Saturday, 30 January 2010

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of...

My first month of working in the City of London has come to an end. I survived.

For the last three years I have been working in a place most unlike the City of London. Every (early) morning I spent an hour following the grey concrete road that is the M4 to the industrial heartland of Berkshire and never ever once have I been persuaded to up-nest and actually live out there. What can I say, I'm loyal to the Bush. And in a weird twist of fate the Bush has been loyal to me as now that I commute east each day; my journey is shorter, easier and top people-watching fodder. God Bless the Central Line.

I won't bore you with what I do in my new job (though I can pretty much assure you it is not what you may expect for a virgin City girl - i.e. I don't work for a bank and I'm not a PA) but I am not going to pretend that I wasn't excited about working in the City. Despite recent years' bad press and recession the City, the financial heartland of our government-bailed-out country still has a certain buzz about it and I like it. Even though it is east London.

I'd be lying if I said that the smell of money in the air didn't excite me. I'm a child of the 80s, it's in my blood. However there is more to the buzz than just money and the power it is perceived to bring. And for those who know me, well it's not just the suited and booted muscles and ego of the men I have started to enjoy eye-flirting with regularly (though they are a nice bonus - ooh was that a bad City joke!?). Funnily enough I'm starting to think it's the sense of community within the Square Mile that is so intriguing and exciting.

With it's own street signs, council (sorry, Corporation), police force and WiFi network, the City of London has to be one of the smallest cities in the world and yet has the biggest name, London. There are only about 7000 residents with a City postcode but more than 350,000 commuters who seek their daily fortunes there. According to one old boy wanker banker I got talking to in a bar recently, until 20 - 25 years ago the City was dead after 8pm. Now there are more than 900 licensed premises for those who at the end of the day seek their beer (or once upon a time Champagne) buzz. The City is unique and it's Corporation knows it. Therefore the streets are always clean, the traffic wardens are even friendly and the self-promotion is rife but the tradition and sense of community do still seep through, just about.

I like this (as I've previously blogged about the importance of a sense of community in London). For now, I also like (ahem, humour) the wanker bankers and their awful chat, and of course I'm enjoying the eye fucking of suits I pass in the street in my lunch hour. And well, let's face it, 900 places to enjoy a glass of Sauvignon Blanc within one square mile. What's not to like?

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Picture This: Baby It's Cold Outside...

By now I know that most Bush residents are pretty fed up with the snow, or rather ice and sludge, which has caused disruption if not to our journeys to work (sigh) certainly our journeys on foot to the station or bus stop. I have slid, slipped and wobbled towards the station every morning this week and am guilty of chuckling to self when I see others do the same.

However one evening this week as dusk descended I looked out from our balcony and was struck by how calm and strangely beautiful the Bush seemed with this half-hearted layer of white stuff.

Friday, 8 January 2010

All the small things... 3. Charity Shops

There may only be three of them but they are still a feature I love about Shepherd's Bush and three is actually my lucky number.

Traid, Age Concern and Fara all positioned opposite the Green along Uxbridge Road, in front of an over-bearing Westfield are all pretty bog-standard charity shops. And I mean this with love and admiration. When I first moved to West London I regularly hit the charity shops in Chiswick and Notting Hill, naively over-looking those on my doorstep. I now know that I was missing out. Yes, you are more likely to find designer "bargains" in W4 and W11 but you will also find the appropriate price tag to match. There are certainly fewer labels (because Atmosphere and Umbro don't count) on offer in these three but I for one have long abandoned my lust for labels. As I have previously blogged about I'm more about finding my style than following and copying someone else's and these shops satisfy my thirst for fun fashion and bargains.

Traid (Textile Recycling for Aid & Development) has achieved a great deal in the ten years it has been going, both in terms of the work it has done also but also in not immediately appearing to be a charity shop from the outside. The shops look "cool" and "trendy" and certainly the one in Hammersmith isn't dissimilar from many of the vintage (rip-off) shops I've been to in East London or Camden. However to be frank they do over-price a lot of stuff, yet fully redeem themselves with their £2 and then £1 sales (swoon) which seem to happen pretty regularly. I was lucky enough to catch it last weekend and bagged a MaxMara tweed blazer and a labels on new silk slip (i'm going through a sexy underwear phase) for a couple of quid. I also like in the Shepherd's Bush branch that they run these free Sew Good workshops for people who want to transform their old threads into new garments and learn sewing skills. There's one tomorrow in fact - GO! I also like that in this shop all the staff are or at least speak French - pourquoi? In the words of Kylie: Je ne sais pas pourquoi...

Age Concern quickly became part of my Saturday morning routine when I first moved into W12 for entertainment as well as bargains. The old Irish guy who works there (he doesn't sound totally dissimilar from Father Jack) is like the Empire or Bagel Bite to me now - a stalwart fixture of Shepherd's Bush. Age Concern is very cheap, a bit cluttered and not very well laid out so that you have no choice but to rummage and go in with elbows out. Bliss. It's the charity shop as I know and love it. So far it has provided me with retro gold earrings aplenty, a gorgeous 1970s faux fur coat and some fabulous silk equestrian scarves a la Queen Betty 2.

Fara, though I have to say, is my favourite. It is a very well organised and it's window displays unfailingly deserve 11/10 for effort. The staff are approachable and seem to really care about keeping the shop well stocked and a pleasant shopping experience - I have never once thought that about any Topshop. I have bought more bargains in Fara then I care to list yet last weekend I excelled myself when I found some rainbow braces (well I love them so there!). I always save Fara for last. They probably have the best range/stock of books out of the three and are also really good for male jeans (so one of my Bush bloke sources tells me).

Charity shopping is a win-win situation for everyone. It's somewhere you can get rid of unwanted goods, that I will then treasure spending hours finding and at the same time we are giving to a worthy cause.