It’s been Quite A Week round here.
A week in which every day at 5:30pm, when they’ve unlocked the doors and let us out of work, I’ve found myself swinging between two different moods:
Mood 1: must go straight home and watch The Bodyguard and cook risotto
Mood 2: must do something nice after work in order not to fall into a pit
And while yes, one of these nights will inevitably end up being a heady mix of both of these things (drinking vast quantities of extortionately priced alcohol in a bar before going home, putting on The Bodyguard, and attempting to cook), it’s also nice to have a few slightly more wholesome “do something nice after work” options floating about. And lately I’ve found some good, cheap-ish things you can do after work in the evening, and most of them don’t cost very much. So here ya go:
1. Go for a swim.
Aside from anything else, hurling yourself into an outdoor pool or lido would really give your brain something else to think about, like do I still have toes, or how deadly is hypothermia. Otherwise, mate, the London Aquatics Centre over in the Olympic Park is very much the one. It’s indoor, very new, and it only costs a fiver for an adult (less if you’re bunking off work during the day).
2. Do some heavy breathing on a mat, or something.
The primary reason loads of people bang on about yoga is because thinking about your shitty day at work while standing on one leg with your arms in the air is really really hard to do. But yoga can be stupidly pricey in London, especially if you just want to do a one-off “today was awful, SOS” class. But the Mind Body app is good for finding cheap introductory classes near wherever you’re currently standing, fuming at the world. Also, a lot of London Borough Councils have really affordable community exercise projects: i.e these fitness classes are all £1 each for Hackney residents.
3. Bury your face into a very good book (for free).
Book shops are deffo the most calming places on earth – other day I went in Waterstone’s Islington and earwigged on a dad / daughter storytime session for a bit and it was mega therapeutic. But may I also remind you of the existence of libraries? And that you can still get books, audio books, and films instantly and for free in the year of our lord 2017? Find your local library on this page and voila! Free. Fucking. Books.
4. Borrow a dog.
If you haven’t yet made a list of people whose dog you can befriend when the world feels like it’s going to end, that’s ok. Now is the time to start. Join this website, browse a selection of local dogs, and get to know their owners. If that feels like a reach, just sign up and look at photos of other people’s dogs. I mean, it works for me.
5. Sit somewhere really busy and people watch.
IMO, the worst bits of London are the really busy parts, unless you need distracting. In which case, they are the best place to plonk yourself down, put on music or a podcast, and watch an endless stream of people going about their miserable, daily hum drum existences all around you. The bit outside Kings Cross where the swing is? Excellent spot. Ditto Southbank, where buskers will cause you to reluctantly hum along to Ed Sheeran covers whether you like it or not.
6. Go watch something you normally wouldn’t at the cinema.
I’m a big fan of just rocking up to see whatever’s on at the cinema. But again, in London – this reaaaally isn’t very cheap. Except recently I’ve found a lot of local cinemas do deals mid week to get you through the door. Like the Rio on Kingsland Road has Cheap Mondays, and £5 Tuesdays if you come in waving your Hackney library card.
7. Send a friend something in the post.
Alright, so this one might just be an excuse to go into a card shop and buy some decent stationery. But one bonafide foolproof way to feel better is to send someone an offensive / funny / stupid card, if for no other reason than you’ll probably make yourself laugh while you’re doing it. Fun fact: the postbox on Rosebery Avenue in Clerkenwell has a later 7.30pm pickup time. Don’t ask why I know this sort of stuff.
8. Invest in a re-fillable bottle of wine.
All hail the genius of Borough Wines. You buy an empty bottle (£2.50), fill it up with red, white, or rosé in the shop (£6.50), go outside, down it, then go straight back in and refill for £6.50. I jest, obviously. Street drinking’s for hobos. Buy two bottles and down them in the comfort of your own home instead.
9. Take yourself somewhere for dinner.
Because look: sometimes it helps to talk, and sometimes the last thing you want to do is discuss your awful day with anyone. Enter The Infatuation’s piece recently on places to eat if you’re rolling solo.
10. Find a midweek gig happening that night.
The absolute wonder of London is that you will find live music somewhere, somehow, on any given night of the week. And usually without getting advance tickets. Try the Jazz Cafe in Camden, The Lexington, Birthdays, and the Shacklewell Arms. Or have a scout on Resident Advisor.
11. Visit a friend on the other side of London.
Part of the reason we all get so fed up is because we’re doing the same journeys and routines every day. So give your mate on the other side of town a ring and go see how astonishingly happy everyone in west London is.
12. Get up high.
You know what you need? Perspective, mate. Bit of perspective. Every January, the Shard sells a card that gives you free access to the viewing platform at the top as many times as you want, all year round, for about £20. So if you reckon it’s going to be a nice sunset, you can just nip up and watch it from the tallest building in London for free. Failing that, get on the Dangleway, or climb up any of these.
13. Go for late tea and cake.
A lot of Soho’s cafes are open late, and are a very good place to go with a book and have a cuppa. Yum Chaa, Balans Soho Society Cafe, even Caffe Nero on the corner of Frith Street is open til 2am during the week. So, there’s that. Here are more places that aren’t the pub.