We challenge our contributor to reply to ten devilishly probing questions about their London and we don’t take “Sorry Gov” for an answer. Everyone sitting in the hot seat will face the same questions that range from their favourite way to spend a day out in the capital to their most hated building on London’s skyline to find out just what Londoners really think about their city. The questions might be the same but the answers vary wildly.
Bugwoman is a life-long Londoner and urban wildlife enthusiast. She loves knitting enormous multi-coloured blankets because she doesn’t have to worry about whether they’ll fit. She spent a month working with baby chimpanzees in Cameroon and was parasitised by a botfly. She somehow became an accountant and IT trainer, but writing is her real love. She pens a regular column for Earthlines magazine, which allows her to exercise her serious side. Her twice-weekly blog is largely about the plants, animals and people that she discovers within half a mile of her East Finchley home, though she does occasionally have expeditions to other places. She is currently volunteering as an English teacher with refugees and asylum-seekers, because London is traditionally a welcoming place, and she wants to keep it that way.
What’s your secret London tip?
People are a lot friendlier than they look, but not before 9 a.m.
What’s your secret London place?
St Pancras and Islington Cemetery in East Finchley. There are tangled paths amongst forgotten Victorian graves, foxes drifting through the undergrowth, a family of kestrels and some very interesting people.
What’s your biggest gripe about London?
Parents who allow their children to run around kicking the pigeons. Pigeons are Londoners too!
What’s your favourite building?
The British Library. Once you’ve become a reader (which is free, the biggest bargain in London) you have access to almost limitless information. Many a blogpost and column has been researched in that red-brick cornucopia of knowledge.
What’s your most hated building?
Minster Court, with its Albert Speeresque horses and a mish-mash of architectural styles. And the new UBS building on Broadgate is no better. Some buildings seem to bully those who look at them.
What’s the best view in London?
I love the view from Vertigo 42 Champagne bar in what used to be called the Nat West Tower. But truthfully, my favourite view is uphill from East Finchley station when I’m fresh off the tube and on my way home.
What’s your personal London landmark?
The statue of The Archer at East Finchley station by Eric Aumonier. The Archer has fired an arrow into what is now Cherry Tree Wood, but which was once the hunting grounds of the Bishop of London. I love the link with the area’s past, and the statue itself is very fine. Plus, of course, it tells me that I’m back on my ‘territory’.
What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?
In non-fiction, any of the London books of Jerry White – I loved Zeppelin Nights, about London during the First World War, but I read everything he writes. He deepens and broadens my understanding of my city.
In fiction, I recently read Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes. It’s starting to look a lot less as if it’s describing a bygone age, unfortunately.
What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?
Can I have three? For a special occasion, Vanilla Black, a fine-dining vegetarian spot that has remarkable food. For something a bit less posh, The Gate at Islington, also vegetarian. And locally, an Italian on Church Lane called Rugoletta, which is cramped and noisy, but which creates such delicious food that any discomfort is immediately alleviated.
How would you spend your ideal day off in London?
A flat white, the Guardian and some writing time in Costa Coffee in East Finchley, followed by a slow walk through St Pancras and Islington Cemetery with my camera, stopping frequently to look at an interesting tombstone or to try to take a photo of a fox or some baby long-tailed tits. There’s something about walking in the cemetery that puts things in perspective, and for anyone with an interest in natural history, there is always something interesting to see.