London Grilling with She Loves London
This week here at London Living we’re grilling Jo Harris Cooksley, the brains behind the charming, authentic, often side-splitting and quite brilliant She Loves London - a blog, quite simply, about real life in London.
If you’ve not come across Jo’s blog before (shame on you), this interview will make you feel like you’re a regular fan in next to no time; Jo’s got some delightful takes on life in London to share with you and her London Grilling is packed with tips and stories about this relentless city.
Jo, take it away…
You’re originally from North-west London. What made you migrate East and how does it compare?
The main reason I moved east was down to a few weeks spent cat and flat sitting for family friends in Newington Green. I’d stay in their flat for a week at a time whenever they went away, and slowly got to know and like an area I previously wouldn’t have thought of living in, as there’s no tube. But when I needed to look for a new flat earlier this year, N16 was the only place I wanted to be – and I ended up just east of there, in Dalston. It’s veerrrry different to where I grew up in the suburbs of North West, and although I still love going home for a quiet night in zone 5, nothing beats the lively East London scene on my rented doorstep – there’s always so much going on.
London blogs are a fantastic way of seeing the city through a genuine and personable lens. What made you start She Loves London?
I’ve been blogging in various guises for a good few years, and get to read and write blogs for work too now. She Loves London came about because although I found loads of brilliant blogs about London, I struggled to find one that pinned down the little day-to-day quirks about the city; the bits that only Londoners who live and work here would “get”. Stuff like the “unwritten tube rules” and people you come across, or the way a local’s to-do list will never get done, the North vs. South divide, what we worried about before the Olympics. Like – I’ve never even been to Madame Tussauds or inside Buckingham Palace. Living in London is usually about “the little things” you pick up on when you make the same journeys and have the same routines every day. Like I say on the blog, there’s a lot of mad events, new pop-ups and restaurants in London and a lot of blogs covering those aspects, but for most of us, daily London life isn’t really about that. I wanted to write about the bits I know and make people say “yes! me too”, and hopefully discover more interesting things in the process.
We get so many different views of London from the various Londoners we interview, but what do you love most about our glorious capital?
Hard question. These past two years have shown how amazing London can be when there’s a Royal celebration / humongous sporting event / Bank Holiday street party to be had, that’s for sure. But the bit I love the most day to day is how sometimes I’ll be on the bus to or from work and I’ll look up from my paper or phone, and there’ll just be St. Paul’s, Tower Bridge or some other hugely famous, world renown landmark just casually sitting there outside the window. It still feels a bit surreal sometimes, that even though I’ve always lived and worked in London – and I think we’re all guilty of becoming a bit blasé and complacent about living here – but sometimes I’m still almost surprised at seeing these familiar yet massively historical places and buildings just lining my route to a friend’s house or work. Then I’ll look at all the (previously annoying) tourists and think “woaah, this must be MENTAL for you lot”. Like, imagine seeing all this for the first time?! I can’t remember my first experience of seeing London, but if it was now, I reckon I’d hang about taking up room on the pavement snapping endless photos, too.
We don’t often ask this question, but apart from the obvious, what do you absolutely detest most about London life?!
This is probably the obvious thing, but it’s got to be the expense. I love London to pieces, but god, the cost of travel is getting ridiculous – a monthly travel card went up by about £6 this January, only for me to spend the whole first week back at work stuck in a mess of signal failures and delays. I hate it when it takes an hour to travel the equivalent of about 2 miles; London can be so slow. Also, I got charged £2 for going through the barriers at Kings Cross and back out less than 5 minutes later, the other day; I’d only used the escalator. Blummin’ cheek.
We’ve seen some pretty wacky things and heard some ridiculous stories from Londoners – what’s the most the singular most bizarre thing you’ve ever witnessed here?!
The annual impromptu annual pillow fight in Trafalgar Square always makes me laugh – next year I’m getting amongst that. It’s difficult to remember the strangest thing I’ve ever seen, they all sort of merge into one and become sort of normal memories after a while. Like the long haired bloke wearing a fluffy cape with hearts on it who was half walking, half dancing down Kingsland Road with an old-skool ghetto blaster blaring on his shoulder the other day – you barely look twice.
Before moving East, I used to share my Metropolitan line train with a huge, white Pyrenean Mountain dog called Rufus, who commuted to Baker Street every day with his owner. Such a cool character: he’d just casually lie down in the packed train carriage, taking up the whole space he was so big, and rest his massive head on some unwitting commuter’s shoes. It was brilliant. Also, a colleague of mine once saw a Shetland pony being led down the pavement on the Strand. The photo’s on my blog. Ah, just a normal day in London.
You’ve got an old chum from foreign shores coming to visit you in London; they’ve done the touristy stuff before, so where do you take them for the perfect weekend jaunt away from the crowds?
I’m a huge fan of the Prince Charles Cinema, so a visit there would definitely be on the agenda – it’s so cheap and the film special events are so much fun. I’d also take them for a long wander along the Regent’s Canal – it doesn’t feel like you’re in London for most of it with all the barges and locks. Then it’d be over to “Stokey” via Camden Passage in Angel, maybe through Dalston for some good Turkish meze and then to meet a load of mates at the pub on Stoke Newington Church Street. From there, off to a club for a bit of a rave before catching the sunrise on the night bus home. Perfick.