The quiet things that no-one ever knows (or sees)

10 Feb

I’ve spent the weekend in Oxfordshire, my home county, and it’s actually been quite lovely. I’ve caught up with people I haven’t seen in a while, gone to numerous pubs for no reason at all and enjoyed falling asleep, window open, with absolute silence outside. In London my flat is right next to a train station, with a bus depot on the other side, a main road behind the house, an alley-way under my bedroom window where the drunks meet/argue/throw up and I’m also under a flight path. I’m used to it – but the fresh Oxon air is a nice change from the madness of London every once in a while.

People complain about how noisy London is, but I find it’s very easy to get away from it all – you just need to know where to look. The beauty of London is how busy and vibrant it is – but it can also really shine when you get a break from the commute or the noisy bars and you find somewhere you can run to when you just need a little time to yourself. Have you ever got the tube really early in the morning? It’s so tranquil. I have a ‘Night Time’ play list (very atmospheric I’ll have you know) and getting onto an empty tube, walking through the empty streets and just lying in the corner of a usually crowded park, is bliss.

Selfridges recently ran a ‘No Noise’ campaign, inviting people into the store to sit in tranquility pods and escape the mess that is Oxford Street. Oh, they’d also like you to buy stuff too (funny that). But there are plenty of lovely and quiet places in the big smoke that you should check out as and when you need to.

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Eat: Neil’s Yard in Covent Garden is only accessible by a small alley, hidden off one of the streets which leads from Seven Dials. Directly on your right hand side is an inspirational quote board (above), regularly updated – something to make you feel a little more at ease in London immediately. When you enter the yard, it’s all bright colours (below) and tranquility. It’s a small area which is getting more popular, but visit here on a weekday afternoon and you’ll find cafes and small shops hidden away and peacefully inviting. The Wild Food Cafe is a good shout for crazy healthy food and drink (lots of organic and veggie things) – try the sourdough bread with hummus, it’s awesome.

Neal's Yard Salad Bar, Covent Garden, London

See: Kyoto Gardens, Holland Park. Most people think of about four parks when it comes to greenery in London, and although Holland Park isn’t exactly unknown, I think it’s often overlooked. The Kyoto Gardens are stunning and even when there are people about a sort of respectful hush always seems to fall over the place. I mean – LOOK at that bridge. It rivals the gorgeous St. Stephen’s Green (Dublin) bridge and that’s saying something. Take a book (or a magazine if you want something less taxing) and just chill out. An hour there and you’ll forget everything; just be sure to put your mobile on silent (and take a camera: the image below will tell you why).

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Listen: As I’m sure you’re aware by now, I love a good play list. I swear, I have one for every mood. I have a play list called ‘Wallowing’, one called ‘RnBeyonce’ and one called ‘Driving dans le nuit’. This is me being a dick and naming a play list in French – all it means is ‘Driving during the night’. I used to listen to this play list as I drove through the winding country roads in the evening – the songs on it are full of atmosphere and are best listened to in absolute silence so you can fully submerge yourself in them. Therefore, they work very well in quiet London; here’s a choice selection which might interest you.

The Postal Service – The District Sleeps Alone Tonight

The XX – Islands

Alanis Morissette – You Oughta Know (Acoustic)

Bon Iver – Skinny Love

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

Yann Tiersen – Au-Dessons Du Volcan

Yo La Tengo – We’re An American Band

Baths – You’re My Excuse To Travel

Jono McCleery – Wonderful Life

TV on the Radio – DLZ

Love: Take a bus. Well, take a quiet bus. I went to the V&A the other day and rather than cramming myself onto a tube I got on a bus, went to the top of the bus, sat right at the back and listened to a podcast. Sunday mornings are a great time to do the bus thing – it’s far less packed and it’s actually a lot of fun to just get on the first bus you see and see where it takes you. I find myself drifting off (if the bus is warm anyway) and you can just imagine away to your heart’s content. The declarations of love that can take place in your head whilst on a quiet bus are innumerable. It’s a good place to think, or call a friend for advice if you’re having relationships problems. In July last year I spent a fair bit of time on buses. Sometimes you just need that time to think things through and come to your realisations. There’s something almost therapeutic about the female announcer letting you know where you’re going, where you are and it’s good to gaze out of the window at where you’ve been.

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