London Rooftops: Peckham

One lazy sunny Sunday afternoon I needed something fun to do in the sun, but more than that I needed somewhere fun to eat. It’d been a weird week, one of stress at work and weird city humidity despite otherwise cloudy weather. Sometimes a gal’s just gotta treat herself after a hard Sunday morning doing some life admin!

So we found ourselves headed (after a moment of indecision about just going somewhere we know instead) to nearby Peckham, where two neighbouring buildings are head-to-head in the best rootop stakes.

#1: Frank’s Cafe, London

Offering the least-obstructed view of the city from the perfect vantage point of southeast London, Frank’s is an informal bar set atop the repurposed Peckham Multi-Storey carpark. It’s been an ever-popular evening spot, but now modern art installations combined with potentially the best views of London make the photo-worthy pink staircase (so many stairs…!) worth it.

We came here around lunchtime on a Sunday, which ended up being super quiet but great to explore the installations up top.

The drinks weren’t too pricey (around £7 for a cocktail) considering the view, we had so much fun perusing the skyline and testing our knowledge of the names of every individual building. This place seemed like it would get pretty busy later in the evening, but was pretty chilled at midday.


From here, we saw a neighbouring building with a similar rooftop bar so we went to check it out.


#2: Bussey Building Rooftop

We’re used to our local Brixton, Peckham’s more gentrified neighbour, so this was a nice chance to explore a similar-feeling area without all the added ‘jazz’. Peckham is more raw, less pretty and more attitude.

Up more steps we climbed, to the top of the Bussey Building where a cool oasis lay. Here was music (which sounded like one of my own playlists…) and a colour-block pop of fun. The drinks were slightly more pricey than Frank’s at around £8 for a cocktail (£5.50 for a glass of prosecco), and of course being behind Frank’s it does have a slightly more obstructed view. The vibe here was awesome though, really fun and summery. There was a food stall as well that served the BEST (but messiest) burgers I’ve ever had. 10/10 for fun

I’d recommend going to both to see which floats your boat more, but I get the feeling Frank’s is great for a night with a group of friends and Bussey would be my prefered place for a fun date night 🤗

The Hidden Mews of London

Fitzrovia, in west central London, is the quiet area hidden between Oxford Street and Regent’s Park. If upmarket Chelsea was a flamboyant socialite, then Fitzrovia would be the bookish cousin. Quietly grand buildings line quiet streets (including the famous Harley Street), and off it can be found a number of quiet mews. These are small streets, or courtyards that used to function as rows of stables with living quarters sitting above. Nowadays, these historical remnants have been refurbished and remodelled into unimaginably pricey townhouses, painted all the pastel colours you can dream of. I love strolling down these beautiful side streets, they both shelter from the hum and heartbeat of the city, yet instead of an escape, take you closer to the heart of it all.

Spare half an hour next time you’re in central London and find these gorgeous spots for yourself!

Spotlight: Katharina Grosse @ Gagosian Gallery, London

There is a gallery space hidden down Britannia street near King’s Cross station (so near, in fact, there is no excuse not to go). It opens up into a maze of compact but seemingly vast expanses of pure white walls interspersed with swathes of natural light. I’ve been to galleries before, but this was on another level of pristine purity.

Katharina Grosse is a German-born artist whose work involves paint, stencils and negative space to produce striking, geometric pieces.

In ‘Prototypes of Imagination’, Grosse reveals the ways in which painting catalyzes the unfolding of multiple dimensions on a single surface

– Gagosian exhibition pamphlet

One almost falls into the first installation, the small antechamber of the entrance hall opening up to the largest room with no warning, no ceremony. The largest piece was canvas hanging from the ceiling, almost like a waterfall. One could peek behind it as there was no wall directly behind it, which added to the drama and impact on arrival.


In the adjoining rooms, huge individual canvases dwarfed the viewer. I felt truly moved by the scale of these pieces, the energy and emotion that weaved its way through the collection. Some pieces were hard, jagged, abrupt with pointy, straight lines. Some had colours flowing around areas of negative space.

There is no boundary between reality and imagination. To imagine is to realize. My pictures are prototypes of this recognition; they try out – and dramatically compress – the characteristics of reality. I build prototypes of the imagination so they can be reenacted and applied to other fields of endeavour

– Katharina Grosse


One piece (not pictured), brought up feelings of dread from afar with brutal lines and use of grey. On closer inspection, one saw the lichen-like dabbing of acrylic, that the grey was actually a silver sheen, and that up close it behaved completely differently.


If this collection explores imagination, then it inspires as much as it has been inspired. All the pieces were unnamed, unadorned, unexplained. Part of me struggled with this, I needed to know why that drip was there, what that shape meant. What did the artist feel in the exact moment of that brush stroke? Not being titled, though, seemed to almost be the title piece itself. Allow your imagination to be explored, each canvas said, and tell me what you think. I think in that lies the real genius of this collection.

Things I Want To Do In 2018

It may be a little bit beyond the new year, but I guess spring is as good a time as any to plan the year and set any travel and experience goals! These aren’t big, but that’s the point. Nowadays glamorous travel bloggers seemingly seeing the world for free, access to more and more remote travel destinations has become entry level and a badge of honour. I sense a sort of travel snobbery evolving, so I want to try and keep it real this year.

I have really felt the pressure to see and do more, but my education in slow living is teaching me to try and make smaller, more tangible experience-based goals. I would of course also love to visit far-flung and remote places, but I also want to feel simple pleasure and easy bliss. Life isn’t just one long bucket list, because what if one doesn’t complete every task? Have you then failed at life? Call me melodramatic but it is something I think about. I do have a list of places I want to go and things I want to do, but I also try and find a balance. I don’t have to use every bank holiday weekend for an international city break, or every week’s holiday to sprint off to Asia. It’s fine to dream small, because sometimes big things happen too.


Sleep under the stars

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There is nothing a city-dweller loves more than taking advantage of the lack of occluding pollution when visiting less urban spots. Use a cool stargazing app, I use Night Sky, which can identify the planets and constellations when the phone is pointed towards them. I’m obsessed with the heavens, and have been since I was a child. When I am out of the city, staring up, I imagine what it must have been like hundreds, thousands of years ago. No hard scientific evidence, weather forecasting, news on CNN. No way of knowing if what you are doing was right, or what might happen in the future. There’s a certain kind of hope that lies in the sky, either that we are not alone, or that the gods are watching over us. It’s fascinating to me, and something I hope to teach any future kiddies of mine all about.


Watch the sun come up on a beach

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Watching the sun go down is easy, you fall into it after a lazy afternoon and before happy hour. Actually waking up extra early and watch the sun come up, though, takes extra effort. Dawn is my favourite time of day, as an introvert having the true peace of knowing most people are still tucked up, asleep, is so calming. I always talk about having a lie-in on holiday but still find myself up before everyone else, slowly sipping a coffee on the balcony while everyone else dreams. I’m South African, I love beaches, so combining my two favourite things equals an empty beach and plenty of awesome photos.


Hire a canal boat with friends

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Picture this: a lazy Saturday, the mid-summer air is heavy, and you and a few friends are sipping drinks on the deck of a narrowboat, the length of a canal behind you. This has been my dream for ever, and I do solemnly declare that 2018 is the year I am going to do it. The only question is, what cocktails do I bring?


Have a gourmet picnic

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After years of London living, summertime requires an almost military-level of organisation in order to enjoy even an hour of sun in a nearby park. Tote bags, mismatched beach towels, and a few bottles of beer (never the opener though… sigh) are all we can scramble together in the sprint to enjoy the sun. This year I pledge to get a proper picnic set, ready to go at a moment’s notice, and take some proper homemade food to enjoy outdoors in style. Just add friends and prosecco.


Go on a cooking course

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Bread-baking, pasta-making, you name it I would love to do it. This year has to be the year this recipe-dodger (physically can’t follow them, it must be a genetic thing) actually learns to cook something intricate and fancy. Thai? Tacos? Who knows, but I can’t wait!


Visit the UK’s only desert

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You would be forgiven for not knowing that England has its own desert, and it is located on the south coast. In between Hastings and Folkestone, this area is more famous for its nuclear power station. Years ago only artists, poets and filmmakers inhabited the quaint fisherman’s cottages in eccentricity. However, there is a contemporary architecture scene growing along this portion of the wind-battered coast. The feel seems to be very wild west, very interesting, and promises to yield picture-perfect scenes for any photographer.


See an open-air performance

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I have been meaning to do this for years, especially as London’s Regent’s Park has a not-so secret outdoor theatre showing critically-acclaimed performances. I’m imagining a balmy-but-cooling evening, lots of prosecco, and some fantastic theatre.

At the end of 2018 I plan on re-sharing this list, but replacing the stock photos with my own. I can’t wait for some fantastic adventures!

A Perfect Brunch

Salon is a small restaurant in a covered market area in Brixton, South London. Self described as ‘fine dining without the fuss’, we put its menu to the test one dreary and slightly hungover Sunday morning.

Outside

You would be forgiven for walking past it without even realising, so unassuming is the store front, I have myself walked past it for the last few years. What initially started as a pop up above an artisinal cheese store became a permanent dining space, followed by the acquisition of a wine store next door.

The vibe is smart and polished, but relaxed and unfussy. Downstairs is a bar area, but upstairs is the dining room overlooked. The convivial atmosphere seems perfect for any occasion, a relaxed lunch with friends or an intimate dinner for two.

Menu

The menu is super varied, utilising local and seasonal ingredients. This is not your typical ‘brunch’ fare early on a Sunday morning, there wasn’t a waffle or pancake in sight. The oat milk flat whites arrived; simple and unadorned, and the food served by the chef himself.

Clockwise top to bottom: buttery corn bread, sriracha, kale and smoked salmon royale, sweet potato hummus on sourdough with confit bacon lardons, and hash browns.

Lemon meringue pie

Our eyes were definitely bigger than our stomachs (we even shared dessert, I mean who has dessert at breakfast?!) but it’s so worth it – and at a fairly reasonable price. The flavours hung on the palate long after we’d left, this is not a meal you want to pop a mint after! It’s really special when you find a spot that really speaks to you, somewhere that you could both see yourself working in and yet also feeling like home. I look forward to visiting for dinner and a glass or two of organic wine!

We Came for the Porter: Tour of a Brewery in Hackney, London

At Christmas we were bought tickets for a tour of our favourite local brewery, 5 Points Brewing Company in Hackney, London.

Located down a small cobbled street, under the Victorian arches of a train station is a relatively small and unassuming brewery. Conceived only five years ago, this relative newcomer solidified it’s place in our hearts a few years ago after a particularly memorable afternoon of IPA at an outdoor event at their London Fields warehouse. 5 Points are strongly community-oriented: their brewery uses 100% renewable resources, and is a living wage employer. It’s clear that sometimes in business, small is better.

The selection

The tour started with tasting a selection of 5 Points beers at shared long tables, while members of the team talked about the history and brewing process. This was great as we got a chance to get stuck in and avoid any long lecture-style talks!

The four light beers

First up was the pils, robust and dry. This was followed by various iterations of a pale ale: XPA, pale and IPA. The surprise favourite at this stage was the XPA, or extra pale ale. It was crisp and bright with a citrus flavour and grassy smell. The pale ale packed a bitter punch, and the IPA was a welcome burst of almost creaminess with an almost perfumed finish. It’s worth noting that all the beers are unfiltered and unpasteurized, which is really evident in the strong character of all the brews on offer.

The resident packaging expert talking through the merits of cans vs bottles

Last up were the two darker options, the brick field brown ale and the all-time best: the railway porter. Both had rich, creamy coffee and chocolate flavours but the latter is just dessert and alcohol all in one neat package.

Brown ale

Most suprising was the relative small size of the brewery, the main floor occupying only one or two railway arches. We were given tbe opportunity to walk through the process from beginning to packaging (cans are superior for preservation than bottles due to better blockage of beer-damaing UV rays), leaving me feeling like I could hold conversation with even the biggest beer buffs.

The brewing process, from start to finish

Included in our tickets was a ‘beer haul’, AKA a goodie bag of cans to take home and continue our beer education. Beer homework, if you will. Possibly the best part of the goodie bag was the bag itself, a gorgeous sturdy tote perfect for next weekend’s farmers’ market!

We left having made new friends with two older east London gents, and with an extra free beer ‘for the road’ (I prattled on and on about the porter so one of the tour facilitators opened a ‘spoiled’ bottle for the walk home). The staff were really passionate and knowledgable; promoting an almost dream lifestyle of working with friends, being paid to drink beer, creativity and fulfilment.

Where do we sign up?

Sudden Stranger

Finding Calm in Zone One

(My only Black Friday sale purchase was access to a thermal spa for two at the Spa Experience by Better in East London. I’ve been here before, it is a fantastic facility for the price and sometimes is just a much needed way to feel pampered without breaking the bank).

It was in the heat and mist of the eucalyptus and mint steam room (the hottest one-my favourite), where I kind of truly stopped for a few minutes. I know switching off is something I can be terrible at. A couple chattered quietly on the other side of the room, and drops fell from the ceiling where they had condensed from steam. Months ago these things, these little noises, would have me quietly seething. After all, how can I be ‘quiet’ when all isn’t QUIET?

Mindfulness is simply allowing time to pass, without adding one’s ‘stamp’ onto each passing moment

Many times when I was first starting out, I really struggled with background noise, with closing my eyes which allowed thoughts to race through my head. The more that appeared, the more I would assume failure.

I feel my study of mindfulness/meditation has helped me find a place, that place in my chest, where I can place my awareness and allow the noises to be where they are. And it struck me that all mindfulness and meditation are is simply allowing time to pass, without adding one’s ‘stamp’ onto each passing moment.

Every time we try to control a moment, or do something else, or try and extract every bit of value from something (what I’m guilty of the other 99% of my day) is akin to us trying to add our own stamp to time. Ro almost own it. This feels something we do, without realising, from a place of ego.

Why must we attempt to own every second? To fill each hour with long to-do lists of tasks we should do and people we ought to see. There is a certain beauty in movies unwatched, laundry unironed, and simply feeling time pass by.

Two great challenges to feel this slow ticking of time, the universal heartbeat are to:

  1. Enjoy a lazy lunch deal in a restarant with no entertainment, taste your food, and let the natural progress of the meal be your only clock.
  2. Like I did, try and find a sauna or steam room somewhere. A garden or beach would also work perfectly. Place your awareness in what I imagine to be an elevator from your head down into your chest, at your heart chakra, and let those thoughts pass through your mind unanswered.

So there I was, not being perfect, not being a zen master, but simply allowing thoughts and time to pass.

As it will always continue to do, regardless.

A week of winter hibernation

We were on leave this week, and a planned Berlin trip scuppered by Ryanair cancellations lead us to have the sweetest week off at home. Doing next to nothing, hanging out, laughing, eating and sleeping. Little did I know that that was exactly what I needed after a very stressful and exhausting few weeks. I have just started a more senior role, and my final MSc module has just begun. It’s safe to say that I have had a decent amount of things on my to-do list.

The Saturday before our week off was my husband’s birthday. Family dinner at Ceviche (one of our favourite restaurants – try the Lomo Saltado flame-grilled steak and Don Ceviche) was followed by drinks in a craft beer pub with friends. This, of course, ended with a rowdy late-night pizza session at Voodoo Ray’s Dalston.

Monday was his actual birthday, which brought us to St John Bread & Wine in Spitalfields after a lazy day at home; and a fabulous 4 plate sharing meal of smoked mackerel, ox heart & chips, butternut & pearl barley, and a beautiful lamb stew. We paired this with a dry (and strong!) crisp rosé.

St John Bread & Wine

Drinks at Black Rock Bar in Spitalfields never disappoints for whiskey fans. It was voted UK’s Best Specialist Bar 2017 in the Class Bar Awards, and this is definitely well deserved. The staff are always so knowledgeable, and they just do make the finest cocktails around.

Black Rock whiskey bar

Tuesday brought another cosy day in, followed by a Queens of the Stone Age gig at the O2 (this doesn’t sound like a very relaxing week so far, but I swear we did very little during the days!). They played a furiously tight and yet chaotic set, my favourites being ‘The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret’ and ‘Sick Sick Sick’. The sound was incredible, and even from our seats the heavy bass was deeper than anything I’d heard at a gig before.

QOTSA at the O2

Wednesday and Thursday were more home-based. I desperately needed to find time for some quiet so enjoyed having the TV off (once I’d finally finished Netflix’s Punisher), and listening to the birds out in the large oak tree in our garden. I tried a gym session but my body was telling me it needed rest, so I did more stretching-based movements instead.

Friday, we relished in another lazy lie-in, and a slow meal at a great local Pho place (apr and concisely named) Pho in Balham, South London. The spring and summer rolls (not pictured – eaten too quickly!) were fresh, tasty and just what we needed. The beef steak pho (look away vegetarians!) was so warming with plenty of five spice and star anise – of course I then add a good shot of sriracha to make things interesting! The lunch deal was fantastic, £20 for a two course meal for two.

Pho

We stopped in at Milk Cafe down the road for a relaxing post-lunch coffee. I was disappointed to find out their only milk alternative was soy, so opted for a black espresso instead. The vibe was great though, as was a cute little card served with our coffees explaining the flavour profile of the blend used.

Milk Cafe

Today was a day that felt lazy and like time wasted, but how often do people dream of an aimless lunch on a weekday, watching the world go by? We laughed and strolled and actually tasted the flavours of our food, more than I can say I’ve done in weeks.

Slow in the City – the beginnings of winter

Today we nipped out to Pop Brixton for some food. It is a lively market created from the skeletons of repurposed shipping containers, filled with nearly any kind of food stalls you’ve ever wanted to try. It’s somewhere we’ve always popped to as it is so nearby, but I never really took the time to take it in before. It definitely has settled in since it’s inception, and seems to fit right into the Brixton backstreet where it kind of stood out before.

There are also things I don’t like too much about the place (the whole idea of it feels a bit too hipster and like a symptom of gentrification at times, thus making me feel uncomfortable for being a part of that process), but there are things I like about it too. I like that it’s a place that is trying to give something, however small, back to the community it sits in. A lot of the stalls in Pop Brixton use compostable food packaging, and/or reduce food waste by donating extras to a local food pantry. Even if it is just a hipster fad, hopefully these little things will become the absolute norm in large city society.

Pop Brixton, made out of shipping containers

It was also a nice surprise to find a little herb garden out the back, like a return to something more simple than having an imported Belgian blonde beer alongside your Japanese gyoza. It may just be for that ‘rustic’ vibe, but I enjoyed perusing the chard, Thai basil, strawberry, coriander (nearly dead as usual – how does anyone succeed in growing one of them?!) and various salad leaves.

Top and bottom: makeshift planters at Pop Brixton

For him, the Miso pork ramen was on the menu from Koi Ramen; and for me some fantastic real-deal tacos from Maria Sabina (slathered in so much hot sauce that the chef showed concern. Edit: I not only survived but LOVED it!)

Koi Ramen Bar

Brixton Village market, a lot quieter than it’s newer, flashier cousin, had some pretty chilli peppers that I might go back for some day this week – I bet they’d make a mean hot sauce!

Brixton market chilli peppers

Walking home past Electric Avenue

 

Now to return home after a very low-effort afternoon, and think about the Thai basil I could be planting in my teeny-tiny window box ready for next summer.

Sudden Stranger, 2017

A Little Bit Wild: Wilderness Festival 2017

Wilderness festival is held every summer in the rolling fields and forests of Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire, UK.

Wilderness festival is perhaps the only one I know I can survive (with at least some dignity). We went last year, were completely overwhelmed by everything on offer, and resolved to do it right this year.


The swimming river
With last year’s tent (complete with little spider skeletons within) and this year’s self-inflating mattress (we splashed out) under our arms, and a cooler bag full of beer, we arrived. Thankfully, the campsite layout was familiar so we were no longer the new kids in school, and set up camp exactly where we did last year (near-but-not-too-near to the toilets). The first night, Thursday, we stayed right in our little tent and barbecued sausages sheltering under our parasol. They tasted delicious with a side of tomato salsa and a gleeful, childish sense of freedom at the prospect of the weekend in the ‘wild’.


The view from our tent
Now, I am from South Africa originally, so I’m aware that being Cotswold-adjacent is not necessarily wild. However, now I live in London, so sipping warm cider barefoot in a light drizzle was pretty out there.

With an early night the first night, we were ready for Friday. I have eliminated wheat and dairy from my diet, so Deliciously Ella’s pop-up was a safe bet as opposed to the countless ‘Bacon Buttie’ signs. Yes, there were many yoga panted, lithe and beautiful young professionals discussing the merits of almond vs. oat mylk. And yes, we were in shabby converse and vans but devoured our avocado-on-rye hungrily.


Me on a shell at a clothes stall


A talk on lonliness in literature in the Books Tent


A pop-up in the Greencraft Village

The food and clothes stalls are a kaleidoscope of noise and colour, smells and people. It sometimes feels quite strange and overwhelming being in an environment geared fully towards creating pleasure. The best food we had were the beef short rib tacos, on real-deal tacos, and buffalo wings with a tequila and blue cheese sauce, which we had to have both nights. The location of Man Meat Fire‘s food truck, at the top of the main stage hill, meant we could listen to the other acts from the comfort of a picnic table (replete with margaritas).


Tacos and hot wings at Man Meat Fire


Hip hop karaoke

On Saturday night, we watched Bonobo play the main stage under a slowly fading pink sky. It was a dreamy sight, all of us gleeful at the lack of rain originally forecasted, dancing under a nearly full moon.


Celebrating the lack of forecasted rain watching Bonobo at the mainstage.


Bonobo after night fell

Afterwards, came The Spectacle, an annual performance. This year was a bewildering light show, accompanied by an astronaut revolving above us. Saturday night was bitterly cold, the clouds we had so desperately wished away in the day now nowhere to be seen. We were glad to get into the tent that night.


A lightshow in the night
Sunday morning, we were planning a fairly early departure, and so a lot of thoughts came to me on that last stroll to Deliciously Ella’s. Afterwards, we sat under a billowing art piece, enjoying the stillness in the early morning breeze. I thought about my career, where that will take me next; about how we will continue to create our own music back home. Really though, I thought about what the festival meant to me.


Where we sat early on Sunday morning, collecting our thoughts

I thought about how crazy it seemed to me to have all these ‘city types’ retreating to a field once a year to feel free, wear glitter, and learn how to climb trees. Surely we should feel we have the same freedom the other 360 days of the year, away from the strains of a 9 to 5, gym and kids? I wondered if I had lost a bit of that side of me in the last few years.

Trying to be a more ‘responsible’ festival-goer was the most tough aspect of it for me. We were two people who ate out the whole weekend, and still generated a bag of rubbish back at the tent. It also seems slightly crazy to me to want to ‘return to nature’ but still have running water, hot showers, and fresh avocado on toast. I thought about the people who were really ‘in nature’, and not out of choice. No tent, no showers and no flat whites. It seemed a little rich of me to need to escape from a full time job, and a little flat in the heart of London, when people are looking to escape the horror and fear of a life torn apart by war.

Mostly, though, I will just take it for what it was: that we are so fortunate to be able go have a brief little break from normal, and that we need to be kinder to people in every way that we can.

Rejoice in quality time to reconnect with nature and each other, and don’t forget having a chance to do hip hop karaoke whilst sipping cider in a field.

www.wildernessfestival.com