loads better, and with more free seats in the morning. Game changer, my friends. Game changer.

doing stuff

Money.

5. London makes people obsessed with their bank balance.

When people first move here, they go a bit money mad: the lack of it, how to get more, what their friends earn, how much everything costs compared to where they’ve been living up until now, and whether they should pack it all in and become a banker. This doesn’t really ever go away completely, but after a while they’ll realise:

6. You will never earn enough money here.

Sorry. London’s a bastard like that, always showing you things you can’t have. So here’s what you do: you get a salary that covers the rent, work hard, earn a bit more, then get on with enjoying what you’ve got. Usually in a shot glass.

7. The best things in London are free.

If you’re bored, skint, and don’t have anything to do, congratulations: this is the easiest place to find something that costs £0. It’s also the best place to meet people who can help blag you in.

8. London warps your concept of how much things should cost.

Paying £8.50 for a cocktail is normal, and I don’t know what this means any more.

commute

Working.

8. Always go exploring on a weekday.

The best days off are the ones where you do everything that seems like too much effort on a Saturday. Shop, eat, drink, look, get the Clipper, museum hop, walk without people getting in your way – and, yes, go to the zoo.

9. Shortening your commute – even a little bit – is the best thing ever.

If you’re living in Zones 1-3 and your commute still takes longer than an hour, either move your house, or move your work. You will be instantaneously happier, and that extra 15 minutes in bed will be the reason why.

10. Do a job you like.

Don’t be one of those people that bores on about how unhappy they are in their job – you’re in London. Change it. You’ve got a better chance of succeeding at doing that here than anywhere else in the country.

11. Work somewhere sociable.

Preferably with people who like standing outside the pub after work on Fridays. And Mondays. And Tuesdays. Sometimes Wednesdays. Definitely Thursdays.

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Dating. 

12. Don’t date people who have just moved to London.

They’re enthusiastic, full of good intentions, have masses of ambition and every other attractive quality you can think of, but the bright city lights will usually end up shining brighter than you do. Don’t take it too personally. Give ‘em a year or two for mild discontent to set in.

13. This is the best place in the world to be single.

The other night I heard this rumour that outside of London, whole friendship groups of twenty-somethings are settling down and getting married ‘n’ stuff. Which is a bit mental.

14. It’s also the best place in the world if you don’t want to be single. 

You can meet people on the tube, waiting for a night bus, at house viewings, on Hampstead Heath, eating dinner, at pubs, in a park, through Twitter, or in your block of flats. And if they’re not in any of those places, they’ll probably be on Tinder.

15. London is a very, very small place.
Never underestimate how often you will bump into people you thought (or hoped) you’d never see again. Seriously. They’re everywhere.

pigs

Renting.

16. Renting is a good thing.

Do not, I repeat, do not feel crap because you can’t afford to buy in London. Funding a landlord’s Barbados timeshare isn’t a waste of money if you’re happy, don’t want to live further out, or, y’know, don’t have a spare £500,000.

17. Looking for a house share is probably the least fun thing ever.

Always be picky. Hearing your housemates’ key turn in the front door should inspire “woohoo! Someone’s home!” joy, not “urgh, go awaydespair.

18. You should always live with people you can go for beers with. 

It just makes life easier when you all come home drunk and noisy at the same time.

19. The ideal housemates are usually friends-of-friends. 

Research (by me) has proven that the best people to live with are those you meet via a mutual friend. The more tenuous the connection the better. It gives you slightly more reassurance that they’re not mental.

commute

Going out.

20. Uber is the best invention ever.

Sorry black cabs. I’ve shelved the moral outrage and embraced the cheap cabs home.

21. Most “street food” festivals are a rip off.

I have yet to come away feeling satisfied after paying £10 for a ticket, then £5-10 for food I’ve queued half an hour for.

22. Going to the cinema on your own is amazing.

Prince Charles Cinema. A good documentary. Sunday afternoon. Go see whatever’s on, switch off your phone and sit in the dark for a bit.

23. There is no day that cannot be improved by seeing a dog on the bus / tube.

This is a scientific fact.

24. Dishoom is the best restaurant ever.

Lamb raan, black daal, East India gimlet: worth queuing for.

dog on the bus

And finally.

25. North London is better than south.

Shut up, it’s my list.

Feel free to pass on this knowledge to your friends. Or at least send me a consolation birthday present in a month’s time. 

Yesterday I spotted this note tacked up around Islington Green in Angel.

“Dear Trend Victim”, it begins.

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As you’ll probably have gathered by now, I’ve lost my fair share of stuff in London – mostly Oyster cards – but also some expensive items. And somehow, whether it’s an iPod left at Baker Street, an iPad on the bus, or, yes, one of the nine Oyster cards, they’ve always made their way back to me.

Once, years ago, when iPods were a thing you kept in your pocket instead of the bottom drawer of your desk alongside a collection of Ericsson T10 phone chargers, mine got lost somewhere between Baker Street and Pinner on my way home.

“Well, that’s that” I thought, adding it to the list of things to be miserable about that week – because I was 23, and when you’re 23 you’re always miserable about something you’ve failed at that week.

Then a few weeks later a note popped through the door and it was from a man who’d picked up my iPod, and he’d done some detective work and found my address on there, and sent it back along with, if I remember rightly, a Christmas card.

It heralded the start of beautiful relationship.

Not really. 

Along with the iPod he also sent me a not altogether positive analysis of my musical tastes, because even when they’re doing something nice, Londoners still like to assert their superiority in some way. Anyway, the important thing is I got it back.

So hopefully the Trend Victim will get their stuff back too. And hopefully, they won’t be too sensitive about being called a Trend Victim in the process.

Here’s to doing the right thing, London. 

As of today, you can no longer pay with cash on London’s buses.

Lots of people aren’t very happy about it, and as someone who manages to lose between 5-8 Oyster cards a year, I also fall into the group of those who would rather be able to pay £2.20 than beg, plead and weep at a bus driver to let me on so I can get home at 3am on a Saturday morning.

If you think it’s a stupid idea too then I’d encourage you to read this blog post or maybe this one, not because it’ll make a blind bit of difference when you’re stranded on Waterloo Bridge without any Oyster credit or a contactless payment card, but because nodding at your screen in an indignant way while imagining hypothetical bus payment scenarios which may or may not happen might make you feel a bit better in the short term.

Apparently the whole cashless buses thing happened so that TFL could save some money, and while that is largely agreed to be horse twaddle, it’s been a quiet weekend so I’ve been giving it some thought anyway.

Here are some other things they might like to consider to save money and improve London’s buses.

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1. Make windows that open.

Boris sorted out all these new buses which was good of him – thanks, B. Can I call you B? – but on a sunny afternoon they’re like being stuck in a tropical fish tank without the pleasing coolness of water, and instead of cute little terrapins snapping at your fingers you get a conductor yelling “MOVE DOWN INSIDE THE BUS PLEASE, RIGHT DOWN, GO ON, MOVE”.

The air con must be expensive to run on full blast all day, so TFL could save lots of pounds by introducing ventilation in the shape of “windows” that “open” thus allowing a “breeze” to flow through. Think about it. You know, like the Victorians did.

2. Sensors on doors.

Save thousands in passenger injury compensation claims by putting sensors on the doors to prevent them closing when there is something in the way. Like a person. Either that, or ask your drivers to stop shutting doors actually on people’s faces.

And by “people’s faces” I mean “my face” because it’s happened twice now and I’m about to take it personally.

3. Allow passengers to get on the bus.

By training drivers to recognise well known signs such as “hand held out onto road”, “waving hand” and “polite smiley girl tapping on door when bus is stationary at a red light and hasn’t yet left the stop”, you could increase on people actually getting on the bus and paying for a journey.

4. Save paper by not throwing people off the bus.

When any other service in the world runs late, the attitude is very much “oh my god, so sorry, let me make sure you reach your destination now the traffic has cleared.” Not so on a bus, where after keeping you on board in stationary traffic for half an hour, they simply terminate early and drop you off wherever so they can catch up on their schedule, thus making you even later and wasting precious ££ on paper for “transfer vouchers”.

Solution? Don’t do that. Get people to where they need to be. Save paper. Save the WORLD.

5. Bus loyalty card.

Introduce guaranteed boarding for regulars to stop the fair weather cyclists nicking all the seats when it rains. I’d totally pay 30p for that. Or someone would, anyway.

6. Offer seat reservations.

Because now there are not one but two different ways to get onto the top deck of the 38 bus, the race for a seat has never been more tactical or fierce. Get some reservations on that shiz. Like Eurostar.

7. Sell earplugs.

Available for purchase from the conductor at the back, and particularly useful in the morning when fellow passengers are failing to respect the “no talking on your phone before 9am” rule that I made up just now.

8.  Let people pay cash for their bus trip.

Because otherwise when they’ve lost their Oyster card for the 18th time that month and all the ticket selling places are shut, and you can’t activate the money you just topped up with online because the tube stations are closed, and it takes 24 hours and you want to go home now, you won’t get any money at all. You’ll just get me. Crying. All the way to Dalston. On foot. And no one wants that.

If you have any additional money saving ideas for TfL, put them in a survey and send them over here so that I can put them in the bin. Thanks.

Image: κύριαsity via Flickr

Last Saturday I went to Field Day.

Field Day is a music festival in Victoria Park. It’s one of those ones where you don’t have to bring a tent because there’s no camping, and besides, your tent would probably get stolen anyway.

It’s a good place to go with a group of mates if hanging around in a park with beer and music is your bag (it’s my bag), plus if it’s sunny and the line-up’s decent, you can do a lot worse things with a Saturday afternoon in June.

(Although at £50 for a one day ticket, admittedly those worse things will probably be a bit cheaper).

That said, if you’re going and really want to enjoy the day to its full potential, you should reconcile yourself with a few basic truths first.

1. You will see four out of 50+ possible acts.

This is because most of your conversations will go like this:

“Oh, we could go and see Temper Trap…oh no we can’t. They’re not on the line up any more.”

“Why don’t we go and watch SOHN then?”

“They’re over the other side.”

“Let’s walk over.”

“Or we could just get a drink and sit here, I can sort of hear it.”

“Yeah. Let’s sit here for a bit and work out where to go.”

“We should go to the bar.”

“Yes, let’s go to the bar.”

line up

2. You will lose your friends.

Despite this festival taking place in what is basically a large garden, you will lose everyone. Some will wander off to watch an obscure Syrian rapper, others will naturally drift towards the bar, and before you know it there’s a split in your group that no amount of Whatsapp pin dropping can bring together.

Eventually, unable to decide what to see, who to meet or where to go, you’ll just sit down on a patch of grass, take photos of yourselves and wait for things to come to you.

None of this apply to your gay friends, however, who will find everyone they know, immediately, all the time, wherever you are.

I don’t know how.

field day

3. Mobile phones will not work.

With thousands of people all bumbling around like demented moths trying to locate their friends, the 3G air above Victoria Park will be blocked with 10,000 variations of exactly the same text message, all of which will arrive long after you have moved on to somewhere else.

I recommend finding someone taller than you, hopping on their back, and doing The Meerkat instead.

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4. Everything sounds bad in a tent.

Let’s be honest, there’s a reason the best nightclubs in the world aren’t built with large sheets of plastic for rooves. But this isn’t a nightclub, it’s a park, and something’s got to give.

Unfortunately, and not ideally for a music festival, that thing is volume.

Thank god for beer. Speaking of which…

field day tent

5. £5 Red Stripe.

Let’s just look at those words for a minute. £5 for a can of Red Stripe. Five pounds. For a can. Of Red Stripe. Red Stripe. The Jamaican beer which sells for 50p in most Dalston cornershops, and £1.50 at Ridley Road Market Bar.

Five pounds.

For a can.

Of Red Stripe.

Five.

And yet devoid of any other option, you will pay it.

me with red stripe

6. There will be queues for the toilets.

Use this time to refocus, meditate, drunkenly compliment the girl wearing a patterned all in one next to you, and imagine a world where festival toilets don’t have queues.

Or, use it as an opportunity to relocate your friends by knocking on every Portaloo door and asking everyone outside it “Did a girl go in here? Dark curly hair? Asian? About 20 minutes ago? SUE, SUE, ARE YOU IN THERE?”

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7. Fairground rides are a good idea in theory.

In practice, they’re £10 a go.

And as we’ve already discussed, you can get not one, but two Red Stripes for that.

It’s a no brainer.

ride at field day

8. You should get cash out before you arrive.

The queues for the cash machines are quite long, but the fun really starts once you get to the front, debit card in hand, and see this:

cash machines field day

9. You’ll go again (but not next year).

This is because it takes two years to forget all the irrevocable truths that make Field Day not quite as good as other things that cost £50 in London. Then, one day in April 2016, you’ll see a big poster on Kingsland Road and think “yes, that is a good idea. I cannot recall having anything but a marvellous time there.”

And you will go back. 

 

Most people in London have a “to do” list thing on their phone.

This is generally a sprawling iPhone note filled with highly recommended places and events that they absolutely plan to do when they get paid / a day off / a boyfriend.

Generally, these recommendations come from either

1) Time Out London

2) Drunk conversations in the pub

3) Productive People, for whom weekends spent lying in a darkened room battling the Hangover of Death and napping intermittently between episodes of Girls until it’s dark, and therefore time to go out again, are a long distant memory.

On my list there are things like go up the Shard (whey! Sorry, in-joke with the rest of London), eat at Duck and Waffle circa 3am, and also

See the monkeys at London Zoo. 

london zoo ticket

Maybe neck-s time.

I’d been once before in the summer for Zoo Lates, which, like most people, I envisaged to be a novel, slightly boozy way to visit my top 5 favourite animals.

But in reality, by the time we’d drunk all the ciders, left the pub and walked up there, the animals had gone to bed and no amount of tapping, shouting and bounding around in front of the glass would wake them up.

(And trust me, did we try to wake those lazy little bastards up.)

So essentially, we paid £25 to go to London Zoo and drink a load of Pimms.

As anyone who has ever been to Oceana Nightclub (née Destiny) in Watford can attest, there are worse places to spend £25 and drink Pimms – but I came away thinking that if a captive gorilla can’t even be arsed to stay awake for your party, you’re probably better off just going to the pub.

But this time, I knew it would be different. 

This is because my ex-colleagues adopted me a monkey called Rolo as a leaving present from my last job. Not only did this give me

a) stickers

b) a certificate and

c) AN ACTUAL REAL LIFE SQUIRREL MONKEY,

…it also gave me a free zoo ticket to go and see him.

So with the sun shining and an entire Tuesday at my disposal, I got the bus to Regent’s Park and went to see my very own adoptive monkey.

This is what I learnt.

1) Regent’s Park is the most Virgo-friendly place in the whole, entire world. 

Us September-born kids have been banging on about it for years, but Regent’s Park has this neat, symmetrical, all trees were made on-equals-sides-of-the-path-thing down. Just look at the SYMMETRY. It’s BEAUTIFUL.

regents park 2

Anyway. Back to the zoo.

2. To avoid kicking children out of the way, visit after 2pm.

It goes without saying that you should probably leave the zoo the hell alone at the weekend unless you’re mental, a parent with no other choice or a tourist. But my zoo insider* told me that the school trips usually visit in the morning, leaving the zoo basically empty after about 2pm on a weekday. This means that if gorillas liked eye contact, you could get close enough to initiate a staring competition. But they don’t like it, they hate it and think staring is rude. So good luck with that.

(*the woman making sure visitors don’t steal their adoptive monkey children)

gorilla

Seriously, don’t try and catch his eye. Hates it.

3. Giraffes have black tongues.

This is because in Africa they spend so much time with it hanging out of their mouth while they stuff their faces with food that it’d get sunburnt if it was pink. How do I know that? I learnt it. At the Giraffe Feeding Time Talk. Because when it’s not busy you can actually go to the talks, see what’s happening and not have to yell “OH MY GOD, BE QUIET, I’M TRYING TO LEARN ABOUT OWLS.”

giraffe2

4. Stealing a monkey is very difficult, even if it’s rightfully yours.

Eventually I found the Meet the Monkeys enclosure. This is the best bit because the monkeys are just there, hopping around you, ripe for the taking. This is where Rolo lives. The ZSL staff member saw me hovering suspiciously standing with a large, zippable bag near the bushes and was kind enough to point out Rolo when he came near. You could spot him because he was the one with half a tail, which meant he was harder to grab his balance is a little off and therefore, didn’t have the finesse one might expect a monkey to possess when moving across a rope.

Aww. That’s my monkey, the half-tailed little scamp <3

rolo2#

5. Meerkats have let fame go to their heads.

Seriously: one was just lying there licking its own bum – because evidently Mr Meerkat don’t need to play to a crowd no mo’ now Mr Meerkat on telly – and the other one was all draw me like one of your French girls.

Honestly, meerkats. You’ve changed.

meerkat

“Draw me like one of your French girls”

6. Penguins are overrated.

LOLZ! Not really. Look at this guy! Penguins are off the SCALE. Best things ever, hands down.

penguin

7. Some animals don’t get the same attention as the others.

I don’t think many people take photos of these guys because they’re not the most aesthetically pleasing animals in the kingdom. And out of all the people who take photos, I bet none have ever put them on their blog.

So here you go, pig warthog things, I still love you, with your mucky pool and your furry noses. Even if no one else does.

warthogs

8. And you, llamas.

Likewise, everyone just sort of went “uh, llama.” and moved on. Not me. I stood and marvelled.

llama

9. But mostly, I learnt that these birds are the best things ever. 

I basically just stood here all day.

penguins

All too soon I was getting thrown out of London Zoo (because it was closing) and despite my best attempts, I did not come home with a monkey.

But I did leave armed with an array of exciting animal facts that I’ve been using to entertain people ever since, as well as a very, very, very tiny penguin.

(I’m joking. Or am I. I’m joking! Honestly. OR AM I.)

Now, back to the list. Can someone adopt me lunch at the Shard?

It’s MONDAY AGAIN.

Seriously. Why? Who DOES THIS TO US?

If, like me, you’re easing yourself into your first full, five day working week in what feels like months and years but is probably only two weeks or something, you might need a bit of afternoon therapy to get you through the day.

Yes?

Stop for a minute, then, and observe this lovely time lapse video of London.

It was created by a 16 year old college student called Lewis Symonds, and has the immediate effect of making you feel creatively inadequate yet also calmed by the wonderfulness of London and the soothing melodies of Beethoven (musician, not dog).

There, that’s better isn’t it.

Happy New Working Week, everyone. Be strong.

I’m relocating for work.

Not actually relocating, obviously. Just going ten minutes up the road for a different job, but in London terms that’s basically like moving to Africa.

This is slightly daunting because I’ll now have to negotiate the minefield that is deciding where to eat lunch in an entirely new area of the city, which, as everyone knows, is the most crucial part of every office worker’s day.

Hold me. 

Alas, after two years working just off the Strand – land of the pre-theatre meal deal, posh hotels, lost tourists, Gordon’s Wine Bar, and the excellent sort of colleagues who adopt you an actual monkey as a leaving present – it’s time to move on to a new stomping ground between the hours of 9:30 and 6pm.

But in the meantime, here’s what I’ll miss about working in WC2N.

1. Fake Number 10

It’s Downing Street! It’s not Downing Street. It’s David Cameron’s gaff! It’s not David Cameron’s gaff. It’s Number 10! Ok, it is Number 10, but instead of politicians you just get the occasional news reporter pretending they’re at the real one. I KNOW, CRAZY.

downing street adam street

 

2. The 3,456,936 branches of Pret within lunch-walking radius.

They say you’re never more than one meter away from your nearest Pret A Manger in London. Actually that might be mice. Or rats. Given the proximity of your friendly neighbourhood branch of Mutant Rodent Tesco, it could be either of those things. But look how many. LOOK:

pret radius

3. Inconspicuous tourists

Lunchtimes just won’t be the same without a daily game of Dodge the Daytripper, coupled with a round of Stupid Things I Heard a Tourist Say in Covent Garden. Where is all the grass around here, anyway?

tourists in covent garden

 

4. The wide assortment of local wildlife.

Ponies, ferrets, Olympic athletes, dogs, WC2N has them all. Although my new area of work does have men being walked like dogs, to be fair – so onwards and upwards ‘n’ all that.

wildlife

5. Crossing the Impossible Road

With no less than four lanes of traffic, a weird cobbled path thing down the middle, and a pavement scattered with beady eyed, clipboard wielding charity workers, crossing this street is nothing less than a minefield. Think Krypton Factor, but with more Potsu noodles.

strand

 

So see ya later, Covent Garden.

Aurevoir, excellent colleagues.

Gordon’s, Embankment Gardens and Bag Bike Man…you will remain in my thoughts.

Goodbye, Strand. It’s been emotional.