Tag Archives: being happy in London

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: http://www.strobist.blogspot.com/

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:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/sianysianysiany/

 

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:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/sianysianysiany/

Following the HPL Rules

I’ve been thinking about the HPL Rules lately.  I’ve been a bit lazy and found it easier to 

  • connect” with friends and family (mainly going for dinner regularly hence expanded waistline, and also trying to pick up the phone a bit more)
  • nurture” because I love gardening
  • be “active” because I love my retro bike and gym it during the week 
  • be curious” because I am an inquisitive person and generally have several theories on the go at once. 

But the blog is mostly about restaurants at the moment which was not the initial idea. There are two ways in which I’m lagging especially – “give” and “learn“.  I applied to volunteer at a Brixton-based charity every second weekend, but the induction sessions take place during the week and I’ve been finding it hard to take time off work.  I think the key is small charitable acts so I need to think of things I can fit around work.  As for learning, I’m seeing a couple of exhibitions this month which is good, but I’m long overdue some comedy or theatre; and I’d love to take up a class - Spanish or something creative – but again I’ve not been finding time.

But today I randomly got a pingback from 100helixdays  which has adopted the HPL Rules.  I love how the author has thought of simple, practical ways to fulfil each rule and fit it round his lifestyle – especially the ideas of learning guitar and about wine; and nurturing by creating a roof terrace, spending time with his daughter and improving their home

It has really inspired me. My guitar, piano and trombone are gathering dust so I’ll start small – buy some sheet music and learn to play one new piece well by the end of summer; and I’ll take Lady B out for a photography session so we can practice a bit more.  And nurture is an easy one as I’d like to invest lots of my time over summer decorating our new house.  I also want to be a bit more active by fitting some yoga in, starting this week.  

So thank you 100helixdays – I shall be reading how you get on with interest, and am happy that my HPL Rules have been invigorated!

Making Slough Happy

“Come, friendly bombs and fall on Slough/It isn’t fit for humans now” (Betjeman) (disclaimer: I have family near Slough and have nothing against it.  Its true what they say about the number of roundabouts though).

So far, everyone seems to like The Happiness Project London Rules.  I didn’t make them up myself - they are an amalgam of various happiness/positivity rules I’ve seen and that I believe can work if you have enough discipline to follow them.  They are sort of a mix between “make the most of London” and “be part of the wider community”.

I was reminded recently (from a list on my mum’s fridge) that there is another set of rules developed by a “happiness team” of phychologists, phychotherapists and such, who went to Slough (why there?) for 3 months in 2005 to improve the happiness levels of the town. 

It was filmed for the BBC and called “Making Slough Happy“.  The basis of the programme was to test 10 simple measures (the Happiness Manifesto) on a group of volunteers:

  1. Plant something and nurture it
  2. Count your blessings – at least 5 – at the end of the day
  3. Take time to talk – have an hour-long conversation with a loved one each week
  4. Phone a friend whom you have not spoken to for a while and arrange to meet up
  5. Give yourself a treat every day and take the time to really enjoy it
  6. Have a good laugh at least once a day
  7. Get physical – exercise for half an hour three times a week
  8. Smile at and/or say hello to a stranger at least once a day
  9. Cut your TV viewing in half
  10. Spread some kindness – do a good turn for someone every day

They found that the most important path to happiness is in our relationships - with individuals and communities, even random people on the street or in supermarkets.  Importantly, they found that you cannot enhance your wellbeing by having more material things (I’m going to write a post about this soon).  At the end, the volunteers reported an increased level of happiness in areas like work and relationships – and certainly they realised that the pursuit of money did not bring happiness.  How life in Slough must have changed:

There is an overlap with The Happiness Project London Rules.   However, my “Be Active” refers to1 hour of exercise a week which should be increased to 1/2 hour 3 times a week, and my “Give” refers to doing charitable/kind acts once a month whereas the happy guys in Slough say you should do something every day. I’m guessing this is more small kindnesses like giving someone your seat on the tube or texting a friend to check they are OK.  I’m going to amend my Rules accordingly. 

I’m also going to add the other rules that I missed out:

  • Count 5 blessings per day -  If I make this a routine on the tube home, it should stick.  Today, I’m thankful that I didn’t kill the man who barged past me for the free seat on the tube this morning, and the rest is sort of private.  I also need to realise I’ve got it good compared to many people. 
  • Phone a friend and arrange to meet up – I have many wonderful but slightly neglected friends who I’ll be phoning over the coming months ,and making the long overdue trip oop North.
  • Give myself one treat a day and really enjoy it – Sadly all the things that come to mind (chocolate, wine, fags, coffee, shopping) have temporarily been given up for health/money reasons.  Its probably best to pick something small, so today it will be having a nice glass of wine over dinner.
  • Have a good laugh at least once a day – currently CBB is fulfilling this criteria, but sans CBB, I’ll make sure don’t go a whole day without a laugh.
  • Smile/say hello to a stranger once a day – this may prove quite hard in London, but I’m quite good at it (people are friendly to each other where I’m from). There’s lots of people to smile at – the Evening Standard distributor, the London Transport guy at the tube, anyone over 70.
  • Cut TV viewing in half – I sometimes get stuck on what else to do if I’m having a night in (I’m not sure if Facebook/twitter counts) but am going to try this, with exceptions for CBB and any panel-based dance shows, obv.

If you’re interested in this sort of stuff, please look out for upcoming posts on how to cope with stress in London, the problem of London’s consumerist culture, and how to enjoy London on the cheap. 

If you’re not, then don’t worry - the lack of “stuff to do” posts is due to a self-imposed January exile, but I’ve got quite a few fun things coming up soon.