[Photo of Stephanie Sadler taken from the Little London Observationist blog: Hampstead Heath by Daniel Higgott]
Note from Sasha: I’m keen to interview Londoners who I find upbeat and/or inspiring to find out what makes them happy. I’m starting with Stephanie Sadler – writer, journalist, photographer – who writes the wonderful Little London Observationist blog. I’m subscribed by email and enjoy getting small daily nuggets of London life – people, places, art. All photos taken with kind permission from Stephanie’s blog, emphasis on words added by me.
1. Your blog always seems really positive and upbeat. What in London makes you happy?
Lots of things. The energy of the city from morning to night, full of people from around the world chasing dreams or just prowling the streets, the diversity, the creativity, the opportunities. Mainly it’s the little things like buskers playing a good tune on the tube in the morning; mist kicked up into the headlights by tyres of black cabs on a rainy night; the possibility of turning down a side street and finding a brilliant piece of artwork on a peeling wall; the smell of curry on Brick Lane or Edgware Road and being able to step off the pavement into restaurants that serve food from most countries around the world. I love the randomness, the crazy characters, the up-and-coming bands, the vibrancy of the markets and having “London moments”. I’m sure anyone who lives here will know what I mean by that.
2. You seem to connect with many people – through interviewing them and taking photos. Do you think that reaching out to strangers makes you happy? Do you think this is easier for an American than for a Brit?
Definitely being able to connect in a small way with strangers makes me happy. The stories of other peoples’ lives are endlessly fascinating. I’m not sure if it is easier for me as an American, but it helps me pretend I’m a tourist if it goes wrong! Stereotypically, Americans are not as reserved as Brits, but that’s definitely not always the case. It’s easy to get a good reaction from people if you’re genuinely interested in what they are doing – say artists in a market, for example – and, obviously, if you approach them in a non-threatening and friendly way. People in London are more often than not suspicious of being approached by strangers which I do understand and respect.
Photo by Maggie Jones, from Little London Observationist flickr group
3. What places or activities inspire you creatively in London? Is there a place you go when you need inspiration? How do you think Londoners could better be inspired if they are busy or stressed out?
Certain run-down, derelict areas of East London inspire me because they are filled with buried stories and histories that are forever lost in their crumbling walls. Brick Lane always brings out my creative streak. There’s street art everywhere, people stepping outside of the box of fashion conformity and smells that are other-worldly floating from curry restaurants and food stalls into the streets. If I need inspiration, I’ll go down there, grab some Tibetan momos or Sri Lankan curry and sit on the kerb outside of 1001 cafes, people watching. A walk near the Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park or a stroll through Hampstead Heath or Holland Park’s Kyoto Gardens is a different way of being inspired – clearing the mind instead of filling it. I think Londoners could better be inspired if they took time to appreciate the little things instead of constantly rushing, rushing on…
4. Your blog posts are wonderful at observing small snippets from London life. Are you a curious person? How does this make you feel?
Definitely a curious person. Ages ago, my mom cut out a quote for my by Dorothy Parker: “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” I had it pinned to my bedroom wall back in New York and I think that has always stuck with me. I see people and wonder where they come from, what language they speak, where they are going, what they do for a living, what they are thinking, whether or not they are happy, what they wish they were doing instead. London is constantly changing, reviving itself, and that makes for plenty to notice. Observing the small things makes me feel more alive, a realisation that I’m a teeny tiny part of this sprawling, heaving, throbbing, breathing mess of an amazing city. There are so many layers and levels of life here and if you stick to one of them, you never discover what else is underneath.
5. If you could play one song to cheer you up, what would it be?
I don’t think I can answer that one! It’s constantly changing and depends on the situation as well. Smashing Pumpkins always cheer me up. So do Supertramp, Led Zeppelin, Amy MacDonald and the Garden State or Slumdog Millionaire soundtracks… One song? Maybe Supergrass – Alright. Or Prodigy – Out of Space.
6. If you were feeling down, what activities would you do, or sight would you see to make you happier?
I might get a few friends together and picnic on Hampstead heath, kick a football around or toss a Frisbee in the sun, then a stroll through the woods to Parliament Hill. A walk down South Bank at night usually cheers me up, followed by a drink in the Tattershall Castle. I might go check out some live music at Ain’t Nothin’ But, Marathon, the Troubadour or the Dublin Castle. If I prefer to be alone, I love going into Daunt Books and sitting outside of Paul with a hot chocolate turning the first page.