You’re a Londoner when…

Can you pick up a Standard from a stand in one swift movement without breaking your stride? c.Richard Baker

Olympics visitors are going to descend on London soon.

Since I’ve just returned to the city after four years abroad, I’ve been studying its inhabitants and learning to imitate them.

These are my conclusions.


  • You don’t break your stride to pick up an Evening Standard from a stand
  • You can trot down a moving Tube escalator in high heels
  • You own something high viz
  • You think 11pm is late
  • You don’t question why the bus, train or Tube you’re waiting for is late or cancelled…
  • But you’ll sure as hell get narky if a bus passenger deigns to pay in cash or ask a question of the driver hence delaying you by one minute
  •  You’ve always thought you should one day take the open top tourist bus… but never have
  • You are profoundly disappointed when it’s 13 degrees and there’s no sunshine- though this is the yearly average state of play and you’re not living in Rio
  • You’ve had too much to drink in a public place
  • You are able to navigate the streets of Soho though they were seemingly mapped out by a confused medieval goat

For exhibits of the above and great London street photography, go to the free exhibition at King’s Cross Station until August 15:


Latest BBC feature: The London workforce not receiving a Games bonus

Dave Choo runs a souvenir stall in Oxford Street, central London

Hundreds of workers employed on London’s ‘Boris bike’ hire service have become the latest people to secure a bonus for working over the Olympic Games.

It seems each day brings another group of workers demanding a golden £500. The bus drivers are protesting, hot on the heels of London’s train and Tube workers.

But what about the majority of Londoners who will not be receiving extra money for their added time and hard work?

Asked if anyone in the Olympic Stadium’s borough, Newham, would be receiving a bonus, a press officer answered: “No, we’re all just going to have to work bloody hard.”

And that seems to sum up the resolve of most of London’s unsung heroes – the shop workers putting in extra hours, the hauliers who will work through the night to get deliveries made, the postal workers who could well find themselves sitting in their van cabins clocking up unpaid overtime.

Continue reading here.

The search to find the best of Asia in London


“You’re cold because your body’s weak” a woman from northern China with heavily pencilled in eyebrows told me as I lay on her massage table.

It was the kind of abuse I’ve missed. It was of course nothing to do with the fact that it was a cold afternoon and for some reason in England Chinese masseuses insist you undress completely rather than wearing a little pair of pyjamas as you do in China.

I quizzed Jianhua Tang, the Shanghainese manager of Dr China at 415 North End Road, Fulham, about this and she responded by saying “human resources cost more in the UK”.

No kidding. It’s why the massages we ex-expats grew accustomed to having regularly in China cost five times more here. And it’s why I am in pursuit of the best quality, best value massage in London, mentioned here.

Lucky for me, Chinese health shops seem to be springing up all over the place tapping into the vanity of the British X Factor generation.

As I sat drinking tea and chatting about Shanghai after my massage, two guys with hoods and baseball caps who looked like they were going to hold up the shop, enquired about a hair growth serum being sold over the counter, which according to the word on the street “really works”.

I sat mystified as they were informed of the regenerative powers of ginger.

What “really worked” about Dr China for me was the authentic verbal abuse, the mushy Mando-pop being played in the massage room and the plastic cup of tea leaves and hot water afterwards.

An hour’s massage is £45. They also offer acupuncture from £28 a session and cupping for £15.

Meanwhile, if you want to feel like you are getting a massage on holiday in Thailand (think Koh Tao rather than Koh Samui) head to Singhra Thai at 391 Lordship Lane, East Dulwich.

I went there on the recommendation of reader EQ. A one-hour massage also costs £45 and similarly no pyjamas are provided.

The mood created by the authentic-smelling oil and the piped in music was only interrupted by the fire alarm outside which beeped intermittently to remind someone to change the batteries.

You get a good kneeing and elbowing for your money and the fake flowers add a thrifty Asian charm.

So the next challenge is to find decent Chinese food in London. Jianhua Tang says there is none and I’m tempted to agree with her.

Any recommendations for where a girl can get a decent mapo dofu?




Battersea toasts ‘eccentric’ Britain for Jubilee party

Ladies offer the chance to make a toast wearing silly hats; what else?

Bennie Banares, from Vancouver, Canada, writes a Christmas card to the Queen every year.

So, with Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee approaching, she naturally sent the monarch a letter to find out how she could be involved.

Five months later the 63-year-old and a group of 43 friends from Canada found themselves on the banks of the Thames in Battersea Park where the Diamond Jubilee Festival was held.

She said: “Even in my dreams I couldn’t imagine being here for the 60th Diamond [Jubilee].”

The Queen’s secretary had replied to her with information on where to buy tickets.

“I knew everything before the tour operators,” she said.

“It is such a privilege to be here. I always read about fairy tales but this is real.”

Bling queens

The festival was dubbed a chance to celebrate “eccentric British culture”, bringing together artists, designers, chefs and bakers.

There was high demand for tickets and up to 90,000 people attended.

Those who could drag themselves away from the riverside where spaces were saved and camps set up found the chance to dress up as a queen.

They could also watch an attempt to build the tallest cake in Britain, enjoy buns baked by the Women’s Institute, dance to live music, make their own crown or escape to a tranquil tent for some storytelling.

Continue reading here.

Latest BBC Feature: Riot-hit Haven Green lives up to its name once more

Adrian Mills has received a letter of apology from one of the youths who looted his restaurant

On 8 August last year a crowd of about 200 people rampaged through Haven Green, an affluent part of Ealing in west London, vandalising and looting shops and setting cars on fire.

One of the people involved was sentenced on Thursday.

He targeted a Thai restaurant and admitted entering with intent to steal.

Nine months on is Haven Green living up to its name once more?

Continue reading here.