The Street Where I Live

British by birth, New Yorker by nature.

The Street Where You Live

The Street Where You Live: Octavia Bright, Dalston, London

The Street Where You LiveAlexandra kingComment
Octavia Bright, TSWIL

Full disclosure: Octavia is one of my closest friends. We met at University in London, where at first I admired her from afar as she held court over a rapt following of other chic Camden denizens. Later we did "Bodypump" class together at a gym in North London, where the teacher, a stern yet Amazonian babe named Wilhelmina, would glance admiringly as O casually bicep curled her way through the routines while I lay sniffling on the ground whimpering for mercy. We'd (I'd) recover afterwards, drinking sweet mint tea in our shorts by the heaters in Camden Market, and putting the world to rights. In short, she's somehow just brilliant at everything, this girl. She's who you go to when you want to talk about your innermost thoughts and your outermost fears, as well being my go to source for feminist theory and book recommendations a go-go. She also never fails to be wearing the snazziest jumper in any social situation. I'm thrilled to introduce her and give you a sneek peek inside the beautiful home that she has transformed into an oasis all her own. Now, take a walk with Octavia on the street where she lives.

Octavia Bright TSWIL

On her neighbourhood of Dalston:

I live in Dalston, the dirty pearl in the borough of Hackney's rose red crown. I'm a Londoner, but grew up on the other side of town - a West End girl by birth, though I've done quite a lot of roaming, via Camden, Holloway, Madrid, Cambridge, Paris..  but I seem to have settled here in the North East corner of the capital, for the time being at least. The area has changed a lot even in the four years I've been there - gentrification happens fast in this town. When I first moved in, Dalston reminded me a lot of Bayswater and Portobello when I was growing up (before Richard Curtis made that bloody awful film) so I felt instantly at home. 

On her charming street:

My street is classic urban London - a complete mixture of old and new, grime and glamour, and in the summer the roses in everyone's front gardens are real showstoppers. My street is pretty typical of this part of London - a real mixture of privately owned flats, council flats, big fancy houses, big fancy houses split into flats, some studios, a primary school... The old buildings all date from about 1883 and I'd guess the new blocks all filled the gaps left after The Blitz - the East end was hit very heavily during the second world war. We residents are a motly crew too: some young-ish families, a cabbie, some artists, at one point a celebrity of some sort had one of the houses but I didn't pay attention to who exactly, and a load of families that have been here for thirty years and seen the neighbourhood smarten up around them. We all look out for each other. 

Octavia Bright, TSWIL


On her beautiful home:

My house is really a maisonette - the basement flat belongs to someone else, and then I have the ground and first floors. The building is pretty old - she's an aged but beautiful pile of bricks and, like most old gals, needs quite a lot of TLC, especially in the winter when her bones begin to creak. There are two rooms upstairs, my bedroom and then another that I use as a study, and then an open plan sitting room / kitchen, and a hall with a cheery green lino floor and a wonky staircase. The windows are my favourite thing about my place. Lots and lots of glorious windows, so even on a grey day (which in this town is one thing you can bet on and win) the place is flooded with light. It's a special little nest that vibrates with positive energy. It has a good and bold soul, this house. I get the feeling lots of people have been very happy in it. 

Octavia Brights TSWIL

 

On some unlikely house guests:

I've had a chronic problem with squirrels in the roof and so am on excellent terms with a load of pest control guys. Once we forgot about one in the attic and it went through all the stages of decomposition, leaving a pile of bones stripped totally clean. The house was filled with a swarm of spooky red-eyed flies - it was horrid, but also kind of fascinating to experience such a primally disgusting thing - so biblical! There is something about a multitude that is truly uncanny. I was reading a book called The Anatomy of Disgust at the time and I remember it all feeling oddly synchronous. 

Octavia Bright TSWIL

On Dalston's reputation as hipster central:

Because it's full of bars and clubs, Dalston has a reputation for being clogged up with hipster wankers, and don't get me wrong, it absolutely is… but they mostly don't live here. The neighbourhood has a strong, mixed community of locals from all over the shop - so Dalston's daytime folk look pretty different from the night crawlers with their edgy haircuts and health goth gear. It has been steadily gentrifying since before I moved in, so things are kind of in flux and there are some big ugly developments creeping up around and about the place - it's hard not to feel anxious about how they will change the area, but nostalgia is dangerous and urban living is defined by constant change and evolution - it's one of the things I love about it.  Having said that, In the summer it can be a bit rowdy with drunk stragglers ricocheting from pub to club or drinking street beers on the curb, but I don't really mind, it's part of the deal if you're an urban fox. Speaking of which, there are a load round here, getting tamer by the day, and they don't half scream blue murder when they get amorous. So that can be a bit of a pain. Especially when the local alleycats holla back.


Octavia Bright TSWIL

On living on her own:

I have lived by myself for a couple of years now, and I love it - I can grow quietly more eccentric without having to worry about offending anyone else. Having said that, there's an old guy in the block of flats opposite who sometimes watches me when I do my nightly dance to Howlin' Wolf, so I suppose not everything goes unnoticed. Also, I say alone, but that's not strictly true because beloved people are always passing through and staying for a week or two. In some ways it's the best of both worlds! I usually have at least one human being sleeping on my sofa, but it's been known to house up to three... well, one was a baby, so, two and a half.

And not long ago a little feline wolfing named Lupo moved in, so we've been having relentless fun with ribbons and toes and pieces of string. Luckily, he likes Howlin' Wolf too. 

Octavia Bright TSWIL

 

On her job as London's premier Renaissance Woman:

I write and give talks and all sorts, but right now my main gig is my thesis - I'm in the final year of a PhD at University College London, which is basically short hand for 'I am on the edge of sanity most days but don't worry I'm too tired to bite you'. It's been an incredible few years full of all sorts of different challenges, and I've loved it and loathed it and loved it again. My office has variously been in the department at the university, the British Library, Senate House Library (I am a library tart, a fickle and philandering reader, a bibliophilic bigamist, and proud), the cafe at the Wellcome Collection, and in my flat. Right now I'm incredibly lucky to have a beautiful set up in the spare room, which is a relief as I can leave my ramblings spread out waiting for me to return to them the next morning. 

I also co-host a literary radio show/podcast called Literary Friction with the very excellent Ms Carrie Plitt - it goes out monthly on Dalston stalwart NTS Radio. Their programming is mostly music based but we're one of a couple of talk shows that they host. The studio is just up the road in a tin can booth in Gillet Square, alongside other local institutions like Vortex and the Dalston Jazz Bar.

Octavia Bright TSWIL

On travelling and finding her calling:

I have been in the business of learning and thinking and teaching for a very long time…! I do worry that I am pretty institutionalised these days. I was determined to stay in London for my BA, so read Hispanic Studies at UCL by day and explored London's premium dive bars by night (long live Gaz's Rockin' Blues). One of the best things about my degree was getting to spend a year abroad - I lived in Madrid with a dear friend and got to play out all my Almodóvar fantasies dancing with fabulous drag queens until the sun came up and we all realised our make up had melted off. After my finals, I decided I wasn't finished with the books so went to Cambridge to do an MPhil in European Literature and Culture (yes, all of it), and as well as learning about French philosophy and Spanish poetry I discovered that small towns are not for me. So, I hot-footed it to Paris where I got a job teaching at the Sorbonne. La vie était belle but the smog of my hometown was a-calling so I returned to the fold and began my PhD. And it's not all about being a library mole, thankfully! I've had the chance to give talks in some really exciting places, the most exotic being Tulane University in New Orleans. I was also lucky enough to spend a week at a symposium on Passion in Tuscany - there were real Giotto frescoes on the wall of the certosa, it was so beautiful. And mind expanding. And the food was off the chain! 

 

Octavia Bright TSWIL

On her relationship with her home city:

Ohhhh London. London London London. Stockholm syndrome? London's been my home ever since I took my first lungful of its loud and dirty air, and I love it fiercely. But. Every few years it becomes unbearable and I have to go somewhere else. The winters are miserable. But the summers are glorious! When it's still light at 9pm and the flowers are all in bloom and the parks are full there's absolutely no better place to be. I think wherever I end up in the future I'll always be umbilically attached to this city, for better or worse, for richer or poorer... I've lived in a few other countries, as a child and then again in my adult life. I love it, and I hope to do it again in the future, but it also always makes me nostalgic for home. London's a pretty hard act to follow. Right now I mainly feel incredibly lucky to be able to live where I do. Lucky and excited and trepidatious and frustrated. All the feelings!

Octavia Bright TSWIL

Describe your street in five words.

Wide, bright, straight, old, mine ("ALL ways are MY ways!" says the Queen of Hearts)

Octavia Bright TSWIL

When you walk down your street, what do you feel in your heart?

When I turn the corner into my street I hear Steppenwolf's 'Jupiter's Child' in my head and I stride along with wings on my boots and guitars in my heart. It always feels like coming home.  

Octavia Bright TSWIL

On her perfect day off in her neighbourhood:

Dalston is a great place to potter around, there are loads of sweet little cafés and bars where you can get really excellent coffee and sit and read for a couple of hours. One of my favourite spots is Ivy’s Mess Hall, just up the Kingsland Road – they do great little tapas-style plates and the gang who work there are lovely, a very international bunch. In the evenings, I like to go to my local cinema, The Rio, which is a Dalston institution – they’ve been showing films there since 1909 but the beautiful Art Deco exterior is from the 1930s. You can see a lot of independent cinema there, and they often schedule old films that it’s rare to see on the big screen. 

 

Thank you, sweet Octavia, for allowing us to snoop around. You're the very best.

The Street Where You Live: Bethan Haaga, Baltimore, Maryland

The Street Where You LiveAlexandra kingComment
Bethan Haaga TSWIL

When I first met Bethan, at our mutual friend’s birthday party, I commented on her name and we instantly bonded over our Welsh mothers. Then she told me she lived in Baltimore. Just for context, this was mid-season of the NPR mega hit, Serial, so poor B immediately had to endure my many questions about that week’s episode (luckily she was also as obsessed as I was, and later most obligingly gave me updates on Adnan’s case fresh from the Baltimore court house). I instantly fell in love with Bethan’s wry sense of humour, not to mention the fact that this graceful tough-nut with inexplicably Disney princess hair works as a public defender in one of America’s toughest cities. When I started The Street Where You Live, I immediately thought of Bethan, who lives such an inspiring and exciting life, in a seriously upcoming place.  I’m so happy you’re getting to meet her. Let’s take a walk with her down the street where she lives.

Baltimore, TSWIL

On her apartment:

I'm originally from the Maryland suburbs of D.C, but I now live in Baltimore's Mount Vernon neighbourhood.  I moved here about a year ago, and now live in a one-bedroom place in an old row-house that got spliced up into apartments.  My apartment, which I found on good old Craigslist, is pretty small but I like it.  I love living in Mount Vernon. The architecture is so beautiful and I love my short walk to work.  Having said that, The laundry is coin-operated and only takes quarters. Quarters.

My street has a lot of nice, older buildings.  It’s a few blocks away from Baltimore's Washington Monument (FYI, D.C.'s Washington Monument is the more iconic, but ours is older!) The monument is surrounded by four small parks, which are beautiful and well-used.  It's a pretty mixed neighborhood, some families but not many with kids.  A lot of young professionals live here because of its proximity to downtown.  I also think there's a retirement home a few blocks North of me.

Baltimore is a fun city.  People who visit and only go to the aquarium or an O's (the Baltimore Orioles, the city’s baseball team) game really miss out. We have great restaurants, bars, and the atmosphere is generally more friendly and laid-back than in neighboring D.C.

Teg Bethan Haaga TSWIL

On her beloved roommate, Teg:

I live with a Shepherd-mix named Tegwyn.  We met at an animal rescue in North Carolina, where he was the only puppy who didn't bite me.  I find this to be an endearing quality, and it's lead to a lasting friendship. 

Bethan Haaga TSWIL

On finding her true passion:

I don't really know why I went to law school, but I'm glad I did. I went to the University of Maryland, College Park and have worked at various times as a kindergarten teacher's aide, live-in caregiver, and waitress. I went to law school at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.  After spending a summer as an intern for the Public Defender's Office in Rockville, Maryland, I decided to pursue this a career. 

I love being a public defender. For your readers who might not be familiar with the US system, a public defender is a criminal defense attorney who represents those who can't afford counsel.  Unlike court-appointed attorneys or attorneys taking pro bono cases, public defenders usually work in an office with other lawyers doing the same thing.  I handle misdemeanor cases in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City.  We have large caseloads and it can be very stressful, but I've never had a job this consistently engaging and rewarding.  My coworkers are some of the most tenacious, dynamic, and fun people I know.

I represent all kinds of people. As long as they fall below a certain income-level, and face the possibility of jail, we will represent them. The charges I deal with are all misdemeanors, of varying levels of seriousness. I would guess the single type of case I see most often is drug possession. There's no typical day. I had a trial yesterday for a client accused of possessing a BB gun in violation of the city statute. The main issue was whether or not a BPD firearms examiner could testify as an air-pellet-gun expert (he could not) and whether the State had therefore presented enough evidence for the case to go to the jury (they did not). The poor jury was falling asleep, literally, while the prosecutor and I whispered evidentiary arguments to the judge up at the bench. Then they were sent home and my client was acquitted without fanfare.

This morning, I was out of court so I drove out to Hagerstown to visit a client in prison. I kept setting the metal detector off, and the Correctional Officer ended up teaching me how to remove the underwire from my bra by filing it down on the rough stone wall and pulling it out.  I'm really glad she was a nice woman or that might have been awkward...

 

Baltimore TSWIL Bethan Haaga

On Baltimore’s community spirit:

I’ve has so many interactions with people in my neighborhood that are kind of entertaining.  People are pretty friendly in this city.  I had a tabloid-inspired conversation with a stranger in the grocery store the other day about Angelina Jolie's privacy rights.  Someone composed and sang an impromptu serenade to my dog once.  An elderly woman stopped me while I was shopping to tell me about her career as a showgirl in Atlantic City.  That kind of thing seems to happen more in this city than in the D.C. suburbs, and it always brightens my day.

On Baltimore’s gritty reputation:

 People call this city “Bodymore, Murderland."  That's a misconception about our crime rate.  Personally, I have lived here for over a year and have never murdered anyone.

Joking aside though, My relationship with the city hasn't always been this positive.  There is some real dysfunction here.  Maybe I notice it more because my job intersects with other public services like the jail, schools, and substance abuse treatment options.  Baltimore tends to come up short when compared to other parts of Maryland in these areas.  It can get really frustrating, especially when people seem resigned to Baltimore always receiving fewer resources and getting substandard services compared to the rest of the State.  That having been said, there's a real tenacity of public service.  I've met all kinds of people who dedicate enormous amounts of time and effort into making the city better. To all the doubters, I say stop passing through Baltimore on your way to New York or D.C. and come it for yourselves! It's more than The Wire or Serial. I will say though that the effect I think (and hope) that (mega smash hit NPR series) Serial has had was to get people thinking and talking about wrongful convictions and confirmation bias in criminal investigations.  That's a really good thing in a place liked Baltimore.

Bethan Haaga, TSWIL

Describe your street in five words.

Underrated; Scenic; Friendly; Good coffee

Baltimore, Bethan Haaga, TSWIL

When you walk down your street, what do you feel in your heart?

It depends on the time of year and what type of day I've had.  I feel great about the street in the Spring (when it finally gets here) because it's such a gorgeous neighborhood. 

Bethan Haaga TSWIL

On her perfect day off in her neighborhood: 

A good day off starts with a run around the neighborhood, up Charles Street, and around Bolton Hill (another nice, old neighborhood near midtown Baltimore).  I'd want coffee and breakfast at Milk & Honey, followed by a walk with the dog down to the inner harbor.  I would sit in the park and read something that was not work-related.  I'd spend a few hours at the Walters, which has a really fun and eclectic art collection, and then dinner at The Helmand, which is a great Afghani place.  If I had the next day off too, I'd go to Brewer's Art for drinks after dinner.  

Bethan Haaga TSWIL

Thank you so much Bethan! You're such a bad ass. If you need more of Miss Haaga, and you don't want to commit a crime to get it, you can follow her here on Instagram.


The Street Where You Live: Decca Lang, Bruton, Somerset

The Street Where You LiveAlexandra king1 Comment

This week on The Street Where You Live you're meeting Decca Lang- mother, wife, interior design maven and all round hot mama. Single-handedly putting the yummy into mummy, over the last four years Decca has helped launch a home wear and apparel company, renovated and designed her countryside Victorian cottage (which involved living in a caravan for 12 months) married her teenage sweetheart and had two delicious daughters. Impressive going, non?

Decca lives in maybe one of the most idyllic places in the world, the gorgeous town of Bruton in Somerset.

Scroll down and take a walk on the street where she lives. Trust me, it'll be a treat.

Decca Lang, TSWIL

On living in the beautiful town of Bruton:

I live in a small, rural and rather pretty historic town called Bruton which is nestled in the the middle of my beloved home county of Somerset with my husband Alex and our two little girls Betty, who’s just turned two, and Herbie (yes she’s a she not a he - ask Alex) our six month-old darling.  Somerset is a very special place in the South West of England that, until fairly recently, many people just used to drive though in the summer to get to the beaches in Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. The secrets out now though, and its understated charms (and the delicious cider) are making people stop a little longer. 

My husband and I have lived here for four years but we’ve been living the ‘country dream’ for nearly six. I have to say it wasn’t exactly in ‘the plan’ to retire into country life at the tender age of 23, but true love and my husband's career brought us very close to my motherland, so it all fell into place. Since moving to what we thought was a hidden gem of a spot, Bruton has seriously been put on the map, with some pretty hip and happening things going on; namely the opening of uber cool gallery Hauser and Wirth last year, and a few lovely places to eat. The press has been going bonkers for this little place we call home, but ultimately it’s still a cosy, friendly and wholesome place that we are very lucky to be apart of. I am definitely enjoying the rise of the faintly urban pulse it’s starting to develop though, it’s such a plus. I feel like London is coming to me rather than the other way around, which makes a nice change.  

Decca Lang, TSWIL

 I suppose you could best describe where we live as quaint. But in a really lovely rugged, old way. We are tucked down behind Bruton High Street on a little lane that follows the River Brue. Even some locals don’t know our lane exists! We are surrounded by a hotpotch of amazing old rooftops and honey coloured stone buildings ranging from medieval to very modern. There is a beautiful Packhorse Bridge that dates from the 15th century that crosses over the river, and a grassy area with old stepping stones 50 meters from our front door.  All the children play in the river in the summer, it’s pretty dreamy. It’s all very typically English, although on a hot Summer's day you could be in France.

Decca Lang TSWIL

On (literally) building a home:

We bought a wreck of a Victorian cottage four years ago. It was a tiny two bed, downstairs bathroomed and kitchen-in-a-lean-to mess.  We added a double story extension that made it a three bed with a proper upstairs bathroom. I never imagined we would live in a town as we had been looking,and going to auctions for huge, far too expensive piles of rubble that were really in the sticks. We had actually been looking to buy for over year when my father-in-law pointed it out. It had been on the market since the very beginning of our search but we had ruled it out as too ‘urban’, too small, not enough of a project. I actually only came to view it to meet the estate agent. But as soon as I saw the garden and its potential I was sold. During the work, Al and I camped out in a tiny caravan with a gross plastic awning which was our sitting room/kitchen/dressing room for almost a year. I did my best to make it pretty with just a Persian rug, lamp and sofa. Believe it or not, it was super cosy and I actually really enjoyed it, apart from the (at least three) times we found the local drunk/tramp asleep on the sofa in the awning. He obviously thought it looked cosy too, and helped himself to our wine glasses for his cider! 

I love our home so much. It’s really big for the middle of a town, the River Brue runs though it and it has a south facing wall with an old plum and apple tree. It’s a complete sun trap and so peaceful. We get lots of school kids passing and chattering (and swearing) during break times as we are across the river from the King Bruton boarding school but other than that it’s just birds and the church bells across the road. 

Decca's husband Alex working on the renovations. Photo by Decca,

Decca's husband Alex working on the renovations. Photo by Decca,

 We obviously had no money left after all of the building works, but that’s fine as I quite like old things and I love looking for bargains or finding bits here and there. Most of the stuff in our house has a story- like the decorator’s table that I found in my parents barn that is now in our kitchen, or my Grandfather's workshop dresser that I restored. Our house is definitely lived in and definitely not fully finished; we still don’t have door handles three years later! We’ll carry on collecting and scavenging. It’s a work in progress - I don’t think there will be a day when I say “we’re finished” and if there is, then we’ll probably be onto the next project.

PCG_6741.jpg

On her darling daughters, Betty and Herbie:

 It’s pretty full on at the moment with my two little dreamboats but it really is the best fun too. Betty is a real laugh - on the day she was born her horoscope said that she would be “weird but in a nice way” and that’s definitely true. She is a hoot and her big personality is really starting to shine though. Her incessant chattering is very entertaining. Herbpot is just happy to gaze at her big sister with a huge grin at the moment and has a very sunny disposition and the sweetest little face.  I could talk about them all day and I usually do...

Decca and Alex on their wedding day.

Decca and Alex on their wedding day.

On her husband Alex:

Alex and I have been together for 10 years! We first met on his home turf on the coast in south Devon while I was enjoying a summer hanging out on the beach with friends during my gap year- I was only 18. He was the rugged, motorbike riding, beard sporting local who happened to live opposite. Lucky me. He’s a pretty laid back sort of a guy, so not too much trouble to live with - although I do complain quite often it’s like living with a messy teenager (he just tells me to lower my standards). Having said that, he built our house, can make pretty much anything, including our kitchen worktops, hearth, curtain rails and babies, not to mention really good poached eggs, so I can’t complain too much.  

Decca Lang TSWIL

On motherhood:

I am very much a full time Mummy at the moment and have been for over two years. I love it. Being a Mummy is no walk in the park though. It’s hardcore!  I didn’t go back to my job after having Betty as there wasn’t really time before Herbie was on her way. It was all planned, as mad as it is having two tiny people so close together. We’re “racking and stacking” as Alex so eloquently puts it. I really did love my job and love working in general. I’ve had a job of some sort since the age of 14 so not working (and earning) has its challenges.

I am in the midst of plotting my return into the world of grown up work at some point in the near future, but I do really want to be properly around for the girls while they are so young. Alex works really hard and travels a lot with his job as Director of Engineering for an aeronautical company that he’s helped build up, and he‘s so flat out so I can’t even begin to imagine the stress if I was working too. Unless we forked out for a Nanny! It’s a massively over used cliche but they do grow up so so fast, and my view is I’m still pretty young, so I have all the time in the world to work on my career once they are a bit older. That’s if we don’t have any more of course, then my plans could change again but we’ll see how that one pans out?! It’s a wonderful thing being a mummy, but I, like thousands of mothers out there, am still trying to strike the home/work balance and keep, or more like ‘regain’ in my case, a sense of identity that is difficult to keep a hold of when you have kids. It’s an area people have actually written whole books on so I’ll stop here.

The art above the bed was given to Decca and Alex as a wedding present, and is by artist  Caziel

The art above the bed was given to Decca and Alex as a wedding present, and is by artist Caziel

On her work:

I’ve always worked in interiors and design. It all started when I took a summer job in a wonderful interiors shop called Salcombe Trading  in Devon the fateful year I met my future husband. I thought it was just a job to pay for nights out in Fusion, (the local, very bad nightclub) but I ended up working there after graduating in History from University College London.  

Decca Langs TSWIL

Before the babies, I was the operations manager for the beautiful home wear and accessories shop The Merchant Fox, a sister company to the well-established Fox Brothers & Co. who manufacture some of the world's finest woollen, worsted, cashmere and flannel cloth for suiting and jacketing. It was a business I was closely involved with from the beginning,  so I spent my time designing and finding products and traveling around the UK discovering the most amazing wealth of skilled artisans. It was full on, as is running any start up business, but it was a privilege to work with such wonderful products that have so much history. Winston Churchill wore a Fox Flannel chalk stripe suit and Cary Grant was also a massive fan! I love creating, making things look nice, starting new projects and building businesses so I hope I’ll be getting back to that soon. 

Decca Lang TSWIL

On Bruton’s community spirit:

 Bruton has less than 3,000 people and only a handful of shops; including the obligatory charity shop (which is a good one). There are a few vintage/antique shops, like Philips & Skinner which sells some lovely things, an organic food shop, a butcher and an amazing restaurant/bakery/wine store/hotel called At The Chapel which we live behind. It’s really dangerous as they have the most delicious food/bakery/wood fired pizzas/wine/cocktails. At The Chapel changed Bruton’s course dramatically and we love it- it is slightly an extension of our home. I used to work from there a lot before I had Betty and they also catered at our wedding. When I had just had Betty, I used to go up there for coffee while she napped in the pram. It was so nice to walk 100m and see grown ups and usually always someone I knew. It was truly my salvation. They are getting some pretty serious praise, which is well deserved as the owners Cath and Ahmed work so hard at making it what it is.

Decca Langs TSWIL

We have a real mix of neigbours young and old, but Bruton is really small and we have some great friends here. We pretty much know all of our neighbours; who range from teachers to designers to eco warriors. It’s a very creative place and has been for a very long time, and is even more so now with the arrival of the gallery. The writer John Steinbeck actually lived here for a time in the late 50’s. Legend has it my grandfather met him in a pub in Glastonbury and took him on a pub crawl of the local area and loved Bruton. He was later quoted as saying “It was a fortunate accident which drew me to this place.” My grandfather and his storytelling was a bit like the film Big Fish - but I’m sure there’s some truth in there somewhere. 

Decca Lang TSWIL

Bruton is such a close community that you rarely walk anywhere without bumping into someone you know or one of Betty’s little friends. I have some lovely friends who have young children too. We all go to a playgroup in the next door village every Tuesday. It’s run by an amazing tour de force of a lady called Mary who’s in her late seventies, maybe even eighties, and she set it up 21 years ago. It’s all very rural, very friendly and we would all be at a total loss without it.

Decca Lang TSWIL

On escaping the rat race:

I’m so happy that we ended up here.  We could have so easily not have. The only downside is that we moved away from all our friends that are closer to Alex’s work but we have definitely settled here. We haven’t had much time to throw ourselves into community life with building and babies but we have so many friends who live here and nearby. We also have friends to stay from London a lot and they all love coming to see us and having a taste of our relaxed country life. I love being able to bring the girls up here. I can pop to the shops, we can go to the park, feed the ducks at the duck pond and can end up not getting in the car for days (which is quite a difficult thing to pull off when you live in the country). We are always looking out for houses for sale in the area because we don’t want to move away  - I adore our home but we will grow out of it in the near future. It makes me sad to think that one day we may leave but we always knew this wasn’t our ‘forever house’. Namely because it doesn’t have anywhere to keep Alex’s motorbikes, surf boards, paramotors, boat, or a field he can build a motorbike track in. That really is why we’ll move - according to him.

Decca Langs TSWIL

When you walk down your street, what do you feel in your heart?

Pride. As soon as we turn the corner off the main street onto our lane, Betty always says “Here we are, hommmmeeee Mummy” and it makes my heart melt. I honestly look forward to coming home every time we’re away and I always tell Alex how much I love our little house. 

Decca Lang TSWIL

Describe your street in five words:

Old. Idyllic. Slightly Secret. Charming.

Decca Lang TSWIL

On her perfect day off in Bruton:

A day or weekend when we are all at home together without having do any building jobs and we can just potter about are such a treat.. We will either have people to stay or visit. Friday nights would kick off with cocktails and dancing on the bar at the Roth Bar and Grill. It gets pretty wild by all accounts - I haven’t actually made it there for this yet as having Herb halted my cocktail consumption quite dramatically and the bar only opened in July. So we would have to start the weekend there, any excuse! Breakfast/brunch we’d have At The Chapel.  We would then stroll around Bruton feeding ducks, walking to the Dovecote which is a folly on a top of the hill that overlooks Bruton and surrounding countryside, it’s really iconic. Then we'd continue walking up to Hauser and Wirth and have lunch.

Decca Lang TSWIL

Photos by Dave Watts.

Thank you so much sweet Decca, for allowing us to take a little peek into your home. If you need more of Decca's beautiful countryside life and those ridiculously squeezable babes, you can follow her on Instagram here

The Street Where You Live: Lucy Kenyon-Jones, Kentish Town, London

The Street Where You LiveAlexandra king5 Comments
Lucy Kenyon-Jones, TSWIL

This week in The Street Where You Live you're meeting Lucy Kenyon-Jones, PR girl, flogger of luxurious goods, and glamorous North London denizen, living in the cute and cool London neighborhood of Kentish Town.

In addition to being stomach achingly hilarious, smart as a whip, looking a bit like a much hipper K-Middy and cooking a mean steak, full disclosure, Lulu happens to be my oldest and dearest friend. We first met and fell in love on her first day of Year 8, where our alphabetically aligned last names meant we were assigned to sit next to each other, first in school then in life. Not much has changed since, apart from the chairs now having a big old ocean in between. 

Lu has an amazing ability to fill everyday life with style, heart and soul, and her charming flat is my second home when I journey back to the motherland. Now scroll down and walk with her, on the street where she lives.

Lucy Kenyon-Jones, TSWIL
Lucy Kenyon-Jones, TSWIL

On her street, Leighton Road:

I love Leighton Road. It’s a real mix – we have beautiful Victorian houses painted in ice creamy colours (they sell for £1m+ a piece), council flats, an ace NHS doctor’s surgery and some trendy graphic-designery office spaces. It’s definitely a more beatnik community – lots of journalists, a few actors (Charles Dance lives 3 doors down from me!), heaps of people who look just like me and Adam (it’s freaky), a smattering of students and my gorgeous sister Beatrice (she lives a street away). It’s a classically beautiful North London street in my opinion. Glorious Victorian architecture, pretty trees and there’s the loveliest pub opposite my flat (The Rose and Crown). P.S. I always spot really hot beardy men in there on Friday nights…just sayin’.

Lucy Kenyon-Jones TSWIL

On her favourite thing about her street:

There’s a fig tree in my neighbour’s front garden – at night, when I walk home from work, the smell it gives off reminds me of being on a Greek Island (how niche is that!?). There’s a great family-run corner shop opposite my front door – Susan’s Mini Market – I feel terrible because I call the man who runs it Susan. His name is clearly not Susan.  People might assume that Kentish Town is just your average North London neighbourhood, but it’s a community with a very distinctive spirit, sense of pride and local love. We have our own paper, The Kentish Tower, we fight fiercely to protect local businesses and always refer to our hood at ‘KT’…mainly because we’re North London knobs.  

Lucy Kenyon-Jones, TSWIL

Leighton Road in five words:

Quiet, leafy, fig-scented, anti-suburban, poopy

Lucy Kenyon Jones, TSWIL

On one of the world’s most idyllic commutes:

I’m an Associate Director at a consultancy where we work with major companies, charities and brands to protect and grow their reputations. Yep, it sounds pretty corporate (it is), but it’s fascinating work and I absolutely love it. I sit on the digital team and work across a range of different industries – fashion, healthcare, charities, oil & gas to name a few. My office is in London Bridge in a bustling spot right next to the Shard, but I’ve managed to engineer a commute that partly involves a 20 minute walk along the Thames each morning. Come rain or shine, I stroll past the Tate Modern, St Paul’s Cathedral, The Globe Theatre and a Sir Francis Drake’s galleon (‘The Golden Hinde’) each day and it never gets old.

Lucy Kenyon-Jones, TSWIL

On trying lots of things while figuring out what you want to do:

I started out in fashion PR, much to the disappointment of my university tutor. I mean, he edited The Penguin Book of Renaissance Verse, so he was never going to be an easy one to please. Fashion didn’t totally float my boat, although working on a few London Fashion Weeks was fun, so I switched into luxury brand PR – think Rolls Royces, Swiss watches and cognac. From there I moved into working with big global brands and specialised in digital comms. I pitched doing a digital course to the board of my old agency, got them to cover the costs, did lectures, coursework and exams around a full-time job, and used those skills to leapfrog into a role working with some of the world’s most interesting brands. Specialising in a specific area really helped me push forward at work – having niche knowledge is always, always a useful asset.

Lucy Kenyon-Jones, TSWIL

On finding her apartment:

We live in a one bedroom, second floor flat. It’s mini but I adore it. The sun pours into our sitting room each morning, I can see the BT Tower from my window even when I’m sitting on my sofa and red London double decker buses trundle past our kitchen, but it still feels quiet and homely.

We only went to look at the flat because the estate agent showed us a floor plan for a place with an office. ‘Oh, how lovely, a home office!’ we thought. We got to the flat and quickly realised he’d fobbed us off with the wrong floor plan – a London estate agent classique move – but we kind of didn’t care. We moved in a few weeks later.

I love our flat because it’s full to the brim of beautiful ‘stuff’ – our mantelpiece is covered in momentos, our shelves are packed with books and our kitchen is brimming with bits and pieces. It’s not messy, it’s just filled with mine and Adam’s life together, and I love it that way. It makes a rented flat feel much more personal to me.

Lucy Kenyon Jones, TSWIL

On her beloved room mate:

I live with Adam - he’s a debonair Canadian (what an oxymoron), a complete Anglophile and a mean Negroni-maker. We’ve been a couple for seven years, living together for six and married for one.

Adam is (luckily) the most easy-going, lovely person to live with. I’ve managed to bag a chap who cooks, makes glorious coffee at the weekend, Aperol Spritzes when I get home from work and hot water bottles when I’m under the weather. He also puts the toilet seat down – score! The only things I’ve had to make room for have been his four guitars (he sometimes holds them like babies), his huge Fender amp and ensuing flight case, his slightly queenie tendencies in the kitchen and an obsession with watching Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining and Don’t Look Know as often as possible. Make of that what you will!

Lucy Kenyon-Jones, TSWIL

On the joys of neighbours

Our downstairs neighbours’ bedroom is directly below ours, which means I am subjected to an eclectic mix of shrieky sex noises, video game rumblings and horrendous rows, depending on who’s living there at the time. We have a mouse, although I’ve grown fond of her. The street can be a bit dog poopy…so getting to the tube in the morning can sometimes be a bit like doing hopscotch

Lucy Kenyon-Jones, TSWIL

When you walk down your street, what do you feel in your heart?

I feel like I belong, but at the same time I feel a sense of mourning that I’ll never be able to buy a property on my street, which is sad.

Lucy Kenyon Jones TSWIL

On seeing London through new eyes

I’ve always been a fan of London, but in all truthfulness falling in love with a ‘foreigner’ seven years ago made me appreciate the city in new ways. Adam’s passion for London has made me fall deeply in love with the city all over again. He’s the one who has shown me the best dive bars, the secret passageways and the most glorious churches. He knows more about London than any Londoner, fact, and sometimes you need to remind yourself to love the city you live in rather than letting it grind you down. He’s also taught me to look up and appreciate the beauty of London’s hotch potch architecture, instead of always staring at the pavement. Give it a go – you’ll see the most amazing things.

Lucy Kenyon-Jones, TSWIL

On the perfect Sunday in Kentish Town

A run through of my ideal Sunday in Kentish Town goes a little like this – grab a coffee from Bean About Town, a cute coffee cart near the tube, and wander up to Hampstead Heath for heart-swelling views across London and glimpses at the coolest dogs being walked by their eclectic owners. From there, a pitstop Bloody Mary at the Bull & Last, one of the best pubs in London ever ever ever. Maybe a scotch egg too. If I’m feeling athletic, I’ll then walk down through Camden and Regent’s Park into a more central neighbourhood like Marylebone. If I’m lazy I’ll jump on a tube and be in Soho in 20 minutes. After mooching about and probably touching all the pretty things at Liberty, I’ll jump on a C2 bus and go for dinner with Adam at Pizza East, a Soho House-run gaff just round the corner from us. We might have a quick chaser at the Rose & Crown, and a nosey at the hot beardy men, and them home we’d go.

Lucy Kenyon-Jones TSWIL

Thank you my darling Lu. I miss you so very much.

 If you need more LKJ in your life, and who doesn't, you can follow her here on instagram


 

The Street Where You Live: Kira Hesser, Los Feliz, LA

The Street Where You LiveAlexandra king4 Comments
Kira Hesser The Street Where I Live

I'm over the moon to introduce a new series to TSWIL- it's called The Street Where You Live. Yes, YOU. Now, once a week, we'll be meeting a remarkable woman from a different part of the world, walking down the street where they live. We'll get to know all the beautiful minutiae - the houses, coffee shops, local hoodlums and neighborhood tips guaranteed to make your heart sing.

In the next few weeks we'll travel to streets in places like London, Berlin, Paris and Mexico City, and enjoy a unique glimpse into a cast of inspirational and creative women's lives and loves.

So let's get started shall we? First up, I'm awfully proud to introduce Kira Hesser, actress, writer, comedienne, my sweet friend, who lives in Los Angeles, California. More specifically, as she points out, in the neighbourhood called Los Feliz: literally, The Happy. 

Kira Hesser, The Street Where I Live

On settling in hip LA neighbourhood, Los Feliz:

I live on a very quiet, residential street nestled in between Hollywood and Los Feliz village. Technically, I live in what's known as "Little Armenia", and 75% of the residents on my street are almost comically unfriendly Armenian octogenarians. There are only three businesses on my street, all clustered together at the Hollywood Boulevard end: a baklava bakery, and a hookah bar that for sure doubles as a mafia hangout (think Satriale's if my life were The Sopranos (and why isn't it?). A cool independent German clothing/jewelry boutique just opened up too, and I look forward to being able to afford something there in the next year or two.

Kira Hesser Tyler Cook

On finding the perfect room mate-online. Spoiler alert, also her future husband

I live with my fiance, Tyler. He is an editor on the television series The Originals (sexy CW vampire show). We met on OKCupid (!) - we were each-others first dates on the site, and we are fully aware of how insane and fortuitous that is. Tyler is my easiest and sexiest roommate to date (sorry past roommates Megan, Jennifer, Tiffiny, Miranda, Meg, Ryan, Olivia, Alienor, Louise, Melanie, and Julien! 'Twas a delight to live with you all, too).

Kira Hesser The Street Where I Live

On loving her home:

I love my apartment so much. Tyler and I have created a beautiful little oasis in our home, which is pretty spacious by Los Angeles standards and positively palatial by New York standards. When we got engaged, we started looking at moving to a brand-new place to enter married life in, but we've found the cost of apartments to have gone up exponentially and prohibitively since we've been living here (I've lived in this apartment for nearly 5 years, Tyler for 3). So, we stayed, and redecorated. We invested in a real couch that we're quite proud of: a cheery red modernist structure whose fabric hides dog hair quite well. We have lovely old French windows, a ton of natural sunlight, a parking spot, a lovely green front yard for our dogs to pee in, and we're far enough away from the bars to never hear any street-noise and close-enough that we can walk to and from our favorite happy hour spots. 

On having a "job" in LA:

Hahahhahah. Job. Singular! Can you even imagine? Not in LA, that's for sure. I barely know anyone that has one job here. Most everyone is cobbling together a living with several part-time jobs until they can make a living out of their passion. I moved to Los Angeles to act and to write and to be paid for both, but in the meantime, in the in-between-time of paid writing, acting, and voiceover gigs and hosting a PBS travel series Islands Without Cars (which unfortunately only shoots once a year, in the summertime). I also  1) assist a voice director 2) write trendy pieces for a style blog 3) cater-waiter for the glamorous private dinners and parties of the rich 1%.

Kira Hesser The Street Where I Live

On not being afraid to follow your dreams:

I grew up acting in Chicago as a child, and acted my way through grade school. I quit in high school but years later, when I was getting my MA in Modern Literature in London (where I met sweet Alex!!), I also began hosting the PBS travel series Islands Without Cars and realized that I missed being on-camera, and I missed acting. I had to decide whether or not to stay in London and acquire a visa and pursue a career in editing or publishing, or move to Los Angeles and re-pursue acting before I was too old for the career (NB: I was 26 when I moved here, so technically I was already too old for Hollywood). 

Kira Hesser The Street Where I Live

On having a recording booth in her closet:

We have two bedrooms, no dishwasher, but mercifully, a washer & dryer that was Tyler's moving-in present to the apartment/us. We live underneath an elderly Armenian lady who is mostly, happily, silent other than her VERY loud phone ringing several times throughout the day. Though it's actually quite beautifully anachronistic to hear a real house phone ring! Except when I'm trying to record a voiceover audition in my closet that doubles as a recording booth, that is.
 

Kira Hesser The Street Where I Live

On dealing with terrible neighbors:

My upstairs neighbors are the worst thing about my street, and if we didn't have such an insanely affordable, beautiful, spacious, and rent-controlled apartment, we would leave because of them. They are senselessly terrified of our two 15-pound dogs and make a big theatrical show of it anytime we happen to be surrounding the apartment at the same time. The old lady above us doesn't speak any English but shook her crooked finger yelling "NO NO NO!!!!!!!!!" at my face once when I was leaving my apartment to walk our dogs and she happened to be nearby. On the other side upstairs is a middle-aged family of 3, and their too-old-for-this-behavior daughter screamed in terror at one of our dogs once which made him bark harmlessly which led to the father coming to our door and threatening to have our dogs "taken care of." See? Mafia. Guess I DO live in The Sopranos and it's actually not as cinematically romantic as I had hoped. Also this guy is NO Gandolfini, I'll tell you that much (read: not sexy). 

Before Tyler moved in with me, I lived int his apartment with my best friend Miranda, and my other best friends lived in the other bottom unit, luck of all luck! We decided to have a joint Christmas party, and did the courteous thing by knocking on our upstairs neighbor's door to inform them that we would be having a party Saturday night. 

The four of us crowded around their door. "Hi! We just wanted to let you know we're having a Christmas party this Saturday night. Shouldn't be too loud, but we just wanted to inform you. People should be gone by around 1."

The mean-looking father stared at us, his face unflinching. "No." he stated, simply. "No."

"We're...not asking you. We're telling you we're having a party. It's on a weekend."

"No. You girls are always making so much noise, with your music, and your...your....effing."

"WHAT?!" half of us exclaimed in disgust. Miranda threw her hands up and went back into the apartment at this point. 

"Exactly what do you mean by that?" Megan asked. 

"You know. Your...all your making LOVE." His 7-year old daughter sat at the top of the stairs, watching her father's loathesome appointment with The Complaint Department.

"AUGHHH!" I exclaimed, heading back into the house. Megan stayed to argue with him, and Miranda and I shook the gross out in our apartment, baffled, since all 4 of us were woefully single and had not had ANY recent sex for him to sonically endure and then complain about. We had the Christmas party and he has not spoken a word to me in the 4 years since (unless you count frequent murderous glares a type of conversation, which: I do!)

Kira Hesser The Street Where I Live

On LA misconceptions, and recommendations:
 

People think that you have to drive everywhere in Los Angeles, and while that is absolutely true, the distinct pleasure of living in my neighbourhood is that it's not always so. Los Feliz is incredibly walkable: I have some great bars within walking distance (El Chavo for swarthy $4 margaritas, Le Figaro for wine, Harvard & Stone for Old Fashioneds), in addition to a movie theatre, plenty of restaurants, and perhaps most importantly, House of Pies. Griffith Parks' hundreds of miles of gorgeous hiking trails are within a short jog. My second favorite apple fritter in the city is a block away. My favorite fish taco, sold by a red-nosed alcoholic Irishman (redundant, I know, I know) is a 10-minute walk away. Thai Town is 3 blocks away, which offers an unfettered number of options for superlative pad-see-ew's. And, if we're feeling saucy, Jumbo's Clown Room, a tiny strip club where all the strippers are "alternative" (tattooed, well-(un)-dressed), is also just a 7-minute walk away.

Kira Hesser The Street Where You Live

Any advice for anyone walking your block?

"The dog doodie you see isn't from our dogs, we always pick it up. Avoid that hookah bar at the end, but definitely do indulge in some of the baklava at the bakery next door to it, for it is extra-honeyed and divine. See that old man doing push-ups in his pajamas against his balcony up there? He's my best friend. He doesn't know it yet, but he is." 

Kira Hesser The Street Where I Live

When you walk down your street, what do you feel in your heart?
 

90% of the time when I'm walking down my street, I'm walking my dogs. So, the main thing I usually feel in my heart is the desire for my dogs to doodie quickly. Other than that, I feel rather peaceful, safe, and warm. Also, I'm always hoping to run into the old Mexican man who  is a school crossing guard and named his ancient dachshund, who accompanies him to school every day, "Little Thing."

The Street Where I Live Kira Hesser

On loving, simply loving, LA:

Los Angeles is a slow-unfurling treasure, and I love it more each year that I spend here. It's utterly vast and unknowable at first: you need to take it bit by bit. There are major sections of the city that I still get completely lost in when an audition takes me there. The valley is a 1950s strip wunderland that still baffles me, as does most of LA. I've done a solid job conquering Hollywood, West Hollywood, Los Feliz, Echo Park, Silverlake, Downtown, and Pasadena, but there's still so much left. LA isn't one city, it's 9, and as such there's no way I'll ever get bored of it. 

Kira Hesser The Street Where You Live

On the perfect day in Los Feliz:

It begins with going for a morning run with Tyler and the dogs, through Los Feliz and up to our favorite hilltop, overlooking all of Los Angeles, which is incidentally where we got our engagement photos taken, too. It continues with an apple fritter at Sam's Donuts up the street. It's at the point where I walk in and the Vietnamese couple that runs it says "Apple fritter, right?" I am, in fact, a monster. The day continues with a movie at Arclight, tacos for lunch from Guisados in Echo Park (FACT: the best tacos any human has ever tasted in their lives. They are catering our rehearsal dinner picnic, that's how much we love them.), and a wander through Skylight Books. It would finish off with margaritas and nachos at El Chavo, which is the most wildly erratic dish I've ever continued to order, like some kind of Pavlovian dope. Sometimes they're the best nachos I've ever tasted and other times they're horrid and inedible. I told this to the bartender once, my eyes wide with curiosity about these fickle nachos, and he gave me the hottest tip around: "When you order them, ask for them to be made with love. We'll know what you mean, and we'll tell the kitchen. Then they'll be delicious every time." He was right: the tip has withstood the test of nacho time.

 

Thank you so much darling Kira! 

I don't doubt that you're deeply in love with Ms Hesser at this point. But have no fear, you can get regular updates on her latest adorbs vintage frock, apple fritter, and recalcitrant Armenian encounter by following her on Instagram.