Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Oh to network...

As I type, I am sat on a train with two of my favourite things next to me:  a selection of yummy chocolates from Cologne courtesy of Mama Berry and a lovely fat glossy copy of Red magazine, courtesy of, well, Red.  Technically this copy was given to me by its creators, along with lots of other goodies, at their most recent networking event for wannabe writers.  Okay, so I had to pay for the privilege, but not only did I get my money back through the medium of goodie bags, Prosecco and canapés, I also made contact with a fellow blogger and writer – who has offered to pass some work she was offered my way.  Result!
You see, I have discovered and whole heartedly embraced the wonders of networking.  And, trust me, in London, there are plenty of opportunities.  It started relatively small with monthly meetings set up by More to Life Than Shoes.  There I met women who, like me, wanted more from their lives.  They inspired me to start my novel and, over two years on, I’m nearly ready to send it out into the big bad world, plus they introduced me to a children’s writer who needed an illustrator – and took me on.  Okay, so I’ve yet to get that elusive book deal (and I WILL get it!), but it has been a hell of an inspiration.
Then there has been my book group where I met my blogging muse Paperback Reader.  She not only got me started in the world of blogging and twitter, but also introduced me to the wonderful ladies at Grumpy Young Women who I wrote for before one of the editors they closed for business.  I stay in touch with them and shall soon be providing an image for a project one of the girls is working on about cool girls and their sewing machines – and am insanely flattered to learn that I apparently fall into this category.
Amazingly, sometimes a new opportunity to network just lands on your lap.  Take the other week.  I was sat outside a pub with a friend, bemoaning my lot and swooning over a flat I’d just seen for sale in Brighton that had “Shelly” written all over it.  My chum did her best to bring me crashing back to reality by pointing out how tiring the daily commute would be.  The chap sat next to us chipped in, explaining that he lived in Brighton and commuted to his job at the Birmingham Institute of Arts.  Needless to say, as the evening went on and the beer flowed, I told him about my heady days as a Visual Art student - only to find out that he is personally acquainted with two of my old lecturers and would happily but me back in touch with them.  Proof enough that drinking is, in fact, good for you...
It doesn’t end there.  On Monday I shall be swanning off to the launch of Alarmist magazine, a new publication packed full of wit, writing and art.  I forget how I heard about them but sent in one of my illustrations for consideration.  Sadly it was not for them, but... they invited me to the launch anyway.  Hurrah!
So, if you will excuse me, I have a glossy to read, a new acquaintance to email and an awful lot of chocolate to eat.  And, who knows, the guy sat across from me might just be a really handy contact...

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Something old, something new...

This week I am rather proud of myself.  On Monday, I finally got around to visiting the Horniman Museum.  I’ve been meaning to visit it since before I moved to North London in 2005, yet it was The Body Adorned exhibition that finally lured me down to Forest Hill.
The Horniman has to be seen to be believed.  With its collection of model, stuffed and pickled animals, along with an eclectic mix of artefacts from around the world including masks, marionettes and mummies, it’s an eccentric Victorians treasure trove that I suspect even Ripley would be proud of.
Despite its ageing collection, the Horniman embraces the new.  The surroundings are clean and modern; the aquarium, although much smaller, rivals the one sat next to the Thames in the city centre.  The anthropological approach of The Body Adorned exhibition studies the attire of man throughout the ages and around the world – as well as that of the contemporary Londoner.
After a good couple of hours mooching around the museum and a wander around the gardens (cut short by some decidedly autumnal weather), I couldn’t help but admire the Horniman’s blend of old and new.  But then, I guess it shouldn’t really surprise me.  If London is good at anything, it is mixing up the past with the present.  Take architecture.  Today, the Shard, Gherkin and Eye sit alongside Big Ben, St Pauls and Monument like peas in a pod.  The Tate Modern and National Gallery are loved equally by Londoners and visitors alike.  The V&A showcases fashion and design of yesterday, today and often tomorrow within its four walls.  Who can help but love it?
And, in a city of politicians and students, business and medicine, London isn’t short of ideas and new thinking – and never has been.  The capital’s museums are shrines to the brains of our past, a legacy of the philosophy and science of our predecessors.  In fact, the mind boggles at the thought of what has grown out of London – and how it continues to blossom.
So, next time you find yourself in a stuffy museum or at a bizarre exhibition, take a moment to remember how far we have come – and how amazing the Londoners of yesteryear really were.  They have made our city what it is today – and are the foundations of what we will make it tomorrow.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Pro People

I have a small problem.  It appears that, despite my best efforts, I have been struggling to find things to hate about London.  This is most problematic, not because I particularly enjoy being pissed off, but because the name of this blog is, well, Love to Hate London.  If Trading Standards or Ofcom were to read my most recent posts, I might be in bother.
This has lead to a lot of soul searching.  It is true, things about London still really do my head in.  But the good really seems to be outweighing bad.
Take people, for example.  During the last week there have been times when London’s inhabitants have really got under my skin.  From the woman who let me hold a door open for her and walked through it without saying thank you to the dumb-asses who just don’t get the concept of moving down the buses and the “youths” who insist in loudly cursing and abusing whilst they spit and smoke skunk, there are some Londoners who I would really love to see propelled into outer space.
But, even so, there are so many people I have met here who fill me with positivity – the pros who outweigh the cons.  A couple of weeks ago, after a rather inspirational wedding reception, a friend and I decided to find a barn dance in London – and we did at Camden Ceilidh Club.  We had a blast, skipping, swirling and hopping along with the best of them.  And, as well as being a fab workout (next time it will be leggings and a vest at most), everyone was incredibly friendly, encouraging us to join in and, despite our lack of expertise, clapping us along as we jigged our way through. 
Last week I met another group of like-minded people at the Southbank’s Open School.  Artist Tracey Emin and writer Jeanette Winterson spoke to a group of creatives about the use of autobiography in their work.  It was fascinating to hear their thought processes and really refreshing to be in a room full of like-minded people.
But, you know what?  The most inspiring people I’ve met in London of late were a group of children I met on Sunday who I was lucky enough to sing along with at a concert in Camden.  In a city (and country for that matter) that often demonises young people and focuses on the few who cause problems for the rest of us, it was great to see so many young talented people using their free time so constructively.  And, between you and me, I suspect a few Adele’s and Amy’s of the future were in attendance.
So, I shall continue to search for something to moan about.  But, I suspect, with such a cool crowd in the capital, I’ll always find something else to love as I go about my life in London.