In two days, on May 1st, I am leaving London permanently. I’ve been living here on-and-off for the past seven years, and it’s finally time to move on. I will spend a couple days in my old stompin’ grounds of Brussels (SO EXCITED) and Amsterdam (ZOMG), and then will spend about a month in Copenhagen before settling in Berlin in June. This route is almost the EXACT same route I took in 2006 when I was backpacking around Europe (I’m skipping Luxembourg… because, ew).
Anyway, I’ve had quite the journey here in London in the last year, and here are my greatest hits! These are experiences that I couldn’t have had anywhere else in the world. They are unique to London, are very London-centric, and I am all the more richer for having been a part of them:
#1 Obviously, being cast in a TV show
I beat out over 14,000 other applicants from across the UK to appear in the massively-popular documentary series First Dates on Channel 4. I was featured in the premiere episode which millions of people tuned in to see, and was also in the commercial advert for the show:
Read my blog post about my experience here!
But here’s something I haven’t really talked about on here… I was cast in a movie too. I can’t give you any details, but here’s a jolly photograph of me in full costume.
I had to sit in the makeup chair every day for an hour. That’s not a wig, it’s my hair. They curled it, teased it, sprayed it and pinned it, and then had to stitch that hat to my hair. Also, I had to be sewn into that dress. 16th century MADNESS.
When it comes out next year, I’ll let you know.
#2 Getting to climb atop the O2 Arena for free and singing Christmas carols with an entire choir at the summit!
Normally, the “Up at the O2” climb is a pretty expensive adventure activity, but I was asked to do it by the organizers of a social media website, so I got to climb to the summit for free! And the view of London from up there was spectacular! I felt like I was had literally just climbed on top of the world. I had to look down to see heaven. Read my blog post about that experience here!
#3 Speaking at the inaugural Best of Spark London live-storytelling event
(Up on stage at Spark London! I’m 3rd from the right.)
I was invited by the organizers of Spark London, a weekly event here in London where people tell true stories live in front of an audience, to speak at their very first Best of Spark London event! It was a huge honour and I was so glad to take part! You can listen to my story on their podcast of the night here. I’m the first speaker in the podcast, so you don’t have to scroll through the audio to find me! You can read my blog post about that event here.
#4 Seeing the London Symphony Orchestra perform live at Royal Albert Hall on New Years!
I won a contest (huzzah!), and was treated to tickets to see the amazing London Symphony Orchestra in concert as they performed the soundtrack to The Artist live as the film played in the background at the sumptuously-ornate institution of the Royal Albert Hall. Oh the things I get to do for free…. That crossed off three things on my bucket list: seeing the LSO in concert, attending a performance at the RAH, and doing something spectacular in London for New Years! Read my blog post about that incomparable experience here.
#5 Participating in the Inside/Out Project at Somerset House, and meeting street-art-superstar JR!
As you all know by now, street art is MY JAM. I love that shit. I eat that shit up. And I’ve been photographing the work of French artist-superstar JR for years around the world with his Inside-Out Project. So when I heard it was coming to Somerset House, I had to take part! I stood in line for 2 hours to get my photo taken, and it was then pasted down on the Somerset House grounds. When I noticed JR just chilling nearby, I went over, and we had a lovely chat. He was totally humble and cool!
Read my blog post about that experience here!
#6 Dining at the super-secret Gingerline nomadic restaurant!
Here’s something I haven’t talked about at all on here, because Gingerline is SO SUPER SECRETIVE that they ban you from talking about it on social media for at least a month after you have attended the experience. Well, I attended the Gingerline in February, so I think I’m good to go now.
So, last year I read on Londonist.com about the Gingerline, a dining experience that is so secretive, you don’t even really know what you get for the ticket price. All I knew was that they were fully booked for months, so I bought my ticket FIVE MONTHS in advance!
Here’s how it works: You buy a ticket, not knowing where the restaurant is or what you will experience when you get there. On the night of the event around 6pm, you have to make sure you are at one of the stations on the London Overground line (the name “Gingerline” refers to the Overground, as it is coloured ginger on the tube map). At 6pm, and not a minute before, they text you the location of the event. You have exactly one hour to hop on the Overground and get to the location, as they lock the doors at 7pm!
I got there on time, and this is what I walked in to…
This basement in a non-descript empty building in the Haggerston area had been transformed into a spaceship with super-sexy-1960s flight attendants with ginger hair from the planet Gingerline!
There was a huge piece of ginger root in that centre display there. APROPOS.
My table looked like a Star Trek console!
Nah, it’s where the flight attendants would inject you with ALCOHOL.
TV panels advised us of our “flight status” and ‘takeoff’ and “landing” hahahah.
They handed us our meals through the port-holes above our heads!
Here was the awesome menu!
And of course, the whole experience had to be seen through 3D glasses.
I met some awesome people there too!
This was their take on the in-flight safety manual!
LOL at “interphalangial.”
Of course we started a conga-line… which involved a lot of “slut-dropping.” If you don’t know what a “slut-drop” is … just … never you mind.
You go girl.
The artificial gravity unit was operational for me, thank fuck.
Yes, Intergalactic Ginger Mom.
Anyway, it was a great experience, and even though the tickets were £50, which is really too rich for my blood (and out of my budget, ahh!), I decided that even poor lasses like me deserve some kind of quality of life. So this was my one and only splurge for February. I can live with that, and I feel like I got my money’s worth! Highly-recommended if you love the thrill of a surprise!
So there you have it, munchkins! My wonderful life in London is coming to a close, but I know that my adventures in Copenhagen and Berlin will be just as wonderful and splendid and exciting. Because life is unpredictable . . . and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There are so many reasons to love London, but life is too short to spend it all in one place.
As one last parting glance at my London home, here is a short film that I made about London’s thrilling street art and graffiti scene.
I hope I never fucking see you again.
Last week I was walking along in Shoreditch and stumbled across street artist Matlakas erecting a new huge mural on Great Eastern street. It’s gorgeous and haunting and provocative and so well done! Very impressed.
There he is at work.
I don’t know who put up this big mural in Brick Lane, but in the immortal words of Han Solo, “Great shot kid! Don’t get cocky.”
Mmmmmm, Harrison Forrrrrrrrrrrd.
How did I not see this before?!!!
Now this Space Invader is clearly old as it’s chipping away. The fact that I missed this consistently is THE MOST EMBARRASSING because it’s on Curtain Road RIGHT NEXT TO THE CAFE FIX 126 which I go to ALL THE FUCKING TIME. Literally, I am a regular at Fix 126 and I have a loyalty card and everything. So clearly, I have been walking by this Invader for YEARS and never noticed it. WHAT THE HELL, CHRISTINE.
See those people sitting on the benches next to the sandwich board? yeah, that’s Fix 126.
I really should hang my head in shame.
Check out my Space Invader category for all of his pieces that I’ve photographed around the world.
The other day, I’m wandering up Shoreditch High Street and I see this Borondo piece that appears to me made by scratching away at the paint already on the window. So I photograph the snot outta it, and I step to the side to Instagram it , and then this massive tour group shows up and gets all up in my grill. It’s clearly a street art tour group and the tour leader is telling them that it’s only a few days old and it depicts Jesus and the 12 Apostles, and Jesus’ face is the one that’s scratched out, and he’s holding his heart… and then the tour leader qualifies all this by saying he’s not sure.
I can’t believe people pay money for a street art tour! Dudes! ALL YOU NEED IS GOOGLE, GOOD WALKING SHOES AND A CAMERA! Every time I’ve been a tourist in a city, I’ve always found the best street art on my own. Why pay for something that IS FREE AND DEMOCRATIC?
Suckers abound, I s’pose.
Anyway, I’ve photographed Borondo before, and I heard FROM THE INTERNET WHICH IS FREE that he’s currently putting up a new mural in London, so I’ll endeavour to find that promptly.
Jimmy C aka James Cochrane, I’ve been photographing his stuff around the world for years… New York, Paris, London. He always produces really captivating work that is also a tour-de-force in detail, attention, style, and commitment. Gotta love an artist who doesn’t just tag and run. His dot-matrix style of street art takes TIME.
Check out my James Cochrane category for more of his work that I’ve photographed.
I guess this could have many different titles…. ugh, “one direction.” VOMIT. Anyway, how wonderful is this? Found it on Holywell Lane next to the Village Underground
Found this on Redchurch street in Shoreditch 🙂 I’ve tried to find some information on the artist, LAQ, but coming up empty. Any tips? I need to contact this artist because THEY SPELLED STRENGTH WRONG. For a writer like me, this is so frustrating, hahahah!
I mean, c’mon dude! It’s T-H, not H-T!
As I previously blogged, the second season of First Dates has come to an end, and the entire cast was on hand this past weekend to celebrate it in full-London style at Café de Paris in the heart of Piccadilly Circus. It was such a trip to have been cast in this television show. I found out recently that over 14,000 people applied to be on the show this year, and I was one of 50-some-odd people to make the final cast. That really is humbling. And also, a small source of pride:)
Here are some photos of me bonding with the rest of the cast from the omni-shambolic clusterfuck that was the all-night Wrap Party! In the above photo, it’s me and my harem of bearded men. Jonathan, Ralph, my date Paul, and Steve. I’m sure all of you have already seen my episode (the premiere episode, of course!), but if you want to see the rest of the series starring these lovely lads, be sure to watch them on 4oD!
Me and date Paul. You see, people? Despite what some audiences thought when they watched our date, Paul and I actually got on like gang-busters. We are great mates and we have nothing but love and high-fives for each other. I’m not gonna lie, throughout the wrap party, there may or may not have been some crotch-grabbing on our parts. YOU HEARD ME.
Of course, it wouldn’t have been a party unless Paul and Steve rubbed their beards ALL UP IN MY GRILL.
Here’s Mo (who was also in the premiere episode with me) and Corinne, who was featured in 3 episodes and, memorably, was reduced to tears by the infamous Rajan. Mo is such a great guy, we had such a great time getting to know each other at the party. We’re both Middle Eastern so having this experience was important to us, to show that not all Arabs are terrorists! We can be LUVAS too, ya know. As for Corinne, there was a bit of drama at the party, which I won’t get into here, so that’s probably why in this and the below photo, she’s pulling quite odd and awkward faces.
Back to the party! There’s Chloe, who also was featured in the premiere episode with me. Remember her dog Bentley? Aw bless. The doggie stole the show.
And there’s Saniya. Who could ever forget her hilarious comment about Mo and, uh, spaghetti. I’m still not sure I understand it.
SNOGGING STEVE. My life is complete.
Sarah Jayne, as you’ll remember from the First Dates commercial, was looking for her Prince Charming. Jonathan, the Alan Carr doppleganger, was on the hunt for a more ‘seasoned’ lady. They were such fun at the party 🙂
And that’s a wrap, people! Thank you for watching and for your support! It was quite an unforgettable experience, and it reminded me that life is always full of surprises, as long as you keep allowing them in. There is never, ever, any excuse in this life to be bored. This chapter is closed. Onto the next!
And let me tell you, from what I’ve got planned, the next chapter in my life is going to be something else.
Just you wait.
Another ghost sign! I found this beauty in Peckham on Chadwick Road.
Look at this gorgeous thing. Established in 1884, they knew them that for ‘business building’ you needed to print stuff! Flyers, releases, cards, documents! Why not print them all fancy-like! I WANT TO BE ESTABLISHED IN 1884. You guys know that I love typewriters and antique modes of communication and writing, so I’m literally aching with jealousy that I wasn’t around in 1884 to check out the machines and mechanisms involved in printing back them. I want to see men in suspenders stained with ink and with paper cuts using big iron machines to print on delicate pieces of paper! THINK OF THE TYPEWRITERS.
I wonder why they went over this with that black shadow? Or was the shadow there first?
I can’t make out what it says on the right. Any ideas?
Check out my Ghost Signs category for more ghost signs I’ve photographed.
I love it when people vandalize signs in order to improve them. Case in point, this construction sign I found outside Liverpool Street Station yesterday.
Ha ha ha! It’s just a sticker of an arm, but wow… flawlessly executed.
In my last ghost signs post, I promised to find more.
This one is great, an advert for Our Sons Menswear on Electric Lane in Brixton, which is now where the Brixton market is. Of course the shop isn’t there anymore, and I have never heard of the brands they’re advertising here, but I love that the advert has survived on those gorgeous bricks!
LOL at the “inspection invited” bit at the bottom.
And the pointy finger! IT’S THE BEST PART!
I betcha that building in the foreground wasn’t there 100 years ago. It now obstructs the view of the sign, partially. Back then, the sign would have been in clear view of everyone. I love how the alley is now pretty much empty and abandoned, but this advert reminds us that once these areas were bustling with life and shops and people… now forgotten except for their remnants.
This Space Invader is actually quite large, the tiles are massive bathroom tiles, and this has been in this location for quite some time… those ‘Vaders are DURABLE! Brixton is slowly revealing itself as quite a good street art location 🙂
Check out my Space Invader category for more of ‘Vaders that I’ve photographed around the world!
So remember when I did that lil’ documentary series called First Dates? It aired last month, and the series is still on the airwaves until April. Well, once the show goes off the air, there will be Wrap Party here in London and you are invited. It will be at Café de Paris (between Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square) on 12 April, and all the info you need to get on the list and into the par-tay is on the above poster. Most of the cast (including this wee Canadian lass) will be there, so join us in toasting our horrible, horrible flirting skills.
You’ll get to see more of my winning facial expressions like this:
… and this!
(in all honesty, this above facial expression is how i feel about dating in general, hahaha!)
There will be laughter…
…and if not, you’ll be at home on your laptop, wishing you join in on the par-tay.
You can get a taste of my horrible flirts in the commercial for the show, below. So come on down, London, and watch me buy things myself. See ya on the 12th.
All of these were erected last year for the Dulwich Festival… still standing, so take a wander around Dulwich in South East London if you’re ever so inclined!
Just like The Triumph of David…