The Street Where I Live

British by birth, New Yorker by nature.

The Street Where You Live

The Street Where You Live: Emma Gannon, Hackney, London

The Street Where You LiveAlexandra king1 Comment
Emma Gannon, The Street Where I Live blog

Today you're meeting the badass that is Emma Gannon, a country girl with a city heart who lives in Hackney, East London. By day, Emma is Glamour UK's Social Media Editor, and in the bits in between she's the author of the wildly popular Girl Lost In The City blog. Oh yeah, and she has a book coming out next year, casual, not to mention being a doppleganger for a 90's Drew Barrymore. What more is there to adore about EG? Now scroll down, take a walk down the street where she lives, and fall in love with her your goddam self.

Emma Gannon, The Street Where I Live blog

On being a country girl with a yen for the big city

I moved to London five years ago, after I graduated from University. I’m not from here originally, I actually grew up and went to school in Exeter, Devon, where our house is close to the town but also a 15 minute drive to some gorgeous Devon beaches. But I always knew I was a city person at heart. Although Devon is totally beautiful and I feel so lucky to have my family living there, the pace was always a bit slow for me. I had to get to London!

At first, I moved to Stoke Newington with my bestest friend in the world and we lived there together for four wonderful years in domestic bliss. It was the best. We did all the rebellious things you do when you’re young and living in your own London flat, going out late, meeting boys, having parties, hosting boozy dinner parties, LOTS of funny memories and forming silly routines like always ordering too much Sushi for dinner on Sunday nights on the balcony, smoking Vogue cigarettes and watching tacky MTV shows. I fell in love with the area- all the cafés on Stoke Newington High Street are firm favourites, like Café Z and Lazy Social. I also loved the little vintage shops and all the different Turkish places for breakfast.

But in January of this year it was “time” for me and my boyfriend Paul of 4 years to move in together, and we bought a flat in Hackney that we love. Thankfully, we are still a 10 minute walk from my best friend so we still go over for dinner. It's just short walk through Hackney Downs park and I’m at her house. 

Hackney, London, The Street Where I Live blog

On living in Hackney

I live in a apartment block in Hackney, on a corner that hasn't changed much over the years. This is home now. About 100 red London buses go by every day. Street music. Little shops. New things to discover around every corner. I live on Dalston Lane and it’s always buzzing. Even when I’m getting out of a taxi at 2am, lights are on, corner shops are open, people are outside smoking, playing music, having a good time. I’m a two minute walk from Hackney Downs park and my local is The Star by Hackney Downs for a nice pint in the sun. I also love the Pacific Social Club. The Pembury Tavern does good pizzas, too. And I go to the Pages of Hackney book shop a LOT. They always have amazing new reads but also second hand books in the basement too. I enjoy feeling all snug inside my house knowing that there are so many people in other flats around me. I like that everything is on our door-step. The train station gets me into central London in half an hour.  It's crazy when I think about the countryside where I grew up- such a contrast! I love going home to visit my parents at weekends, but staying in a house that is quite remote from other people now freaks me out a bit! I immediately miss the hustle and bustle whenever I go back home. I wouldn’t change where I live for anything. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I feel so happy here. I often feel like I'm in my own little bubble.

sunflowers in Hackney, The Street Where You Live

On finding her home

It’s our own little nest. We haven’t been here long so there’s still so much we want to do - I’m getting into making Pinterest boards of interior inspiration for the first time ever! I am totally in love with our flat. We saw it being advertised one day when going past on the bus and wrote the number down on a scrappy piece of paper. Paul, my boyfriend, went along to see if we could put a deposit down, but they’d all been bought already! But then, luckily, at the last minute, someone pulled out so we jumped at the chance. My little sister is currently living in our spare room and I love having her to stay. I suddenly feel very grown-up, being able offer a spare room to someone. It’s also just so nice to have my very own space for the first time. Back in April this year, I organised a surprise party for Paul. I covered the flat in balloons and party-poppers, turned our kitchen table into a fully stocked bar and invited lots of our friends round. A mutual friend of ours took Paul to the pub across the road while everyone arrived, then when they came back, BOOOOM big surprise party with speakers and music and drinks. Realising we could host good parties in the flat was always an important thing to test out! The balcony with the view of the Shard and Gherkin is pretty nice for when people are outside mingling, too.

Emma Gannon, The Street Where I Live blog

On loving what she does:

I love love love my job. I work at British Glamour magazine which is a pretty amazing place to work, and I’m surrounded by brilliantly creative people. My “job” as a whole seems to have gathered quite a lot of other moving parts along the way however, mainly because I’m a firm believer in having “side-hustles” and  gathering new projects. I have a blog which I adore and I post whenever I possibly can. It brings me lots of fun opportunities. I’m also writing a book which is out next year, so I have lots of different things going on but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I get bored very easily (hence why I’ve moved around and freelanced in so many places) but I just love dipping into different projects. No day is the same at Glamour and I love that.

Emma Gannon, The Street Where I Live blog

On how she got there, and the importance of following your heart:

I zig-zagged my way in. I read Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” recently and her advice for getting your dream job is not to think of a “career ladder” but a “career jungle gym”. That’s exactly how I’d describe my career as I’ve done a whole lot of side-stepping. My first job was interning at a global PR agency in Soho and I realised that I loved the digital side of things and so worked my way up in social media marketing. I moved up quickly, and by 23 I had a senior position managing a team of five people with a salary I could never have dreamt of having. However, plot twist: I was miserable, I didn’t enjoy managing people, I missed doing the writing and creating myself and I didn’t enjoy having to tackle spreadsheets. It wasn’t me. I wasn't being creative. So I took a bit of a “step down” in responsibility and salary to go and find myself a job in digital journalism so that I could create things again, and it was the best decision I ever made. I was writing and building up a portfolio the whole time I was working in marketing, so by the time it I wanted to make the side-step I had a lot of writing and social media skills to show magazines. Now I’m exactly where I want to be, for now. So for anyone considering a career change I’d always tell them to just do it as soon as possible. You can always go back to your old job, but if you don’t make the move you never know what could have been. It's scary, but usually worth it.

emma gannon, the street where i live

On travelling solo, but not alone:

I am really lucky to get to travel for work and for my blog. I love discovering new cities and new places and although I do sometimes take my boyfriend, I’ve learned to really enjoy travelling alone too. I feel like as long as I’ve got my little Macbook Air with me I'm good. Last weekend I actually went to Ibiza for work and although I was totally on my own I still felt totally connected- blogging and Whatsapping with my friends from my outside desk. I think social media is amazing for that; we no longer feel too far away from anyone. As for when I return, I always get that “back in London” buzz and I look forward to a cup of tea and sleeping in my own bed. I love our bedroom and having all my things around me.

Hackney, London, The Street Where I Live blog

On loving East London:

The plan was always to move to London with my best mate from home, though I had no idea just how much I’d fall in love with East London specifically. But this place does get a bad rep at times. People hate East London because of all the hipster bullsh*t. There’s always one part of every city that gets ripped apart for trying to be too cool. And I totally get why: the bloody Vape shops and all the novelty cafés (Cat café, Cereal café, the beards, the over-priced vintage, and the guys in tweed who ride Unicycles to work), but I still just love the vibe round where I live and I kind of love how bonkers it all is. People long for the good old days of East London, before Shoreditch got too hip, but I just love it because I’m near my mates and there’s so much creativity all around me.

Emma Gannon, The Street Where I Live blog

Describe your street in five words.

Busy. Diverse. Loud. Comforting. Home.

Emma Gannon The Street Where I Live

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

I feel like I definitely belong in London. When I’m walking down my street I’m normally on my way to work or a book meeting or meeting with a PR so I normally feel excited and happy at how much I love my job. Or I’m walking home from a busy day and looking forward to getting into my pyjamas and snuggling up on the sofa with my boyfriend or cooking dinner for a friend.

Emma Gannon The Street Where I Live blog

On her perfect day in Hackney:

Normally it’s going for eggs and a latté at a nearby café, going for a stroll through Hackney Downs, picking up the newspapers and then coming home and listening to a podcast while I tidy the flat and then pop over to a friends or go to the cinema at Hackney Picturehouse, my favourite cinema in London.

Thank you sweet E! I want to run off into the sunset with those leopard print trousers right now! For more Emma, you can follow her on Instagram here, Twitter here, and read her fabulous blog, Girl Lost In The City, here.

 


The Street Where You Live: Sarah Spencer-Ashworth, Brockley, London

The Street Where You LiveAlexandra king8 Comments
Sarah Spencer-Ashworth

In today's Street Where You Live, I'm thrilled to announce that you're meeting Sarah Spencer-Ashworth- Francoise Hardy's South London-dwelling twin, actress, puppy Maman and fresh and shiny new wifey to dashing husband Jack. Inspired by her English and French childhood, this interior design maven knows how to transform even the most daily and domestic of tasks into something sublime. Now scroll down and take a walk on the street where she lives, in Brockley, London. You're in for a treat.

brockley

On living in bucolic Brockley:

I moved into this beautiful enclave 5 years ago and just bloody love it.  I am a London girl by birth and grew up between Chiswick, West London and very rural, central France and as a result, crave Liberty's and trees and quiet in equal measure. I live on a beautiful wide, leafy street (that my mother calls a 'boulevard') with my new husband Jack Spencer Ashworth (artist/architect/handsome person) and a very small dog/meerkat named Pantoufles. My house is in a conservation area that has protected a 150 year mishmash of architectural styles; Brockley was the country retreat for Georgian Londoners and as such, there are beautiful, grand houses with long gardens. 

Brockley, London

On Brockley's unique identity:

There's a strange misconception sometimes that Brockley is out of London.  But it's Zone 2 and I get quite defensive about that! For me it offers the best of both worlds- village living in the world's best city. It is full of actors, digital brand consultants, artists and graphic designers alike.  They managed to sneak in between 1890 and 2009, before anyone realised it was here and it was nice.  There are lots of Conversed/organic tote carrying parents with beautiful children, called Arlo or Rafferty, who have their organic veg delivered and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sarah and Jack Spencer-Ashworth

On the sexy (and literary) way she met her future husband:

I met Jack on a weekend with friends; I lost/won a dare and had to lapdance him (!) Then we talked about William Boyd.  I was hooked. The hound baby joined us two and a half years ago when I visited a Dachshund breeder on the South Coast, with the full confidence that I was 'just looking' having been told that we, categorically, were not getting a dog.  The two of them are my world.

Sarah Spencer Ashworth

 

On being an actor:


I do lots of things and am rather greedy with my ambitions for domination in several industries, but above all else, I'm an actor- which is a silly game.  It is full and empty and amazing and terrible but ultimately, I choose to stick at it.  Theatre is my favourite acting and TV pays the bills, along with a host of part time jobs.  I had a very classical actor training at RADA at 18 and probably was not mature or intellectual enough but muddled through and had just the best time.  While friends were writing dissertations and developing their knowledge of narcotics, I was keeping a diary about my feelings on Stanislavksi techniques and learning to fake fight with a broad sword.  It was probably as dramatic as you'd expect, but I really loved it and though the real world is slightly less fun, I cope.  To furnish this career I have been a PA, a project manager, interior designer, hostess (not sexual), receptionist, waitress and sales assistant. I have also dressed up as an Innocent smoothie in Regent's Park, only to be kicked by a child, four times smaller than me. I love being self employed; a quiet and sunny afternoon, in the garden, with a book, totally justifies my terrifying credit card balance. I have many grand ideas about a vast future property portfolio to compliment my acting career; through which I can indulge my other great passion of interior design.  Must start earning some money.

  

Sarah Spencer Ashoworth home


On her gorgeous flat:


My home is a ground/sort of lower ground floor flat with a magical rose garden that I bought five years ago and every day I think about how lucky I am to have this special thing. I knew, the moment I clapped eyes on her, that she was the one for me. 

 

Sara Spencer Ashworth home Brockley, London

The previous owners were a wonderful gay couple in their 80's, one of whom had been a Major in the army and the other, a director at the London College of Fashion. They spent two hours explaining every nook of the place, plying me with Lapsang tea and making sure I wrote down the name of each garden rose. They had moved in the day I was born and they hadn't touched the place in 25 years.  The day before we completed the sale, they rang to make me promise I would water the hydrangeas as soon as I arrived.

When I began the renovation process it was a jumble of maritime prints, mahogany furniture and wood chip walls (4 layers deep, I later found out) but it was a real and beautiful home. I have spent the last 5 years doing it up.  It needed re-wiring, new floors, new plaster, new heating- the lot. Every time I get a little bit of money in, I replace the Ebay furniture I filled it with in the beginning. 


On her beautiful garden and some great (and not so great) neighbours:

Pantoufle in the garden


I adore my garden and generally, how much green there is in Brockley. The highlight of my week, aged 30, is 'Gardener's Question Time' on Radio 4.  And the people; everyone remembers my dog and asks about him if they see me on my own.  The three times I've left my key in the front door, someone has rung the bell to tell me, which is reassuring. Having said that, there is a block of flats opposite us where a Staffordshire Terrier dog is left permanently on a tiny, second floor balcony, all hours of day or night, come rain or shine and it makes me cry.  Despite reporting it so many times, the RSPCA can't do anything as it is not considered a "priority case" and neither can the council, and I can't bear it.  

Sarah Spencer Ashworth streey


Describe your street in five words.


Peaceful. Leafy. Handsome. Friendly. Eclectic.

 

Sarah Spencer Ashworth Brockley


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


Lucky, safe and relaxed.  We have lovely church bells just up the road from us and when I hear them ring out, I really could be in any lovely village and totally forget it's London.

Sarah Spencer Ashworth The Street Where You Live



On her perfect day off in her neighbourhood


If it was a Saturday morning, we would head to Brockley Food Market, which is wonderful.  There are so many great food stops and farmers' stalls and it's great for people watching the afore mentioned ironically trainer-ed creatives who populate these parts.  At some point in the day, I will head to Browns of Brockley for very good iced coffee.  They make a massive fuss of the dog and feed him leftover madeleines.  He likes this and I pretend I think he is spoilt.  We walk up to Hilly Fields, which is a friendly, small park with lovely views across South London, and Pantoufles propositions other dogs.  We always walk home a different route so I can decide which other houses I'd like to buy (haha).  There is no greater pleasure than pottering in my garden, with my boys, and that would always be my afternoon activity of choice.  I re-pot things and prune things and dream about when it all looks perfectly overgrown.  There are two favourite dinner options of Mezze Mangal, a cracking Lebanese grill and Masala Wala Cafe, which does wonderful Pakistani home food and then back to the garden for wine and nice friends. 
 

Brockley South London, TSWIL

Thank you, sweet Sarah, for letting us hang out in your beautiful home. Can I teleport into your beautiful home for tea right this minute?

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: 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.