An Ode to Lidl

Unfortunately, one of the downsides of living in Islington (an assumed fancy borough) is that although we have an M&S Food, a Waitrose, a Planet flippin’ Organic, we have no Lidl or Aldi. A travesty in my mind, as discovering what randomness Lidl’s middle aisle has each week is one of life’s small pleasures, surely?

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The Middle Aisle

Who knows what treats we’ll be in for

Inside our favourite German store?

Where every week a new surprise

Upon which we can lay our eyes,

Calls out for us to buy, in greed

Especially something we don’t need.

 

Behold! the aisle right in the middle

Of discount supermarket Lidl.

The veg is cheap, you say ‘buy eight!’

Well just eat sprouts for 6 days straight.

The posh French cheese, that ham that’s sliced

That is, in Waitrose, overpriced

Will fill your trolley before you see

The middle aisle that’s legendary.

 

This central space within the shop

Won’t fail to cause our jaw to drop

One week you’ll buy a snooker cue

The next bring home a barbecue

Don’t fancy an an electric griddle?

You’ll want one now it’s sold in Lidl.

 

Even if you only go for bread

You’ll buy a folding ladder instead.

 

My friends, alas, miss out on  these,

Content to frequent Sainsbury’s.

I tell them of the stuff they’ll see

Yet they opt for home delivery.

 

Each week our Lidl trip’s a treat

We don’t really go for things to eat

We go to bring home useless tat

No Morrison’s would offer that!

 

So come Saturday, through wind or rain,

We make the trek via bus and train

Like pilgrims to our holy place

We wonder what junk we’ll embrace.

Like kids we run the final mile!

The beacon! It shines! the Middle aisle!

Hat’s Off To London’s Sporty Masses

What’s with all the leggings, guys?

Is it just me, or do 90% of Londoners look like they’ve just stepped out of a yoga class? This trend — known as ‘athleisure’ — is basically everyone putting on some high-end leggings and some labelled trainers, as if they’re heading for a good old workout at some fancy gym — even if they’re not. I mean, just take a look around the tube carriage and count the number of people that seem like they’re en route to/heading home from some sort of physical activity….

Of course, I can’t make any assumptions here. Perhaps more of the city’s population really ARE getting fitter, and are simply donning their Lululemon gear because they actually HAVE just finished a HIIT session, been on a run, or done a few miles on the treadmill. Great. Good on you — hats off.

I’d say, however, that the majority are wearing these ‘athleisure’ clothes as a fashion statement. Don’t get me wrong,  comfort-wise, this is a grand idea — shunning the tight-buttoned jeans for some stretchy leggings is surely one of life’s great pleasures? However, this is something I personally do when getting back home in the evening –when I shed the days stresses and get into my comfy clothes — rather than out in public, where VPLs (amongst other things) are a real risk factor.

My bet, though, is that the people who have actually been to do some fitness session are not flaunting their gymwear on the tube. The sweaty reality of a workout, all baggy-kneed leggings and oversized T-shirts, is not at all glamorous, and is likely to be quickly hidden away post-shower in favour of the aforementioned jeans. Those people sitting opposite you looking pretty normal? Who’s to say they haven’t beaten their personal best in terms of weight lifting today? I think we are quick to judge people from the outside — and increasingly so in this age of social media. We may look at one person and think that if they look sporty, they must be fit and healthy; whereas another person, perhaps getting stuck into a post-workout donut en route home, changed back into their jeans, may appear to us as ‘unfit’. Crazy assumptions to make when we know nothing about these people.

Of course seeing all these perfectly made-up girls with their designer gymwear doesn’t make me feel like trying this hyped-up fitness malarkey out, for fear of looking like a scruffy amateur in my Primark leggings and boyfriend’s T-shirt. Perhaps I have the wrong end of the stick. Perhaps London really is a hub of fitness, activity and sport, and I simply have not get the memo that I should be joining in. Or maybe I just haven’t got the right uniform to join the club.

It’s been a while…

A good few months have passed since poor London’s My Lobster has had a well-deserved update — but BEAR with me (see photo — yes, I still have an immeasurable amount of wit, obviously).

Bear

It’s a busy life, here in the big city, juggling all sorts of jobs and duties, friendships and events, all whilst trying to do a PhD. This doesn’t mean, by any stretch of the imagination, that I have not been taking advantage of all London’s fantastic offerings. From plays to ballets, restaurants to cafes, I have certainly been doing my ‘research’.

I hope the brief hiatus hasn’t made you think I’ve stopped exploring…. Here’s to coming back with a bang.

A man, a bicycle, and a flippin’ massive vase: why Londoners should look more

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This morning I saw a middle-aged man speeding on a Boris bike through Covent Garden, one hand on the handlebars, the other clutching a giant ceramic vase.

I was quite impressed that a) he could physically hold the gargantuan urn with one hand, b) that despite being weighed down on one side, he maintained an upright posture and rapid, straight-line cycling, and c) that no one seemed to bat an eyelid, or register that this was quite an unusual thing to see on a Monday morning.

London is so full of bizarre and downright insane sights, people, events and instances that perhaps we are all somewhat immune to the oddities that confront us in our day to day city lives. Were this man to be cycling through, say, the cobbled streets of Cambridge, I expect he would have got a number of odd looks, a couple of comments on the cyclist’s strength and expertise, or an out-loud questioning at what exactly he is doing.

Of course, if we Londoners were to look up and wonder aloud at every out-of -the ordinary sight, we wouldn’t get anything done. Maybe, then, just expecting to see slightly odd things, and learning to ignore them, is the way forward.

But then we do miss an awful lot. Stuck in our city bubbles, head in phone, eyes down, headphones in, so many of the quirky parts of London pass us by. I didn’t see one pedestrian turn to look at Vase Man (as he will be know from now on). Perhaps a cycling coach could have noticed his prowess, and signed him up to the GB team, or maybe an antiques expert would have recognsied the million pound urn in his hand.

Ok – so Vase Man is just one example, but I think it’s about time we all started looking around and absorbing the quirks and features of our incredible capital.

We walk by people and places every day without even noticing them. On Oxford Street, there is a particular Big Issue seller who, in between shouting the name of the paper in attempt to sell a few copies, asks ‘will anyone acknowledge me?’

In my experience, anyone rarely does. They walk by, stuck in their city bubbles, heads in phones, eyes down, headphones in, so that when we could actually make a difference, it passes us by.

King Lear at the Globe: homelessness, madness and mediocrity

Lear

The opening of King Lear at Shakespeare’s Globe is less ‘lights, camera, action’ and more a fizzling illumination and gradual realisation that, indeed, the play is starting. Beanie-clad and backpack-carrying folk make their way through the still chattering crowd and onto the stage – a huge ‘Keep Out’ sign at the set’s centre signals a disused and abandoned building that these squatters are about to claim for themselves.

Once it is ascertained that these scruffy-looking individuals must be the cast and the theatre-goers quieten down, the actors begin to tear down dust sheets, force down barricades, and make the stage into a set more fitting for their rendition of King Lear, an almost Brechtian touch. Throughout the production, the initially covered-up set becomes more and more exposed, mirroring the King’s increasing descent into madness.

Kevin McNally, best known perhaps for his roles in the Pirates of the Caribbean films, is undoubtedly the star of the show, playing a phenomenal Lear. Joshua James as Edgar, and the character’s disguise of Poor Tom is also highly successful – disguise is certainly the order of the day in Lear, with Saskia Reeves’ Kent taking on a male identity with equally dramatic effects.

It has to be said that for such a tragic play, there are a fair few comedic moments, with plenty of laughs – in true Bard fashion there are innuendos dotted throughout, despite the depressing turn of events. Unlike Emma Rice’s previous colourful, fiesta-style version of Much Ado About Nothing however, her latest directorial work for King Lear is a wholly more subdued affair. Colours are duller, with pastel shade costumes only brightened by the odd instance of pillar box red jackets.  With the exception of the theatrical drumming scene to portray the tempestuous storm, the entire three and a half hour production (which at times feels elongated) seems slightly muted – it’s a solid rendition of King Lear but perhaps one that lacks a wow factor.  

StrEATlife at Alexandra Palace: Music, Food and Epic Views

This summer, Ally Pally is hosting StrEATlife, a craft beer and street food festival, over four weekends. I checked out the first edition (27th and 28th May), which proved to be a roaring success.

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London in summer is a glorious thing, but sometimes the dense city centre can be slightly trapping. When it gets that bit warmer, I like to go in search of some green space, something that, luckily, London has a fair amount of.

If you head to the northern part of the capital, you’ll find  greenery a plenty in the parks surrounding Alexandra Palace — at the same time as feeling completely removed from the city, Ally Pally offers hands down one of the best views of our stunning city you are likely to find.

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Ally Pally is a beautiful place to visit anyway, but what made this the perfect destination on a warm and sunny bank holiday weekend was the fact that the grounds were buzzing with festival vibes.

StrEATlife, a street food, craft beer and live music festival, saw over 30 street food traders, plenty of drinks choices, and a decent range of live music, take over the grounds surrounding one of London’s most iconic buildings. This was the first edition of StrEATlife, which will pop-up another three times over the summer.

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Whether you’re an ice-cream aficionado or craft beer connoisseur, a fried chicken fan or a lover of wholefoods, StrEATlife’s selection would have ticked your box.

To the soundtrack of live acoustic tunes, jugs of Pimms were being shared and churros were being chomped, the masses dressed for the sun with a similar ‘holiday-vibes’ frame of mind. Family friendly and free, StrEATlife is an all-round crowd-pleaser.

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Away from the stage and the street food, the grassy banks were full of Londoners and families picnicking, playing games and enjoying the sun, not to mention taking in the incredible view of the city that Ally Pally offers. I’m pretty sure this is the only place you can see all of London’s landmarks in one fell swoop, without having to pay a premium to get to the top of the Shard — Alexandra Palace is worth visiting if just to see our capital in all its glory.

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StrEATlife didn’t disappoint: there were decent prices all round — a good size meal from most of the vendors will set you back around £6, and the variety means that you can keep everyone happy.

Put the dates of the next StrEATlife festival in your diary — if the sun is shining for the next round (17th and 18th June), I can highly recommend trying a watermelon mojito – served in the melon – to keep you refreshed.

Pack a picnic blanket, have some cash on hand, and get ready for a chilled out mini-festival where you can escape the hustle and bustle of the city, yet take in the most instagrammable London view that there is.

StrEATlife takes place at Alexandra Palace on 17th and 18th June, 22nd and 23rd July, and 19th and 20th August.

Freelancing? Studying? These London cafes have fab coffee and super wifi

If you’re on the lookout for somewhere to caffeinate and get productive, check out these wifi offering, coffee brewing locations in central London.

laptop

Ah, the freelancer lifestyle. The freedom to work from the comfort of your bed, donning last night’s PJs with a cuppa in hand. Sometimes, though, that just isn’t productive. As a student and writer, I can work pretty much anywhere (except when ancient tomes and obscure books mean the library is my only choice).

The question that has been dumbfounding London millienials since, well, ever, is where exactly to set up shop and get a few hours decent work done. Wifi is obviously a major factor, as is the quality of the coffee – caffeine is, after all, the fuel to all productivity – and a plug, chilled atmosphere and comfy chairs are all things to consider.

If you’re mooching around central on the lookout for an oasis to open up your laptop in, be it for uni, freelancing, or just inevitable life admin, check out my list of where to get into work mode.

  1. Timberyard

timberyard

These guys are the kings when it comes to remote working, even offering up meeting rooms to rent out. Head to their Seven Dials or Soho branches for super-fast wifi, a relaxed environment, and a plethora of other people around you tapping away on their Macs. They also have an impressive selection of teas, as well as a tempting selection of homemade bakes. The Covent Garden café can get pretty busy, but the comfy armchairs downstairs are worth a bit of a wait

2. Covent Garden Grind

Grind have expanded over the last couple of years, recently opening outposts of their much-loved coffee spots in Exmouth Market and Covent Garden. The latter is quite tucked away, behind the Piazza, and pretty much next door to the old-school Rules (you may or may not find yourself having a coffee with the doorman). There’s cracking coffee, service with a smile and not to mention some delicious snacks (think seeded energy balls) and the ultimate avo-toast. The thing which gives Covent Garden Grind the edge has to be the Bowie quote on the wall: I reckon with the inspiration and wifi here, we could all (think we could) be heroes (if just for one day).

3. Hubbard and Bell at The Hoxton Holborn

hoxton

An all day café, restaurant, bar and freelancer office, The Hoxton on High Holborn can be anything and everything you want it to be. Stay through from morning coffee to a lunchtime bite, rewarding yourself for the day’s productivity with a sophisticated cocktail come early evening. For the hungover, there are fresh juices and smoothies; for the super hungry there are pancake stacks drenched in maple syrup. Pretty much everyone here in the daytime is working away, which can be a useful source of motivation. Plenty of plugs around, chilled background music and some snazzy toilets with that posh hand stuff mean this place is a winner.

4. Tinderbox

For any fellow stationary geeks and organisation freaks, Paperchase’s flagship store on Tottenham Court Road is heaven. Head upstairs to their Tinderbox café, which as well as being full of light thanks to the huge windows, offers wifi, coffee and is usually relatively quiet. Feeling broke? Get yourself a Paperchase Treat card and you can get a free filter coffee every week (or upgrade to another drink by paying the difference). You can then feel totally justified about forking out a tenner for some uber-cool gel pens and notepads.

5. Planet Organic, Tottenham Court Road

Vegans, veggies, omnivores and carnivores will (I’m fairly sure) be satisfied with the range of yummy options at Planet Organic’s café on Tottenham Court Road. This is the one just by the station, as opposed to the other branch down the road on Torrington Place. Grab a coffee, bar, smoothie or lunch and get to work upstairs in their light and airy seating area. The wifi is good – phone signal a bit iffy. Plugs a plenty, nourishing grub and the opportunity to get a bit crazy with your coffee (coconut oil coffee and superfood coffee – with mushrooms – are on the menu). They also offer student discount with a valid card, which can only ever be a good thing.

6. Waterstones Tottenham Court Road

waterstones

This is one for those who like a bit of silence to work in – the basement of this new-ish Waterstones is an oasis of calm and a good place to knuckle down and get stuck in. There’s wifi too, as well as a coffee bar, but unlike other dedicated cafes, you don’t feel any obligation to make a purchase at the shop or café to work there. Obviously the book selection is a massive bonus.

7. Foyles, Charing Cross Road

Another bookish site, but this one, instead of being tucked away underground like the Waterstones option, is high up on the 5th floor of this flagship store. The shop itself is open until 9pm, and the café shuts 45 minutes beforehand, which makes it a great place if you need to crack something out when other places have shut their doors. There are regular events on in the shop too — why not combine a few hours work with an author’s reading, a panel discussion or a music concert?

8. Leon, Brunswick Centre

If you’re a regular at the nearby Senate House Library, or a student at UCL, Russell Square will be your stomping ground. Leon, the chain which prides itself on its healthy fast food, has a pretty big branch in the Brunswick. Their wifi is bang on, food reasonably priced, and they do 15% student discount – if you’re feeling particularly skint, get their filter coffee, which works out at 85p with a student card.