Category Archives: Interviews with inspiring Londoners

GUEST POST – Sophia St. Viller introduces Naked Girls Reading (and win tickets to the next show)

Note from Sasha: Ever since I watched a programme on burlesque, I have admired the women who do it – their confidence in their bodies and sexuality, their sense of humour and sexiness and fun. And I love the vintage other-worldliness about it – the Marilyn Monroe / Joan from Mad Men style and glamour. So I was delighted to get in touch with Sophia St. Villier (“The Tantalising Titian-Haired Teaser”) , London’s own burlesque performer and model, and I’ve been dying to see her Naked Girls Reading for a while now. I’m sadly away next week (celebrating my engagement to The Chef – more soon!) so will miss it but thought this was a good chance for Sophia to explain all about it here. She has also kindly offered a pair of tickets to a lucky HPL reader to see it. Enjoy!!

Sophia St. Villier is a London-based, New Zealand-bred burlesque performer. She produces the shows Naked Girls Reading London and Gals and Gags – an event combining stand up comdey and burlesque striptease. She is also co-founder of Be a Pleasure to Yourself, an event where women learn about vintage lingerie and seduction.

Once upon a time, three brainy and beautiful princesses got lost in an enchanted pub in the land of Nudity. They decided to calm a rowdy audience with fairy tales from the brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Perrault and Angela Carter.

Naked Girls Reading is a cross between a book club and burlesque. I invite some of my burlesque friends to join me on stage to read stories. Each event has a unique theme.Previous themes have been London, Royalty, Bedtime Stories and Classic Mythology. On Tuesday 27th of September at a Secret Location very close to Kensal Green station, we are reading Fairy Tales, as voted for by our fans. Naked Girls Reading unites two of my passions: literature and gorgeous, naked women. I have been performing burlesque for three years in London and I am a total book worm – the child who read with a torch under the blankets. People who attend our events say how much they enjoy being read aloud to and it is a lovely environment to see women enjoying their bodies. I love the moment when I get on stage and see everything magically come together – the pieces the girls and I have decided to read, the chemistry between the performers, the interaction (verbally!) with the audience. This month I am sharing the stage with blonde beauty Lil Miss-Chievous, who has brilliant comic timing (she can read a dry, Victorian piece and have the audience in hysterics) and Crimson Skye, a witty, sexy performer who recently had a sold out one-women show at The Lowry.

I am particularly excited about reading Fairy Tales, as I have been fascinated by Fairy Tales since I was young and studied variations of ‘Bluebeard’ at university. The tricky part is picking what to read!

I hope to see you at Naked Girls Reading – it promises to be an exciting and educational evening. I am offering a pair of tickets to Naked Girls Reading Fairy Tales to the first three Happiness London Project readers who answer the following question correctly:

Who wrote ‘The Little Mermaid’?

a) Walt Disney

b) Hans Christian Andersen

c) The Brothers Grimm

I will pick a winner from comments left by 3pm on Friday 23 September. Naked Girls Reading Fairy Tales Tuesday 27th September 2011 Secret Location near Kensal Green 7:30pm.

On kids & friendship

My fabulous friend Milly and her lovely baby boy

If you’re in your thirties, then its likely that like me, your friends will by now have split into two factions – the ones with children and the ones without. For me its now about 65/35. It seems like yesterday we were all sitting carefree in the pub, moaning about whether we’d ever find “the One” and drinking our body weight in white wine. The next minute, half of us are in a world of nappies and expressing milk and worries about childcare and juggling careers, while the rest of us lag behind somewhat wistfully, living a similar existence as before, only with worse hangovers. And for our gorgeous mum friends – whose lives have turned upside down and inside out, who have been given this incredible joy as well as REAL problems, life or death stuff at times – what kind of friendship are we now providing them?

Throughout our twenties us women form a magnificent bond – one that I don’t think our parents ever had with their friends. We were an army – us against the world, a force to be reckoned with. With parents and siblings often far away, with partners coming and going, our friends were the ones who dealt with everything – deaths, break ups, career woes, promotions and redundancies, house moves. We were each other’s family – we often lived together for years on end, travelled the world together – and the bond was incredibly strong.

But then things change. If there was a fork in the road, we started heading off in different directions. Having problems at work? She’s getting 2 hours sleep a night FFS you can’t bother her with that! Fancy a night out? She has to be up at 6am to look after baby Britney so won’t want to spend hours discussing EXACTLY what he meant when he said he wasn’t ready to settle down. And from her point of view, she may get upset at why you haven’t bothered to visit her pride and joy recently because you’re “really busy”, or why you don’t invite her out or confide in her as much as you used to.

It would be easy here to slip into the stereotypes that women’s magazines feed us, that both myself and my friends sometimes slip into to our detriment, which can pretty much be summarised as WHAT . BRIDGET . JONES . SAID : You posted your baby as your facebook profile photo, you DULL SMUG MARRIED! We laugh at your ridiculous love life and the fact that you’re still getting pissed and falling over, you LOSER SINGLETON!

But it’s not really like that. Or at least it doesn’t need to be, and if it is like that at times, this is surely based on jealousy or fear or rejection or the thought that as you too are being judged, so you judge right back. Sometimes it can feel like you’re living separate lives, with nothing in common. And more than anything you may feel, on either side, the loss of someone who was once your number one priority, and you theirs, and missing someone who might be around a little bit less. But this is just a feeling and it will pass. You still need each other and love each other – at times more so than others – and if you both want to be, you will still be the best of friends whether or not your lives are a little different for now.

I’m not a mum (and have a horrible feeling I’m going to be the  worst sort of facebook-photo-posting, status-updating, far-too-much-detail giving type of mother) but I can imagine when I am, there will be times when I’ve had little sleep and my partner and sproglet are driving me up the wall, and I just want to get dressed up and head to a nice restaurant with my girlfriends around me. And if all I’ve had to think about for 6 months is poo, vomit and sleepless nights, I reckon I’d love to listen to someone telling me about their work problems or what’s going on in the news or to laugh over who they’ve slept with or what fabulous restaurant they’ve been to, just to pick me up and remind me there are other things going on in the world.

I think it’s all about communication really. And letting go a little. I’ve tried to adjust to my married friends’ lives not revolving around me and my myriad problems anymore, but I know that if anything was seriously wrong, they’d be there in a flash. And I love their children – can’t wait to get to know them better, watch them grow, be there when they themselves marry and have kids. And I also have to let go a little so I too can procreate at some point as well. I want to be a great friend to my mummy friends, but sometimes I get wrapped up in my own little world and don’t realise that I’m being distant or neglectful (I am not yet good at buying presents for babies, and this is something I’m working on *heads to Baby Gap*). But I also know our friendship is deep enough to take a few knocks and that it just takes an email or a call to say I’m thinking of them or arranging a visit to get the friendship kick started again.

And of course one day we’ll be back on the same path again, living the same lives. Although her kids may be teenagers while mine are in nappies. Oh well – they can babysit?

Bridget Jones has a lot to answer for really. In its celebration of single life, it implanted in our brains a seismic shift between those with children and those without, that made “smug married” something that singletons could sneer at. I’m just as guilty of this at times. I spent New Year with The Chef and his friends, many of whom have kids. I have to admit I was dreading it a little and worried that it would be all about babies and nappies and I’m terrible at coo-ing over children unless they’re the progeny of very good friends. But it was brilliant. The kids were gorgeous, really cute, and a welcome distraction, quite frankly, from hangovers. We could sit and laugh at them and have a cuddle when we wanted. The mums were fabulous – glamorous and fun and interesting – and we all drank a few too many vinos and danced to terrible music until the wee hours. It made me realise again we’re all the same really, apart from at baby-feeding time when I always tended to have really important things to do and apart from the fact that the mums must have had at least 10 hours less sleep than the rest of us over the long weekend. Having friends at all stages of life is the best way to live anyway – far more interesting that way. And (don’t tell anyone) it sort of made me want one of my own.

Anyway, I asked a handful of my friends to tell me how they feel about their friends at other stages in life. I loved what they said:

The baby mamas

“I don’t know if I can even separate my friends with kids and those without.  We all seem to get along brilliantly.  I prefer not to talk about my son too much unless he did something particularly hilarious – but at three years old, we are not talking about side-splitting humour.  A friendship should last whatever the circumstance or situation.  Boyfriends, girlfriends, weddings or not; babies, nappies, weekend breaks or snot, a true friend rides with you….don’t they?  How boring it would be to only be friendly with one gang. I certainly mix a little and am blessed with the ones I have.  And they are definately true friends.

My friends without kids are always lovely to ask how the wee man is doing but to be honest I am more I interested in the gorgeous restaurants people are going to, plus trips to Paris and Vienna than reciting toddler quotes of the week. With work and a son, including one on the way, we are making an effort to try and fit in as much as possible so our wee pie chart is always colourful.”  Milly

“What I love about my single/childless friends
  • hearing about their love lives, social lives, holidays, latest shopping spree, i.e. living vicariously through them!
  • they are never too tired/fed up/over dosed on children to play and talk to mine (unlike me)
  • that they get me out of the rut of being mummy all the time.
What I don’t like so much
  • when they don’t understand that I can’t just drop everything
  • that my children will always come first
  • that I am frequently exhausted, anti social, unfashionable and grumpy – it’s nothing personal.
What I hope to give them
  • Someone to laugh at, my childless friends’ lives are not as poo-covered as mine, so that’s got to be good for them
  • I can do parenting/baby care advice, so may be useful in future (I can’t follow it, but that’s another story)
  • The kettle is usually warm and the ovens on, so if I can’t come drinking anymore, at least I can make some food and be a listening ear.” Betty Sue

“Something that used to annoy me before I had kids was the way my mum-friends used to be distracted when I was talking to them. You could be spilling the beans on the latest hot date and, in the middle of it all, it would be “Little babsie just spit up!”. And even if they didn’t actually SAY anything, you could see it in their eyes as they slid from where they were sympathetically watching your face to looking lovingly at their little sprog. Now, after having a baby, I have learnt that my mum-friends weren’t actually distracted, they had simply learnt the ultimate mother art that my own mum refers to as “Circular Talking”, where you can listen to and completely take in a conversation whilst either talking to (or at, in the case of children), someone else.

Another little thing that used to annoy me was how, when you were about to go out somewhere with mum-friend and sprog in tow, it was never simple to get out of the house. It was always “I need food/nappies/a spare jumper/toys” and, it seemed, when you did eventually get out of the house, something was always forgotten. Now I realise this rabbit-like behaviour is all about survival and that wonderful mother’s word – Coping. If the baby doesn’t have food and gets hungry, he’ll cry. If he doesn’t have nappies and needs changing, or gets cold, or doesn’t have toys, he’ll cry. So I guess mum’s message to you is this; bear with us, it could be you one day…. And even if you don’t have your own children, well, we might just ask you to babysit!” Libby (please note the lovely Libby writes the blog Confessions of a (not so) Down To Earth Mum)
And a final word (bien sur – I’m still a Bridget!) from Pippalippa
This Christmas I managed to get home to Australia for the first time in almost three years. It was perfect timing as well as most of my far-flung school friends happened to be heading home at the same time so a big reunion was planned.  I was really excited but also quite apprehensive as I am pretty much the only person in my group of friends who has not procreated at least once, or about to pop one out.  Being mid-thirties and wanting children I felt I was bound to get a bit down seeing all my coupled up friends and their delightful offspring. Even when they are crying and pooey and demanding attention I can still be jealous.
Better late than never….

I dreaded being the odd one out in conversations about cots and prams and leaking nipples and nappies to make you retch.  I feared the patronising placation of people pretending they’re jealous of my freewheeling lifestyle and my globetrotting ways. I pictured a New Year’s Eve picnic in the park: dry, distracted and heading home for beddy byes at 8pm.

But. I had the most amazing holiday. My friends’ children are marvellous and make me laugh. I got to be the cool aunty who taught the kids the wonderful trick of putting ice down mummy’s back to keep them entertained while we got through a vino or too and engaged in conversations about world events, personal lives and caught up with each others’ news. I was also entertained by stories of what these little people get up to, and witnessed one of them getting sick of colouring in with the new bright colourful crayons I had just given him and discovering that, despite appearances, they are NOT delicious.” Pippalippa

One of these bad boys is coming your way soon Lady B

Happiness Interview no. 5 – Sian Meades @ Domestic Sluttery

Note from Sasha: I’ve been doing a series of happiness interviews with Londoners who I think are inspirational or happy or funny. Sian Meades was an obvious candidate – she has her own blog Sianyland where she writes about life and love and what is great about London. She is also the founder and editor of Domestic Sluttery which fills my inbox full of cute clothes, cakes and nice things for my flat, and also A Change Of A Dress. I wanted to ask her whether the process of writing itself makes her happy, how she finds all the treasures she writes about and where she goes in London when she needs cheering up. I love what she wrote (and it reminds me that a lovely winter’s day out is a walk round Greenwich park and lunch in a nice warm pub, long overdue…):

Photo of Siany courtesy of David Hobby:

1. Have you always wanted to write? If not, what did you do before?   

Yep! I’ve flirted with other creative careers, but I’ve always written. I did work in advertising sales after University, but that was to keep my lifestyle in London, rather than a dream career. I’m happiest when I’m doing something creative. I started blogging four years ago, and I’ve just started to send my novel to publishers.
2. What led to your setting up the Domestic Sluttery blog?  What sort of response have you had?

Domestic Sluttery was a test blog for a publishing company. It wasn’t actually meant to be seen as it is, but things changed, and we decided it should go public anyway. We knew there was something about the content that would work. That was the best thing I EVER did. I work with the best group of girls, the opportunities I get through the site are amazing and it’s so much fun.


I think women like that we cover everything from interiors to cooking – something that I’ve never thought were miles apart from each other. The tone works, and the fact that the girls are all so different in their tastes mean that we cover a whole range of stuff! We do get women arguing that we’re part of ‘cupcake feminism’ which is frustrating, but any popular blog is going to have it’s negative feedback. I can’t spend my time getting upset about that, I’ve got a site to run and clients to keep happy! We’re never going to please everyone, but we don’t try to.


3. How do you discover what you write about – i.e. are you signed up to any good mailing lists or publications?  And how did you find your network of Domestic Sluts?


I knew some of the girls from other projects, some of them got in touch, but recently we’ve been advertising and have found some excellent girls who fit into the team really well. A lot of it is just knowing that someone will fit perfectly. They’re a massively talented bunch, and they’re the reason the site works. Otherwise I’d just be writing about plates and wallpapr on my own.


The research into the site takes longer than anything else I do. Most of my Sunday is spent trawling magazines, the internet, blogs. Everything that inspires me. A lot of the London-based stuff is just found from walking about the place. But mailing lists I love are Daily Candy and the newer Keynoir. Qype (who I work for) always get news of openings before me. Pesky buggers. If I told you my other sources, you’d know all about the stuff I wrote about before I told you!


4. Your personal blog is upbeat and generally positive – like your recent posts on sending lovely emails or what you love about London. Are you a naturally happy person?


You want me to say yes to this, don’t you? I am happy, but the last post on my personal blog was about battling depression for the last two years, so I can’t say that I’m permanently happy all the time. I’m a positive person, which I think is something very different (and tends to result in me being happy). If something isn’t going well, I’ll do my best to change it for the better. You can do so much to improve your life, moaning about it is the least helpful thing you can do. I’d rather concentrate on the happy, but the little ‘happy list’ you see on my blog is me forcing myself to look at the good things in my life. I forget sometimes.


5. In general, what makes you happy or inspired in London?


My friends. Walking about for miles. Spending the day with my camera. I don’t need anything else. Oh, and the Rhodes bakery in Greenwich does an amazing pecan tart, that makes me super happy.

6. Do you find the process itself of writing how you feel, or things you like, makes you happier? Are there any downsides?


I don’t often write about the big stuff until it’s happened. Not even in private. Writing is what happens once my little brain has formulated everything. I know that if I can write about it, my head is doing OK with everything. I think that’s why my blog is as cheery as it is. Once I’ve dealt with something privately, it’s rare it’s still in my head, so it’s rare I remember to write about it.


That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy writing about happy things – I often use blogging as a form of escapism. And I love that people can read the happy posts and get enjoyment from them. But I’ll never write a blog post to cheer myself up. I just happen to be writing whilst I’m cheery.


7. The HPL believes you need to connect with, and give to, your wider community to be truly happy. How have you connected with the London blogging community and what benefits has this brought you? 


The blogging community in London is fantastic. I’ve made friends for life through blogging, and that’s really important to me. It also helps that I have friends who blog, because the ones who don’t (as much as I love them) don’t understand that I’m happy to spend hours staring at my laptop screen. I try and get involved with LBM events (expect something very exciting early next year) and want to promote good blogging practice throughout. Or, go to the pub and have a beer. That works too.


8. What do you do or where do you if you’re feeling down or uninspired? Have you found any places in London that always cheer you up?


Greenwich cheers me up. I live down the road, and I can’t be grumpy there. There’s too much exploring (despite having lived there for nine years) and great cafes for sitting and watching the day go by. But the area is home to me, so being there makes me smile. So do the churros at the food market…



Food at Greenwich market, photo courtesy of Sian:


9. How are you able to fit all this writing into your daily London life?


I work from home 🙂 Seriously, people have an idea that freelancers are running all over London every day but that’s only true some of the time. Most of the time I’m sat on my sofa and working whilst watching the telly. If I’m good I’m allowed into town to work from a lovely cafe, or to finish early and go to the pub. I’m more flexible with my time, but running a website means long hours. I get to go to amazing places, but that sometimes means I’m working until 2am the next night. I’m happy with that, it suits me. I don’t think any freelancer ever manages the 9-5 very well. Most of us kinda like it that way.


10. And finally… imagine your perfect day in London – where would you go and what would you do? 

It starts and ends in Greenwich. I want it to me more adventurous, but like I say, it’s home and it makes me happy. So brunch in La Fleur, the secret garden cafe (it’s my perfect day, so the sun is shining), beer in the Greenwich Union. A walk to the top of the observatory, nosing about the Painted Hall. Exploring streets I’ve never walked down for no reason. A walk around the market, spending too much on vintage dresses and Spanish food. Dinner somewhere fabulous and then ending in the jazz bar near the park. Way too much red wine, my favourite people, and a taxi home. Via the kebab shop.

The Painted Hall, photo courtesy of Sian:

Happiness Interview no. 4 – Hayley Cull @ Slow London

Note from Sasha: Hayley Cull writes the Slow Guide to London which I reviewed here and also the Slow London blog. As I said in my post, the Slow movement “aims to get us off the treadmill of London life and make us slow down and savour our time, appreciate the small things, rather than simply spending time, cramming in all we can.”  I’m a serial diary-over-filler and multi-tasker which means I live life a little too fast and don’t stop to smell the roses enough. But I think we can all agree that it is far nicer to spend an afternoon strolling round Borough Market than racing round Tesco. So I wanted to ask Hayley how, in a giant metropolis like London, with a trillion things to do and people to see, we can slow down and chill out. Here’s what she said:

 1. How did you get involved with the Slow Guide to London and why did it appeal to you?  

I moved here a few years ago, straight after finishing the Slow Guide to Melbourne, my hometown. I think I still had my slow goggles on as I got to know London, so I quickly fell in love with its individuality, its traditions, communities and the much-appreciated little pockets of nature. It seemed a natural fit to work on Slow London a few years later. I was really excited to meet so many people along the way who shared their views of London, and also to take in the long-term local perspective of my co-author, Robin Barton.

 2. London is an incredibly fast-moving and stressful place – how are you able to “zone out” and slow down, especially at work or on public transport?  How do you make yourself appreciate the small things in life?

It starts with simply not cramming too much into my days, prioritising quality over quantity and not being afraid to miss out on things I ‘should’ see or do. With work it’s about being conscious of my own time, planning and preparing so I can use it effectively. As often as possible I take proper lunch breaks outdoors, let my mind wander whenever I make a cup of tea, and make sure to finish each day on time. I find that I actually get as much work done as the days when I chain myself to the computer for hours, because my head is always clear and I can focus completely. On public transport I try to use my time creatively, so even if I’m squished into a sticky Northern Line carriage I’ll be sketching a cityscape or imagining stories about the people around me. By allowing even five minutes extra to get where I need to go, I don’t feel rushed or find myself willing the driver to go faster, so I can actually really enjoy the travel time for my own thoughts.

Photo courtesy of Mark Chilvers/Slow London blog

 3. What benefits have you found from slowing down?

It sounds a little clichéd, but I definitely feel healthier and happier than when rushing about between work and a manic social life. I eat better and sleep better, which obviously makes a huge difference to my general energy levels. And rather than feeling like I’m doing less, I actually feel like I’m getting more out of life: my social connections are stronger, I really take in the art I see or places I visit, and I feel more creative and therefore happier with the work I’m producing.

 4. Are there activities that you do, or places that you go, that help you slow down?

Since living in London I’ve discovered a love of gardening, and my boyfriend and I have expanded from a lovely little collection of tomato pots to an allotment around the corner. I volunteer as much as I can and try to shop locally where possible, which really gives me a sense of community. I love the fact that there is always free art in London, so I will often pop into the National Gallery or some other space to look at a single work, or make an effort to go via some little exhibition on my way to wherever I’m going. I also try to travel around the city as slowly as possible, walking or cycling where I can or taking the bus.

5. The Slow Guide recommends getting in touch with nature, but this can sometimes be hard in a big city like London. Where can you get away from it all?

In researching the book I was surprised to hear that London is one of the greenest cities in the world, but then again you can always find a patch of grass nearby. Sometimes I’ll step off Tottenham Court Road to sit under a tree in the Phoenix Garden, wander along the Regent’s Canal towpath or even make sure to catch the sunset over the Thames, simply so I can squeeze a bit of nature into the day. It’s about state of mind, really; even in the smallest patch of green you can focus on the sound of the birds or the way the light shines through the trees and not only feel far from the commotion of the city, but part of something much bigger. Sometimes it’s enough just to fuss over those tomato pots in the garden.

Photo courtesy of Mark Chilvers/Slow London blog

6. What do you do when you feel uninspired or need cheering up?

The usual things: share a big slice of cake with friends, visit the local cinema, teach myself a new song on the guitar or spend a whole afternoon browsing a favourite bookshop. I love visiting unusual exhibitions like the Horniman Museum, the Wellcome Collection and the Royal Observatory, because you can’t be unhappy and enthralled at the same time. I also have a few favourite views dotted around the city that really lift my spirits, such as Battersea Power Station from the northern riverbank, sunset over the Embankment’s docks or the City from Brockwell Park. 

7.  And finally… imagine your perfect day in London – where would you go and what would you do?  

My perfect day would have to be pretty simple! It would start with a lazy breakfast at home before wandering along the River Wandle and through my local market, Merton Abbey Mills, on my way into central London. At Marylebone Farmers’ Market I’d pick up some provisions for a picnic, spreading out with friends under my favourite old London plane tree by the lake in Regent’s Park for a few hours. I’d have no plans for the evening, I’d rather just see where it takes me, maybe dinner, theatre, a drink by the river or even just a quiet night in.

Happiness Interview no. 3 – Neil Pasricha @ 1000 Awesome Things

 Note from Sasha: Here is my third happiness interview with Neil Pasricha who writes the blog 1000 Awesome Things and The Book of Awesome. I’m reading the book at the moment which was kindly sent to me by Neil’s publishers – its a great thing to read when you’re feeling annoyed or sad – it makes me laugh and there’s so much I “get”. Current favourites are #475 When your guests do the dishes even after you told them not to (thank you Pixie!), #706 The moment at a concert when the crowd figures out what song they’re playing and #758 Celebrating your pet’s birthday even though they have no idea what’s going on. There are also touching ones about picking yourself up and moving on, and unforgettable friends. It’s a great little pick-me-up and I’m looking forward to reading the rest. I wanted to know how Neil found the enthusiasm to find all these awesome things, and whether the writing itself makes him happy. Here’s what he had to say:

1. In your blog, you say you started the blog at a difficult time in your life, after your marriage had broken up and your best friend had taken his life. How were you able to find happiness or positivity at this time? Was there something or someone in particular that inspired you?

To be honest, I just sort of felt like I was wallowing in this world of doom and gloom and I was itching for a way to remind myself of simple pleasures like hitting a string of green lights, the smell of a bakery, and peeling an orange in one shot.

2. Your blog’s popularity spread quickly through word of mouth and your book of the blog was published in Spring this year.  Why do you think it became so popular? 

Well, the news is just so heavy. Polar ice caps are melting, earthquakes are hitting us, wars are going on around the world, and the economy is in a deep freeze. I think The Book of Awesome is just a tiny moment where we’re allowed to escape from all that and remember how good it feels to flip to the cold side of the pillow in the middle of the night.

Photo taken from here and reproduced on the 1000 Awesome Things blog

3. Where do you get your inspiration for your awesome things?  Do you have to remind yourself to look for these things in everyday life and if so, how?

I’m definitely no genius! I’m just a guy dumb enough to spend my free time writing about all the things that make us smile. I think we all love wearing warm underwear from out of the dryer, sleeping in new bedsheets, and fixing electronics by smacking them. They’re just there, they’re just around us, they’re just little moments that end up piling together and adding up into our lives.

4. Your blog is very upbeat and very funny. Are you generally a happy or positive person?  If so, does this come naturally or did you have to practice at it?

Just like everybody else, I definitely have good days and bad days and good months and bad months. I don’t think of myself as an optimist, but I definitely think focusing on simple pleasures like getting extra time on a parking meter or tripping and realizing no one saw you [note from Sasha – that one about tripping made me laugh] has helped give me lots of smiles.

Photo taken from  here  and reproduced on the 1000 Awesome Things blog

5. Do you find the process of writing, and sharing your thoughts with a wider audience, is a therapy in itself? Do you find that you can feel sad but still write in a positive way (I do!)?

I guess in many ways, yes! I started as a public website counting down because I thought those two things would help pressure me to keep at it, just the same way people ask others to make them go to the gym. If I’m sad, sometimes the writing is more challenging or sometimes I may just write a couple sentences.

6. What would you say to someone who is considering launching a blog, or setting up their own project like yours?

Do it! Have fun, follow your heart, and do what you love. The Internet is an amazing thing… for very little money we get to meet, interact, share, and learn from people all over the world. We get to fall into Wikipedia rabbit holes, chat with friends, send emails to our moms, and start up websites where we can do anything we want, anytime we want. It’s an awesome time to be alive.

Thank you so much for the chat! I hope you have a very awesome day!

The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha is published by Hardie Grant Books, price £8.99, available now.

Happiness Interview no. 2 – Tom @ Tired of London Tired of Life

Note from Sasha:  I’m interviewing Londoners who I find upbeat and inspiring to find out what makes them happy.  Today its the turn of Tom who writes Tired of London Tired of Life where he does a new thing in London every day.  I love the “make the most of London” aspect and I wanted to ask Tom what inspires him  and how he has time to do it all!  See more happiness interviews hereAll photos taken with kind permission from Tom’s flickr page 
1. What made you start doing the blog? What sort of reaction have you got? 

I started doing when I started to think I was getting tired of London. A close friend had just left town and I was wondering what to do with myself, feeling bored, and that sort of thing. I suddenly realised how stupid I was being thinking I had done all there was to do in London, and started to look around more. I started the blog to record the flashes of inspiration which hit me during this period, so I could draw on them later.

2. Where do you get tips and suggestions from?  

 My ideas mostly come from keeping an eye out. This internet is great, but if you want to get beneath the surface, you have to go out and see what you find. I just head out on my bike with a pen and paper and a camera and see what I run into.

3. What is it about London that inspires you?  Are you generally happy here?  Are there any downsides? 

London is the greatest city in the world, but I have always had the same curiosity for finding things to do everywhere I have lived. I can’t stand people who sit around complaining about being bored and having nothing to do. Wherever you live in the world, you can always find things to embrace and enjoy.

I am generally happy in London, and it has enough to do to keep me busy. We all know it can be lonely occasionally, but there are easy ways to get around that


4. How do you manage your working/academic life so you have time to do all these fun things? Any tips for busy people to fit this stuff in?     

I do it all in the evenings and at weekends.  It’s rough, and sometimes I think it will kill me in the end.

 My tip for busy people is just to keep pushing yourself. Sometimes we all want to stay in and sit still, or watch TV, but then you might as well just give up on life.  Instead, you should try to book that course, buy those tickets, send that email to the friend you haven’t seen for ages or just grab your keys and head out on a wander.  You’ll never regret it.

 5. What are your top recommendations for interesting exhibitions, monuments/venues or events in London this summer?  Do you have a favourite place that you go back to time and time again? 

 Try to get to as many free community festivals as you can.  Go to Notting Hill but plan to come in from the North end to have the best time.  Go to the Lido.  Ride the Thames on your bike as far as you can – it doesn’t get crap til Reading and even then it’s only for a mile. I can’t think too far ahead – with these sorts of things I’m a bit of a last-minute planner.

 6. What do you do if you’re feeling uninspired?  Is there anything that you do or see that ALWAYS makes you happy or inspired?
 If I’m feeling uninspired, I go for a bike ride. Riding across London Bridge at sunset will always fix feeling uninspired, or going to a big cathedral. I don’t have religion, but it always makes me think “If hundreds of years ago people could build all this for an imaginary man who lives in the sky, I can probably manage to do the work I have to do“.

7. Do you have a perfect pub for Sunday lunch?  

 I love a wintry Sunday afternoon at the Holly Bush at Hampstead.

8. I see that you do tailor-made suggestions for things to do in London.  Any tips for me?

I’m sure you already know really.  The tailor-made thing is a reach-out to tourists, as it can often be very daunting going on holiday somewhere and not knowing much about where to go. I hate to think of tourists just hanging around Leicester Square and Covent Garden all weekend, so I try to help them out with a few tips. I think we should all do it.

 On the tips for London-residents front, I think people know just as much as I do about London really. I remember ages ago hearing Peter Watts, the former editor of the Time Out Big Smoke section, talking about his writing and he said he only knew certain bits of London and that was the same for everyone. People like me bluff that we know more, but in fact everyone has a great knowledge really. I just share mine. 

If you’re really looking for some tips though, have you been to the Passage Cafe in Clerkenwell, ridden Cycle Route One along the Lee Navigation to Ponders End, been to Franks Cafe in Peckham or spent the day at one of London’s scores of free London festivals recently? These things are all awesome. 

9. And finally… imagine your perfect day in London – where would you go and what would you do?

 I’d hire a boat and (providing it was safe) fill it with a handful of friends at Greenwich, then spend the day picking my way up the river through Westminster, Putney, Hammersmith, Kingston, Hampton Court, Shepperton and Teddington stopping at riverside pubs on the way. Then hopefully find a nice pub somewhere in the country to moor up and sleep under the stars.

Another happiness project (and love for the HPL)!

I’m in great company it seems. I’ve heard from Steve Slack who shares a mutual interest in the pursuit of happiness and living South of the Thames.  He’s turning his interest into a book both on the historical and philosophical thinking on happiness, and a compilation of people’s ideas of what happiness is.  And he wants to include yours truly!

Here he describes his Happiness Project and here he writes nice things about me.  I’m delighted to get involved with this project and to read the book when it comes out!

Happiness Interview no. 1 – Stephanie Sadler @ Little London Observationist

[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.