Tuesday 6 December 2011

Some things I love about London

I've moved around a lot in my time. I was born in Scotland, lived in England, then Ireland (where my family still lives), then England again. On the plus side, it means I can describe myself as an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman. If I walk into a bar, hilarity is hoped for.

It also means that I haven't really had anywhere that I see as "mine" for most of my life. I was very much an outsider as a teenager in Ireland, and I felt much the same when I was at university.

In recent years, I've rather settled in London. And I've gone from liking it to loving it. So I thought I'd mention a handful of my favourite things.

The Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green

Well, really, I have to mention this. I've met a lot of friends via this place, through the writing group and the comedy night. It's given me the chance to spread my wings with the comedy, which has been immensely more fun than I'd even hoped. It's also led to some incredibly satisfying nights of comedy, even just as an audience member. I've been very lucky.

The writing group has been a pleasure to be a part of, and it's something I would recommend to anyone, anywhere, to consider setting up. It's rewarding and really can help give you further motivation.

Simon and Tim, the owners of the shop, are both fantastic guys - entertaining and smart as hell. They're considerate to customers, and even put up with me when I was out of work and hanging around the shop far too much.

Oh, and they also sell books there. You'll find them on twitter at @biggreenbooks and you can buy books from them at their website.

The Prince Charles Cinema

This is basically cinematic paradise. It's run by people who know their films, both modern and classic. It's cheap as chips, especially considering it's at Leicester Square. Even the popcorn is very reasonably priced.

Highlights this year have included a "Girl with the..." marathon, a screening of "Casablanca" and the "Swear-a-long-a-South-Park".

If you're in London, and a movie-buff, and you arent a member of this place, you should consider it. You'll also get discounts at some places in town with your membership card, including Forbidden Planet and Gosh! Comics.

The Prince Charles Cinema website and twitter.

The Underground

It's just fantastic. It really is. Sure, it's annoying sometimes, especially when it's busy and you're squashed up against someone else in a way that you feel uncomfortable being without buying them dinner first, or when you're waiting around for a delayed train, but do take the time to consider what it achieves.

The next time you're waiting for a train, but when it turns up and is too busy to get on, try and work out how many people are in that carriage.

Then multiply it by the amount of carriages on the train.

Then consider how many trains pass through that station on that line.

Now think about all the other stations and lines.

Yeah. That's a lot of people. The fact that it works at all is somewhat impressive, let alone how well it usually handles the flow.

As something else to think about, why not check out the fantastic posters in their collection?

The Pubs

London has a fantastic pub culture. There are some brilliant pubs in the city. My personal favourites are these:

The Phoenix Artist Club

Located under the Phoenix Theatre on Charing Cross Road, this is a strange mixture between dark, stylish jazz house and massively camp theatre bar. Catch it on the right night, and it's brilliant. It also used to serve popcorn as a bar snack and should really do that again.

The Phoenix

The Angel

Round the corner from Forbidden Planet (my personal Mecca), this is a strange little pub. I keep discovering rooms I didn't know it had. Most recently, I realised it had an upstairs, which holds the really strange experience of feeling like you're having a pint in your nan's living room. And it does wheat beer. Hooray.

The Angel

The Dolric Arch

Formerly the Head of Steam, this is one of the best hidden treasures in the capital (especially for real ale lovers). Most people sit in one of the disappointing pubs in Euston Station itself while waiting for a train, and it's easy to get in and out of the station without having any idea that this place is here, as it's kind of hidden away from certain angles. But it's a real spit-and-sawdust style old pub, with great beer and a lovely relaxed atmosphere. It's a particularly great place to wait for a train. Take a book, sit with a pint and watch the world go by. It's bliss.

The Dolric Arch

Wandering around

I love walking around London. Just looking out for things you don't look at often, or checking out places you haven't been to before. If you regularly walk between two points in London, vary up your route and you're almost guaranteed to find something interesting.

My personal favourite walk is from London Bridge station (via the Hays Galleria) to the Houses of Parliament. You walk along the Thames and pass the HMS Belfast, Shakespeare's Globe, Blackfriars, the OXO Tower, the Millenium Eye... days worth of sight-seeing in a couple of hours stroll. And you can finish it off by walking down to Leicester Square and finding some good food.

Yeah, I was just in a good mood and thinking about London.

Yes, it's busy. Yes, you have to put up with black snot after a week of living there. Yes, you have to get used to moving fast and finding yourself getting annoyed with people who think that the bottom of the escalator at Picadilly Circus is a good place to take a group photo. Yes, you're aware of crime (I've had my phone, wallet and car stolen while in London at various points, thankfully none of the violently). Yes, it's expensive. Yes, there's a lot to get annoyed by.

But God,I love this place. I really love it. And there are plenty of reasons why. These were just some of the ones that came to mind.

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