It’s one of those days where everyone remembers where they were.

Working from home in your baggiest t-shirt, making frequent trips to the fridge to slice off chunks of cheese; traversing three zones on blistered foot; queuing, more queuing, offering advice to passing strangers and queuing some more, then staring at the pavement from the top deck watching pedestrians walk faster than the bus you just waited 45 minutes to get on.

Last month, for one day only, London was turned inside out.

And even if you don’t know where you were, you know where you weren’t.

For it was a tube strike, so you absolutely, 100% definitely not on the tube.

And now, bloody hell, it’s happening again.

Angel station tube strike

Chances are you knew where everyone else was, too.

Especially if you happened to be sitting within firing range of That Person On The Phone, loudly doing a verbal status update to the entire top deck of the 38 and their mate from south London “oh, it’s just a nightmare, yeah, I’m on the bus, no, it’s crawling, I’m on Essex Road, it’s gridlocked, well, no, well, I told them I’m going to be late, it’s just an absolute nightmare, ridiculous”.

You knew where your workmates were too, because you walked into your office kitchen to find a smattering of brave colleagues gathered around a hastily assembled camp fire, making tea and warming their hands over the flames, sharing stories from the 8am queue situation on the Liverpool Street frontline.

waterloo bridge in a tube strike

And you know what you were also doing that day, don’t you?

If you weren’t queuing or faffing, you were probably taking full advantage of the situation.

The Unaffected Few were leaving work early to “get a head start on the madness”, rocking up late because there were “delays” without so much as an email, sent, naturally, from my iPhone.

And generally going about the chaos marvelling at the people – so many people! – all of them blinking like baffled moles forced above ground, and not entirely sure what to do with the streets and bus routes and signs in their way.

Central reservation warriors

So go forth into the tube strike, and be bold!

Realise that you could actually walk to work in the time it takes to get the bus each day, which you’d totally do if you weren’t working from home in your pajamas, eating cheese.

Casually rock up to a normally fully booked restaurant because it’s been besieged with cancellations


Brazenly stride down the central reservation on Waterloo Bridge like it’s a goddamn pavement because mate, it’s a tube strike, you can do this shit today and no one, but no one cares.

Enjoy your day above ground, London. For soon all this chaos and the excuses it gives you will all be gone. 

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There are things you know when you’ve lived in London for a bit.

Not just the obvious stuff like standing on the right, walking as fast as humanly possible at all times, or forming orderly queues everywhere (unless you’re at a bus stop or waiting for the tube; in which case please form a restless, passive aggressive crowd instead).

What I’m talking about are the unspoken things that you just don’t do – not because there’s signs or announcements or years of etiquette telling you not to – but because as a Londoner, you simply know this city better than everyone else.

Put simply, you’re wise to it. They can’t fool you. Whatever it is, you already know it’s futile.

So get ready to look smug, shake your head despairingly and roll your eyes. Because never would you ever…

1. Change at Bank.

Oh, Bank Station. Where all that separates you from your next train are 50 spiral staircases and an estimated ten miles of mind boggling, vaguely signposted tunnels to oblivion and maybe, possibly, at the very end of your sanity, a Central line platform.
bank hungover

2. Call Holborn or Bloomsbury “Midtown”.

A while ago, they put up a load of orange flags, hired orange-clad power rangers and set about rebranding Holborn, St Giles and Bloomsbury into a fashionable, funky, rejuvenated orange coloured area called “Midtown.”

Four years later, I can officially report that as a direct result of all these marketing efforts, the areas once known as Holborn, St. Giles and Bloomsbury are now known as… Holborn, St. Giles and Bloomsbury.

Glad we’ve sorted that out then.

*slow clap*

Rangers in Midtown which is actually Holborn

3. Feed the pigeons (/ squirrels / tube mice).

I’m pretty sure London’s sizeable vermin wildlife population are doing ok without your discarded Pret-crumbs, and London’s human population can do without pigeons ambushing us in Soho Square on our lunchbreak. Thanks tho, save the whales ‘n’ that, peace. xx

don't feed the pigeons

4. Use the zebra crossing at Abbey Road.

Less a zebra crossing, more a prolific no-go area for two reasons:

– If you’re driving, you’ll be stuck for hours waiting for tourists to finish reenacting the Beatle’s famous album cover.

– If you actually want to cross the road, there’s a high chance of getting hit by a car that can’t be bothered to stop for tourists reenacting the Beatle’s famous album cover. Spend five minutes watching the Crossing Cam and see for yourself.

abbey road

Abbey Road: no ordinary zebra crossing

5. Shorten it to “Carnaby”.

London’s re-branding departments strike again, this time trying to give an entire area behind Regent Street a collective term it doesn’t really require or need. What’s wrong with plain old “that street just off Carnaby Street near Miss Sixty”?

6. Walk between the Piccadilly and Jubilee lines at Green Park.

Wars have been fought, lost, re-fought and won again in the time it takes to change lines at Green Park station.

Instead, go with the advice of London transport geek Diamond Geezer, who says: “It’s probably quicker to ascend to the ticket hall and come back down via the main escalator instead.”

It is also probably quicker to go to space, but your monthly travel card won’t cover that.

changing at green park forever

Green Park station, aka The Never Ending Story in tunnel form. Image: Matt Buck 

7. Eat bagels in evening dress on Hackney Road.

If you’ve walked past any new housing developments in east London recently, you might have seen billboards promoting activities that your average Londoner would never do.  I mean perhaps people eat bagels in evening wear in, like, Notting Hill, but in Hackney, this doesn’t really tally with the current vision of casually dressed hungover people in pyjamas eating kebabs at 10am on a Sunday. But hey, don’t let that reality get in the way of your terrible marketing campaign, Mettle and Poise.

mettle and poise stupid

wtf is she doing


8. Spend the day staring at the inside of a hat.

Again: people on Kingsland High Street don’t tend to spend much time gazing at the inside of their flatcaps, despite what Time Out might have you think. But with the arrival of these new £500k one-bed flats, clearly all that is set to change.

staring at hats

wtf is he doing


9. Sit on the pavement on Kingsland Road.

Seriously, are you nuts? Trust me, Dalston Curve, you don’t want to advertise this behaviour. Stand up, woman. You’ll get kebab on your coat.

kingsland road billboard woman

why is she sitting on the floor


10. Queue for an escalator.

Big shout out to TFL staff member Leon at Brixton tube station. He was on a one-man morning motivational mission to get commuters to walk down the one working escalator for the last seven months while disastrous queue-forming repairs were carried out. Your local community salutes you, sir.  tfl social shamer tube man brixton hero tube man brixton believe tube tweet brixton

11. Ask people who don’t live in Battersea to come to Battersea.

No one knows where it is, and no one can get there except for you. Abandon ship. journey to battersea

12. Pay £75 for Secret Cinema 

Look, no one’s saying you shouldn’t go to these excellent immersive cinematic events. You totally should. What I’m saying is for gods sake, let’s just make it a nice round £100 per person and be done with it. In other news, still tickets left, guys. star wars secret cinema

13. Get involved with the “PR stunt of the day”

“We’re building a rainbow out of television screens on the Southbank to celebrate National Banana Day and new shiny technology, we’d love you to be part of the magic! There’s something for everyone!”  pr-stunt-of-the-day

And finally…

14.  Stand on the top deck.

Hell hath no fury like the “No standing on the UPPER DECK or STAIRS PLEASE” announcement. It’s a folly reserved for Tube Strike refugees and tourists. Although, as everyone knows, there is a way round it.

no standing on upper deck


So there we have it.

If I’ve missed anything crucial, let me know. Otherwise, as you were, London. You may get on with your day.

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God, I love this time of year.

We’ve officially gone headlong into those precious few weeks when the city warms up and the daylight stretches well into the late evening.

Just for a little bit, you can dangle your legs over the concrete sides of a murky canal on your way home from work and remember why exactly it is you live here.

Bookbarge on the Regents canal

The Bookbarge on the Regent’s Canal

All it takes is a little sunshine, and suddenly you understand.

You’ve got an answer to all those doubts that plague you in your darkest moments for the rest of the year (mostly in the comment sections of the Telegraph).

See, the sun comes out and you realise:

This is why you pay the highest rents in the country, why you live in shared housing while everyone else gets their own two bedroom flat and a dog, why you suffer through transport strikes on dark, rainy evenings, and why you still manage to get up in the morning when all that greets you outside are other disgruntled faces staring at you through a red, angry mist of commuter rage.

And you know why you bother, don’t you?

grays inn

It’s not just the fact that everyone’s a bit happier.

Or that you can finally arrange picnics outside without having a Rainy Day Contingency Plan, or that you now have a legitimate excuse to go to the only pub in Farringdon with outside space at 11:55am on Friday “lunchtime” to make sure you “get a table”.

No no, it’s because every summer, the city completely outdoes itself and puts on the sort of events that make you wonder if everyone here just lives on another planet entirely.

who needs glastonbury

An actual sentence in an actual email

We might have massive parks, and rooftop bars where you’ll probably only have to queue for an hour or two before getting in, and an enviable festival calendar where you, yes you! can pay £5 for a Red Stripe.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

You only have to peruse a copy of TimeOut London to discover some sort of pop-up event that you quite literally would never, ever want to do at any time of year, but could probably be pushed to do in the summer.

supper tub

“supper tub”. This is not a drill

Gone are the days of cocktails sipped alfresco on temporary wooden decking or a fake beach.

This summer, inside is the new out.

Urban pop-ups are the new festivals.

And, my friends, Ariel liqui-tabs are the new jam jar.

pop up launderette

It’s not all party, party, party, though.

You can also find no end of new and exciting ways to explore your local area.

Starting with the signage.

dalston type

And if you’re a bit nostalgic for your school days?

Don’t worry, a new pop-up will transport you back to the one bit about school that everyone hated because it smelt like dog food and old sandwiches.

That’s right, get ready to take your seats in the school dinner hall for the ironically non-student friendly price of £55 + admin fee.


School dinner pop up will serve fish fingers

Or are you a homesick Australian?

If so, again, London’s summer pop-up bonanza is coming to the rescue with an “urban beach” in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

So yep. Be homesick no more, Sydney-siders: East London’s version of Bondi overlooks a canal and everything.

answer to bondi


Seriously. London: just stop.

sex toy supper club

So who needs Glastonbury? Not us.

It’s summertime, the sun’s out, and we’ve got Trevor Nelson playing in a launderette while you chill in a hot tub eating peruvian food in Hackney Wick.

It’s going to be great.

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Let’s talk about night buses.

For the uninitiated, night buses are pretty much how everyone under 35 gets home after 12am.

It’s well documented that people over that age don’t leave the house after dark, or if they do, and by some huge critical error they miss the last tube, they’ll pretty much only travel in a black limousine or Uber XL and that’s just how it is.

The truth is they’re missing out, because night buses are a London institution.

A world unto themselves, everyone’s got a night bus story because they have the potential to be either the very worst or very best thing you’ve ever encountered at 3am, depending on:

1) how much you’ve had to drink

2) whether the person sitting next to you is awake, asleep, vomiting, singing, or trying to chat you up

3) whether you fancy them 

Case in point, my mates Beth and Alf actually met while waiting for a night bus in Dalston. Three years on from that blissful journey they can now hold up their very own baby human as proof that the 243 to Waterloo can successfully get you home and help you tick off some life goals at the same time.

So quite frankly, cheers to that.

on the bus

It wasn’t always like this though.

If you’re the rare type of Londoner who once lived in the north west area of Zone 5 before moving more centrally, perhaps you too can relate to a time when night buses were absolutely not the first resort.

They were the very ultimate last resort, and for good reason.


Back then, nights out in London always involved going somewhere a bit crap because you didn’t know anywhere better than Storm in Leicester Square, or Jewel in Piccadilly Circus, or even worse, Cargo in Shoreditch, but on top of that you’d always have the massive hassle of getting home to suburbia, via either

1) The Last Tube

= night spent in a state of low level anxiety, alternating between power-drinking, obsessive time checking, and attempting to calculate whether you could have one more vodka before catching two tubes and the last Metropolitan line train from Baker Street at 11:54.

2) The First Tube

= brilliant idea at 2am; becomes markedly less brilliant when the club shut at 4am, leaving you and your waning enthusiasm outside Farringdon station in the cold for a two hours before boarding what would inevitably be a Sunday rail replacement bus service back to the sticks.

3) Cab

= half an hour of running up and down High Holborn trying to locate a black Vauxhall Zafira before your phone battery gave out, then sinking into a Magic FM induced coma on the A40 clutching a box of cold chips you weren’t allowed to eat.

And if all those failed, then there was always one final choice:

4) The N18

= two hour bus journey through the bowels of North West London.

Choose this, and you’ve basically opted to spend 45 minutes searching the sky for Nelson’s Column – the drunk Londoner’s compass point in the days before the Shard  – and making your way to Trafalgar Square ready to commence a two hour hell-traverse through Stonebridge, Harlesden, Sudbury, Wembley and Harrow on the Hill.

In short, no one would choose that.

No one.

Trafalgar Square N18 night bus

Photo: Nico Hogg (Flickr)

But once you live in central London it’s a different ballgame. 

Journeys are shorter; more convenient.

Play your cards right and a night bus will get you home, or at least to the next bar, with a new group of temporary party mates.

Besides, as anyone in east London will tell you, you haven’t really lived until you’ve got a story about that time the entire top deck of the N76 erupted into a Disney singalong led by a man known by his friends as “Pesky Dave”.

But in all the journeys home on the local night bus, none have ever come close to what I’m about to show you.

Because a few weeks ago, I shared my night bus home with this.

dog rabbits night bus she loves london

I can’t remember if this photo was before or after the dog chased the rabbit around the bottom deck of the bus at full speed, darting under seats and generally running amok.

dog rabbits night bus she loves london3

All I know is that the moment this dog and that rabbit got on the same seat will remain etched in my memory forever.

dog rabbits night bus she loves london2


See? What did I tell you:

Night bus + Life goals = Complete.

Seen something better? Tell me immediately. I need to know. 

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It’s physically impossible to be alone in London.

Not “alone” as in oh, I feel so ALONE – haha! no! You’ll always have that.

I mean you’ll never find yourself lacking in a defined amount of space or time that is amazingly, gloriously, joyously, incredibly, brilliantly lacking in other human beings.

Because in London, other human beings are everywhere.

So instead you have to make do with finding little areas of the city where it feels like you’re alone, and then spend a vast amount of time imagining that happy day when London resembles the beginning scenes from 28 Days Later.

(Minus the whole everyone’s dead in the aftermath of a terrifying killer virus apocalypse bit.)


Leadenhall Market "Time here becomes space" sign

Finding a bit of space in London is reaaallly difficult.

In deciding to live here, you essentially gave up all rights to your personal space between the hours of…well… all the hours.

For starters, if you’re 20-50 something and single, you’ll probably have to houseshare with at least 58 other people in order to afford a place to live.

But even when your housemates are out, the flat’s empty and it’s just you, a packet of Monster Munch and back-to-back episodes of Dinner Date for company, you’ll still find yourself surrounded.

That’s because every living space in London is actually eight houses stacked on top of each other, which means your life will be forever soundtracked by the click-slam of your building’s communal front door, a patter of footsteps above, below, and either side of you, and snippets of distant, drunken, passing conversations punctuating the day and night.

Naturally, this won’t apply if you live in Hampstead, Knightsbridge or one of those posh new developments along the Thames, because in that case your neighbours will all be in Russia.

Ah, London housing. Happy days.


Alone together in the park

But although it’s impossible to be alone, it’s also really easy to be on your own. 

By this I mean if you want to spend the day rolling solo, bothering no one and having no one bother you, then London’s pretty much the best place to do it.

One of my favourite weekend things is seeing a film upstairs at the Prince Charles, because on a Sunday it’s always half full with other people who’ve pretty much just hung a “do not disturb” sign around their neck prior to leaving the house, too.

Likewise, London’s bookshops are always pretty busy; they’re the only places where you can legitimately loiter, talking to no one, gazing at shelves, or sitting around on the floor for hours on end without raising any suspicions.

Eating alone isn’t even a big deal now either.

The whole no reservations, communal seating or sit-at-the-bar malarky means you’ll probably even get to consume actual food on an actual chair without having to eat your own actual fist in a two hour long queue first, which definitely wouldn’t happen if you turned up at any remotely popular restaurant in Soho with mates.

Welcome book lover, you are among friends.

My point is, we’re all in the same boat. Or tube carriage. Whatever.

London always gets called out for the fact that no one talks on the tube, aside from sporadic tuts, sighs and calls of “MOVE DOWN, YOU BASTARDS”.

And perhaps it’s a sign you’ve lived here too long when you can’t come up with one single reason why that might be a bad thing.

But it’s not like taking public transport is an active choice for most of us; we don’t wake up and wonder whether we’ll drive into work today instead.

Our silent tubes are more an implicit agreement: it gives fellow Londoners a bit of space in a city where we have none.

So the next time you want a bit of time to yourself, rest assured. You might be surrounded by other humans, the bus will be packed and the museum will be too.

But don’t worry.

For non-talky down time, simply go outside and walk around with everyone else. The feeling will be brilliantly mutual. 

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It is officially “park weather”.

Park Weather is when London pretends to be summer for like a day.

Park Weather means you leave the house even though it’s your official day of rest, only to find yourself sporadically whipped by gusts of wind that leave you shivering on the grass, wrapped in your portable tartan picnic blanket, looking longingly at the part of sky where the sun used to be because your bedroom window lied and it’s still absolutely bloody freezing.

You know, Stupid Park Weather.

regents park april

Classic “park weather”

All it takes is one hint of sunshine and we’re out.

Lining the aisles of Tesco Metro clutching cans of gin-in-a-tin and a pack of Pringles, frantically yelling “SUN’S OUT, LET’S GO TO THE PARK, ASSEMBLE, ASSEMBLE” into our phones and wondering whether to wear a waterproof coat over all our ambitiously summer-like clothing.

And so I found myself on a bench in Regent’s Park at the weekend, dropping location pins into a Whatsapp chat and awaiting the arrival of my mates Em (human) and Buster (dog), a bag of tubular supplies at my feet and the wind…

Oh, the wind.

one ear up dog

Ear malfunction

It was while I was considering the true meaning of the acronym BST when my phone rang, and a voice said:

“Hey so I’m near where you are, but have just stumbled upon what appears to be a French Bulldog convention, and there’s about 50 dogs and their owners just standing about having a chat. Want to meet here instead?”

…to which I replied “What yes where?” and within minutes, my Regent’s “Park Weather” Day Out had begun in the best way possible.

With loads of French Bulldogs having a massive bulldog party.

That’s right my friends, London’s population of Frenchies had gathered for their monthly en mass walk in Regent’s Park.

There were loads of them. All in one place.

Playing and stuff.

It was…beautiful.

bulldog party

Obviously, at the time we didn’t know it was a regular monthly thing.

To us it was just a huge, random gathering of exactly the same sort of dog, like a magical dream, so we just sort of stood around watching them for a while, a bit baffled, not really knowing what was going on and saying things like

“what the hell”

“I don’t understand”


“look that one’s wearing a stripy jumper”

loads of bulldogs in the park

Eventually we dragged ourselves away from the bulldogs.

There were other things vying for my attention, such as the fact that Regent’s Park also seemed to be attracting a lot of people with wheels for feet.

I’m not sure when it became ok to rollerblade again in public, but I saw one person doing it in Old Street the other day and then this, so it’s safe to say after years in 90s exile, wheelyfeeting around the place is quite possibly “back”.

I wasn’t sure how to feel about this turn of events, but to be fair, at the time I was preoccupied with how the conversation went before this couple left the house that day.

wheels for feet

“No, you take the blades today. I’ll walk. Slowly. Away from you.”

Another thing I noticed was some fairly ambiguous topiary.

I’m assuming it’s someone’s job to be the Royal Parks Custodian of Foliage, which means someone is responsible for the fine feat of bushy engineering below.

Say what you see folks, just say what you see.

turd topiary

But then came the surest sign of all that London Park Weather was in session. 

A moment’s revered silence please, while we all stand back and commend this man for his choice of trousers.

So pink.

So Sunday.

So very Park Weather.

pink trousers

Oh, Park Weather. We love you. Welcome back.

Long may you continue, all the way until at least 6pm tomorrow.

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Someone’s waging a mini-protest against London’s social cleansing.

It looks like a Congestion Charge sign, except it’s NOT.

It’s a Curfew sign and it says “Social Cleansing” at the bottom when it’s not blurred by an iPhone zoom and a moving bus, and it is, of course, not at all real.

Little investigations (i.e. searching on Instagram) tell me the artist is not Islington Council, but street artist Dr D.

Curfew social cleansing sign angel islington

Nevertheless, it’s keeping London commuters baffled and amused in equal parts.

Yesterday it confused two policemen, who were staring at one they’d just taken down, only for another one to pop up again this morning.

It’s not just in Angel either, from the looks of Instagram, they’re appearing all over the place.

In Central London…

Curious new sign in central London #curfew #socialcleansing

A photo posted by Adrian Fitch (@adrianfitch) on

And over yonder Clerkenwell

  A photo posted by Christian Eager (@_eager_) on

You can read more about why Dr. D’s bothering with all this Curfew stuff riggghhtt here.

So that’s all really. There are signs, and they are not real. 

Bloody hell, this blog is basically Buzzfeed. You better subscribe or something.
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Last Sunday I went to Hampstead Heath for a walk.

Despite what a lot of people will have you believe, there’s actually no point in going to Hampstead Heath unless you mega like dogs.

Either that or you should probably own a dog, or want to talk to dog owners about their dogs, or want your dog to meet someone else’s dog so you can say how alike they look then watch them cavort and tumble and nod with feeling when one of them leaps into a pile of fox poo, which’ll definitely happen because they’re dogs and that’s the canine equivalent of going to Alton Towers.

you look like me2

You could theoretically go to Hampstead Heath without wanting to do any of those things.

But why would you want to?

As the non-dog owning folk who once attempted to eat a hearty picnic spread in front of my Labradors once discovered (while I half-heartedly yelled “Charlie, ELLIE, no, leave it, oh…bugger. SORRRRRYYYYY” across the field)… it’s just not worth it.

charlie hampstead heath

My dog will probably eat your picnic. Sorry.


I know what you’re thinking.

Even if you didn’t like dogs, you could still go for the views, yeah? Eat some cake at Kenwood House? Do a nice walk? Parliament Hill?

What’s that, kites? You’ve got a new kite? Want to feel like you’re in the countryside, in London? 

Let me make this clear.

A flow chart to tell you whether you should go to Hampstead Heath or not

I’m warning you. There’s no escaping them.

The hound-shaped influx starts before you even get there, especially if you go to Hampstead by Overground or Tube.

Either way, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see some sort of wolf derivative, or at the very least a chihuahua that looks suspiciously like its owners somewhere along the way.

This time on the Northern Line, I encountered a tiny small little bear.

And by encountered, I mean located and zoned in on the empty seat beside her like a ravenous hawk, because there is nothing better than sitting next to a dog on the tube.

dog on tube

But that’s just the warm up.

As soon as you leave the tube station at Hampstead, they’re everywhere.

Seriously, you can’t move for dogs in this part of London.

I think this is because everyone has enough money to buy big houses – proper ones with stairs (stairs!) and stuff – and therefore can easily accommodate Proper Sized Dogs into their life plan.

You don’t really get that in Dalston, where life plans generally stop at “should I eat eggs for breakfast today”.

dog outside hampstead heath overground

It’s also a good place to go on Sunday if you have a hangover.

All the animals running around will appease the anxious, vulnerable, life-questioning feeling of dread you’re currently experiencing, but if that doesn’t work then the Heath is also conveniently surrounded by loads of really, really good pubs.

And guess what?

Most of those have loads of dogs in too.

Some pubs quite frankly go above and beyond the call of duty, like the Spaniard’s Inn.

This pub is pretty well known for loads of reasons, Dickens and Keats and stuff, but its most notable feature is allowing your dog to have a shower before dinner.

spaniards inn dog wash

Anyway this time we went to the Flask in Hampstead, and took Buster with us.

Buster is my friend Emily’s dog and he’s basically well cool.

Case in point: this was his face when we told him that we’d managed to book a table in the one bit of the pub where dogs weren’t allowed, which meant he would have to sit on one side of the threshold (dark wood), while we consumed vast quantities of red wine and beef on the other (light wood).

In case you can’t read dog expressions, this one is “sod that.”

buster in the flask

All in all, going to Hampstead Heath on a Sunday is an excellent idea.

But only if you like dogs.

If you don’t, then honestly. It’s Sunday. What are you thinking? Just stay in bed. 

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When you arrive in London, either by birth or because you got the train down from Yorkshire, you are automatically assigned a side.

You’re either north of the river or south, and you’re allowed to go a little bit east or slightly to the west from there. You’re allowed to jiggle around a bit, but then you must find your own little bit of London.

And then you must get to know it, and stick up for it in fights.

If you’ve done it right, everywhere else – even going just three stops further west on the Overground – should leave you feeling a little bit stranded.

And going 40 minutes away into the opposite end of London should render you pretty much an out-of-towner… in your own town.

Kingsland Road sunset

Kingsland High Street and its stonking sunsets is where I lay my hat

Londoners get very protective of their areas, their stomping grounds.

It’s not unusual to hear people get all defensive when their neck of the woods is badmouthed in passing conversation or constantly bored off by cliches in Time Out.

The north / south divide in particular is something even the vikings fought over* in 1066**.

You only have to go into a pub on the wrong side of the Thames and mutter the words “but where are your underground stations, south London? Where indeed!*** for things to get nasty and kick off.

Because ultimately, where you live, eat, drink and drag yourself out for a reluctant walk also says a lot about you, and everyone’s got their reasons for choosing their bit.

Someone’s got to live in Clapham, after all.

But the happy flipside to all this inner London patriotism is that venturing into someone else’s area means you’ve also got a ready made tour guide: you can bet they’ll take a certain pride in showing you around.

*Not a fact
**something happened then but probably not this
***Actual true fact: out of 287 tube stations, only 29 are in south London. 
one tree hill

The view from One Tree Hill, which actually has loads of trees

For example, last weekend I went to Honor Oak and Peckham. 

Whenever I go to south London, my mate Tom tries to convince me to move there.

There are many tactics him and his girlfriend employ, such as feeding me copious amounts of rum and having speakers in their bathroom, but this time he was also like “I know, let’s walk to the house party via that massive hill” and pointed at what was basically a small mountain.

He said this was because it would be quicker than going around it, but when we got to the top, there “just so happened” to be a conveniently lovely view over the whole city of London.

And oh, I love a good view.

Then naturally, when I was hungry after all the walking, we “just happened” to stumble upon Sodo, where I ate the most marvellously excellent pizza served by the most polite, chatty, excellent waiters I’ve ever flirted with come across in London.

It was almost enough to make me change my mind about south London, but then I discovered there’s also a Sodo in Clapton, so thankfully there’s no need.

Phew. And off I went back to Dalston.

on the bus

All hail the 38 bus


Likewise, to be shown around someone else’s area of London is to find out a little bit more about them.

In a city where chain restaurants and shops are rivalled by an equal, if not greater number of brilliant independent places, exactly where a Londoner chooses to take you can be enlightening.

“I want to show you the best shop in the world” I recently declared, because when someone comes to London, you want them to see its very, very best bits.

Which is why we spent the next five minutes pointing through metal-grilled windows at a startling array of bears, birds, zebras and giraffes.

Because if you really want to impress someone and show off your local area, you take them to Get Stuffed, the taxidermy shop on Essex Road.

Get Stuffed

I’m not quite sure what it says about me that I’d insist on showing someone a shop which is essentially full of dead animals, but there you go.

We’ve all got our little bits of London, the little things that make us like where we live.

And this little bit of north east, with its silly shops and its excellent pubs and the number 38 bus, is mine. What’s yours?

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London has gone back to work.

After New Year’s Eve, at the very start of Stupid January, people start getting a bit twitchy. A bit ants-in-their-pants-y.

It’s like no one knows what to do with themselves; they’re a little too used to staying in bed until the sun goes down – much more of a challenge in the summer, but still a notable achievement in winter – and suffering from a daily routine that involves shuffling from fridge, to sofa, to phone screen, to inevitable pub, occasionally rinse, repeat.

“Could it be”, you wonder, shaking and scratching around a depleted box of Quality Street, “that I am looking forward to getting back to work?”

quality street

Image: Natalie via Flickr

Some people went back to work on Friday 2nd January this year.

Those of us who did were treated to a rare and wonderful thing: a vision of what London could be if it was empty.

If it was somewhere with well-oiled, spacious, fast moving transportation devices which got you from A-B in the time it’s meant to take you to get there.

If it was somewhere without queues in Pret.

If it was somewhere like the Moon, or Switzerland.

Oh, to live in a city where 60% of the population doesn’t go to work. On the 2nd of January this year, a small group of us lived the dream.

Image: Tom Page via Flickr creative commons

Image: Tom Page via Flickr creative commons

For everyone else, January started the usual way.

That is, by launching a torrent of expletives at an inanimate Oyster card machine which insisted on charging £3-£5 more for a monthly travel pass than it did a few days ago.

“But WHY?” we yelled at the machines in turn, withholding our debit cards in disgust. “What has CHANGED to make this new fare JUSTIFIED? NOTHING. Nothing. NOTHING HAS CHANGED. It is STUPID.”

Then we cried.

And then we paid.

There will, I believe, come a day when TFL softens the blow of Stupid January by offering free on-board croissants. We live in hope.

Until then, it’s up to us.

So to combat the drag of Stupid January, I am reading.

Like, concerted effort reading.

The sort of reading where you buy good books and finish them in a couple of days, then pick up another one and read that.

Reading a good book makes the commute go faster, and has the added benefit of distracting you from your phone. Or Facebook. Or the news. Or the condensation sliding down sweaty bus windows onto your scarf. Or whatever’s making you feel a bit ants-in-your-pants-y that day.

If anything, a good book has the magical effect of making you wish your commute was longer.

And in the case of Station Eleven, it also makes you think that everyone who sneezes on your bus has a killer virus which will lead to the end of the world.

What could be better than that?

If you’ve got a (good) commute-saving book recommendation, let me know.

PS. If you’re reading this by e-mail subscription, you won’t be able to see the last picture. Click here if you feel like you’re missing out.

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