Summer is here, and it is everything.
Some good things lately: Instagram. Butterfield Green. 24h smoked salmon bagels on Stoke Newington High Street. Kindle for iPhone. Karima, still. The Coach & Horses. Crystal Palace. Falafel; shawarma. Texts from Tara. Pret, the safest pair of hands. Sleeping by open windows. Coffee in the morning, sweet addiction. Imran, and all the luck in the world. 🍀⚓❤
(Source: Flickr / girlonahottinroof)
Fog city heart; Big Smoke
Maybe it’s the cool and windy sun, maybe it’s the communal excitement of a city full of people finally feeling the spring, but London feels a lot like San Francisco right now. This time last year, tomorrow to be exact, I left for a month by the bay, a trip that changed everything for me and all those other cliches. Every day I wrote about how much I loved it, before going home with a list of resolutions for how I was going to carry the SF spirit with me. Looking at it now I can confirm I’m on the yoga wagon, I’m progressing on the work stuff, I’m doing pretty well with getting those adulthood routines down too (sidebar: now that I’m no longer constantly late I’m finding lots of other people are … if that’s not ironic then it really should be). “As you get what you give, I’m hoping London will provide for me too, if I let it,” was the last thing I wrote before heading back to the UK, sick from having to leave let-it-carry-you San Francisco for fight-for-it London. But I remember knowing what I hoped for would probably be possible, and it was - because in many ways, these past 12 months may well have been the best year of my life. In London.
[San Francisco double exposure by Aaron Durand]
I’ve only been back at yoga for five weeks but this time I mean it, head and heart. It sorts those bits right out. And if those bodyparts weren’t serious, my poor back certainly is. So it’s on. I was recently asked for yoga class recommendations, and while I’m certainly no expert I thought I’d oblige. I mean, I know what it’s like to leave a crappy yoga lesson in a huff because the teacher is acting like a drill sergeant (and needing a fag to calm down). While the periods of slack have been long and shameful, I’ve been practicing yoga on and off since I was at university. I started with the Iyengar style, before getting into Ashtanga after moving to London. Over the past year I’ve tried a range of styles before settling on Jivamukti, which is amazing with the fast flow and music and, oh yes, the chanting. I go to the same class every week, no ifs, ands or buts, and that’s pretty much all there was to that. Oh and I make sure to eat something about two hours before; a small but vital detail for a person of fussy blood sugar. Then afterwards I drink some coconut water and feel most good about myself.
The Life Centre in Islington is probably the best yoga studio I’ve been to, and they have a great-value offer for beginners. Yoga Place E2 in Bethnal Green is also very good. I haven’t been to Bikram Yoga in Shoreditch yet, but trusted sources tell me it’s addictive. Emma Henry is a fantastic Jivamukti teacher, while Ruth Westoby is a great Ashtanga instructor. So is Kate Hewett, although I think she’s left London now. I’ve also had great classes taught by Eunice Laurel, and Helen Stylianou. Their websites list where they teach and they’re worth following around. Namaste.
LETTERS FROM THE START-UP FRONTIER
*** The Early View is the series I wrote on the UK technology start-up community for Megabuyte, the specialist sector newswire. Published between September 2012 and February 2013.
*** Letters from the West Coast is the series I wrote about start-up life and tech trends in San Francisco, published in Megabuyte in June and July 2012.
* The magic in the Valley. What is it about Silicon Valley that makes it such a dynamic place to start a business?
* The social revolution. How social tools are changing how businesses collaborate and create.
* The innovation cycle: The agony and the ecstasy. The trouble with innovation and keeping the start-up spirit alive.
* The view to Britain. How is Britain’s technology scene viewed from the West Coast?
[Interlude] The newyear has rolled around, and I’ve spent three days in London without my winter coat which means I haven’t really left the house. It’s been great. The world is grey and still and clouded in jetlag, and Waitrose is an enchanted place with wonderful things like dead cow and ready-made tomato sauce and fresh pasta. This is pretty much the only thing I’ve wanted to eat since I’ve been home; if I never see another pot of sambal again it will be just peachy. My first trek across the city yielded something of a reverse culture shock though: London is so calm! After the throng of India, London is an island of serenity. … Anyways, I am back and I’m completely happy. Today, London fits me like a glove.
I’m in Berlin. This city feels oddly homely although I’ve never been here before. I haven’t really seen much of the place and the weather’s a bit crap, but I think I may potentially really like it here. We’ve had a few dozy wanderings in the January halflight, mostly around Neukölln where we stayed a night with Mike’s friend Avital in her 12-person housing project. Now we’re staying in Friedrichshain, which is full of nice-looking food and watering holes, and last night Mike’s friend Nathalie took us to Kreuzberg to this great pizza place run by punks, where the business cards have ready-made perforations for easy use as roach. … Impressions so far are of a city that’s vibrant yet chilled, still amazingly cheap for a European capital and full of interesting people who are aware of the world around them. And who think nothing of asking you if you’re done with that when you show signs of leaving food on your plate. The Scandinavian pragmatic in me is thrilled.
[Berlin notes] Hot chilli oil at Il Casolare (I seriously think India has cranked up my chilli tolerance). The East Side Gallery, sitting on a five-inch thick concrete slab of consequence. Drinking holes of Neukölln. Laptop-life at Sankt Oberholz in Prenzlauer Berg (thanks Jean!). Der Imbiss W: Mexican slash Indian; I had the burrito, Mike and Avital had the thali (we all had the tandoori salmon). Brandenburger Tor. Coffee shops of Friedrichshain. Currywurst. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe: a sea of columns that looks manageable from a distance but then you walk into it and the reality overwhelms you; an incredible piece of architecture and a moving and very effective marker of history. Soft pretzels. The Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park: a re-visit of what is my only memory of a brief stopover in Berlin at 19 when my school took us on a six-day roundtrip to Prague in a bus (I recommend this). The U-Bahn and the S-Bahn; delightful German efficiency. Chocolate-covered marzipan.
… I keep thinking 2013 will be all about work, and then things keep happening to make sure I really think 2013 will be all about work. [Note to editors: Canning someone’s column while confetti is still falling on newyear celebrations? Not so much.] But somehow it feels ok, maybe even like an opportunity. I’ve been wanting to go to Berlin for ages but I’m a guest on this trip, and a poor one at that as the dregs of jetlag leaves me dull and droopy after 10pm. But I’m very happy to be here, and I’m loving the guidebook-free approach to what is proving to be an amazing city. Possibly even amazing enough to live in … ? It’s just a thought, but it’s nice to be in a mind where you can contemplate moving to Berlin. Anyways what I’m thinking these days is this: I really want to get back to work, because I really like what I do. Which is great to know. And this little travelogue apropos wouldn’t be complete without a little thankyou to India: I’m wide awake even though it’s the middle of the darkest winter, which I realise hasn’t happened to me before in my whole adult life. I owe that to the Indian sunshine, stored up inside my chest. And I’m so happy to be home. Because hell yes, I know what I am.
i love hot autumn days. they feel like a gift, each one of them. summer took forever to come to london this year, but it’s starting to make up for it with a fantastic autumn. oh and another thing: the chin chin laboratories. mike and i went to this camden ice cream place that makes sorbet using liquid nitrogen. i had the mexican watermelon fizz, which comes with chilli sherbert and a sprinkling of happiness. ah london x
Five things, Summer Lovin’ edition
“Life is short. Break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that made you smile. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” [Mark Twain]
* London in the summer. It’s back, that feeling where I’ll be walking along, across the river or under a pale blue sky, and I’ll stop for a moment and feel it in my guts, just how much I love this city.
* Fred & Fran, and the coffee shops of Stokey and Dalston. This is a somewhat uptight yet high-quality and adorable little breakfast café up the road, which reflects the general mood of Stokey. I live on the borderlands to Dalston, which provides a nice balance of general scruffiness, but also a fair helping of hipsters. Simon and I went to Rita’s the other night to try out the offal-and-waffles type menu, and found it is indeed possible to choke on an atmosphere entirely saturated with hipsters. But without them, who would keep all these great little cafés in business? Bless them and may they be very happy.
* Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present. Amazing documentary of an incredible artist. Mike and I went all the way to Clapham to see this, and for me that says some (it’s a North / South divide thing). But Marina. Wonderful. Everybody cried, and then we went home and re-considered our lives.
* Fleetwood Mac: Rumours. I’m a tad late to this party, yes, but what a party is it! I have to say, this album may well be flawless. Stevie Nicks! And lots of happy lyrics: “All I want is to see you smile,” that sort of thing. Perfection.
* Life is good. Here are some things that are making me happy right now. Cloudy apple juice, airplane vapour trails across the sky, YouTube, melons, the bench outside Look Mum No Hands, friends on the phone, sticky summer in the city, strawberries with sugar, Maud the Cat, halfpints, the Overground, sandals, Kingsland Road, avocados, stars in the garden, late nights at Gelupo, green parks, and Mike, the boy who came along because I am a lucky, lucky girl.
right now, london is scorching and i am doing nothing but soaking it up. i feel like a schoolkid on summer break. get it while it’s hot.
On a small island; inside the magic closet
London and I are good again, like an old couple who have decided to stick it out in spite of our differences. I’m mostly referring to the weather here, as it’s been raining for six weeks and is likely to keep doing so for the rest of our lives. But in fairness, I’m not too bothered about it as it’s pretty warm and light into the evenings. I’ll take a muggy summer over a gloomy winter any day. On that note though, I’m seriously considering some sort of regular winter escape, like the birds and the pensioners do, in an attempt to keep this city in my good graces. It’s starting to feel a bit like work, the thing I have with this island, but London has been around for longer than any boy. Maybe this is what it’s like to mate for life.
I feel like I’m on Narnia time. As in, I’ve walked through the magic closet, and for me it seems like months have gone by but outside it’s only been a couple of weeks. I could go into detail but this isn’t that sort of blog, so instead I will just express my awe that I seem to have managed to just let go and enjoy. I have always been an over-thinker, but right now my mind is free of thought regarding what happens later. I have no idea how I managed this, but it seemed to have come about on its own once I started stepping up a bit, once I started asking for what I actually want. It turns out my mother (and The Beatles) was right: You get what you give. … I’ve spent a lot of time overruling my tendency to trust my instincts blindly, so I’m a little taken aback by the fact that this new good fortune seems to be fuelled by an awareness that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. I know I’m blathering on a bit here. I’m very happy.
i felt something last night that i wasn’t sure if i’d ever get back: i love this city.
this is yoko ono and her ‘ceiling painting’. i went to the serpentine gallery yesterday to see her show, ‘to the light’. the tiny word on the ceiling over the ladder is too far away to see, but i know what it says: yes. yes is the answer.