Royal wedding fever hits Notting Hill

Less than 24 hours to go before the wedding that‘s being billed as the biggest royal event in 30 years.

To be honest I’m not that fussed about it but am loving the way everyone is wholeheartedly jumping on the bandwagon.

Notting Hill today is a sea of red, white and blue. I thought I’d share with you a few pictures of shop fronts and street scenes I’ve come across. Tomorrow I’ll be gate-crashing a few royal wedding parties, stay tuned!













Vanessa Feltz wins a Sony

Vanessa Feltz hosts the best radio show in London. I’ve always known it and tonight it’s been confirmed at the Sony Radio Academy Awards.

The Robert Elms Show, also on BBC London 94.9, is a close  contender among my personal favourites but I’m really glad Vanessa has won as there are few other shows that capture the glory of London and Londoners in all their zany beauty.

An open invitation – journalism’s new futures

For the past year and a half I’ve been running a (more or less) monthly session where I gather together hot young talent working at the top levels of British journalism. The sessions are made up of journalists, producers and editors working in print, radio, television and online.

The ‘gatherings’ have ground to a halt after a got a little bit deluded by the sense that they’d turned into talking shops rather than the sort of events that inspired people to make a difference.

But I think I’m going to resurrect the concept later this month (venue in central London TBC) . All the doom and gloom that dominates the papers is really getting to me. There has to be another way or at least a more efficient way of fighting the decline in journalism that the commentators seem to be saying is inevitable.

So here’s an open invitation to the next event – let me know if you’re interested in coming along

Howdy all,

You’ve probably noticed that things have been a bit quite on the Gonzo front.

I got to the point where I felt it was time to stop talking and start doing but recent developments have me thinking the sessions should be resurrected (albeit in a slightly different format).

It seems like everything journalism related, from the events I’m attending, to the articles I’m reading to chats I’m having, is imbued with an impending sense of doom.

How about having a get together to brainstorm about positive outcomes in this seemingly gloomy environment?

This could take the form of anything from great story ideas that you might want to collaborate on, good places to pitch to if you’re looking to freelance viable alternatives to working for mainstream media organisations etc.

I’m imagining it as an event which by the end of it might just help us all to do something rather than just feeling like we’ve had a good debating session.

What do you think?


The London review of bookshops

Where do you go when you’ve got a few hours to kill, when you’re fed up of being in your own house but it’s not quite the occasion to head down to the pub?

I’m beginning to gain a penchant for chilling out at bookstores. They’re the perfect place to peruse the latest novels or magazines while indulging it a spot of people watching too.

To date I’d purely been a Borders aficionado. Perhaps my habit had something to do with the fact that I worked at a Borders store during my university holidays one summer. More likely it’s based on the relaxed approach that the store has to letting customers put their grubby hands all over the merchandise.

Growing up as a book-loving kid in the nineties, book stores were a bit like churches. You were free to browse the shelves, if you were intent on buying you could even ask a shop assistant to order a book for you but woe betide you if you took a book of the Dillon’s shelves and actually started to read it. That would be outrageous behaviour.

So you could imagine my amazement back in 1999 when, while covering the Winter Music Conference, I stumbled into a Borders on Miami Beach. First of all it was around 9pm and the shop was open and further still people with mugs perilously full of coffee were dotted all over the store not just fingering, but actually reading the books. In the store! Not only were the store workers not hassling these lingerers, they actually offered to put away all the titles that had been pulled of the shelves.

It was an experience that marked my book-buying experience for life. But I popped into Waterstones on Piccadilly earlier this week and I’m beginning to realise that I may have been mistaken in favouring Borders so strongly. There’s a whole world of booksellers out there.

So I’ve decided to start (an inevitably irregular) series reviewing London’s bookshops. Feel free to mail me any suggestions or opinions on your favourite spots.

Waterstones, Piccadilly

Situated in an imposing art deco building, the Piccadilly branch is a five-floored emporium for book lovers. If you’re looking to sit and read head for the red leather seats to the right hand side of the building. It’s undoubtedly the most peaceful location (apart from when the bells in a nearby church chime at the top of each hour) and on a sunny day it’s a real sun trap.

Waterstones Piccadilly has a sense of space, peace and order, the antithesis of another London bookstore institution Foyles (review to follow). It attracts a smarter sort of crowd and the staff give the impression that the take themselves and their jobs very seriously.

Despite the staid vibe, the store isn’t quite dead on its feet. Waterstones puts in a good show at trying to be trendy with innovative names for book displays. The floor featuring fiction offers tables of books on which you could find the signs ‘Salaam India’, ‘Weepies’ or ‘Quintessentially English’. Cool.

The Piccadilly store has carved a niche with its high-profile book signings. For those of you who fancy something a bit harder than a Costa Coffee cappuccino, take the lift up to the 5th floor where you’ll find the restaurant and bar serving cocktails plus superb views of London.

Borders, Oxford Street

As far as shop layouts go, the Tottenham Court branch is definitely my London favourite (UK fave would have to be Glasgow – impressive building). But the location makes the in-house coffee store slightly less desirable; Tottenham court is possibly one of the grimiest area in central London.

Oxford Street has more space and comfier chairs, although the incessant background music can sometimes be slightly soporific. The queues at the Starbucks are ridiculous so try not to time your visit for lunch time. The staff has also imposed a five magazine limit on the number of publications you’re allowed to bring up from the ground floor – that sounds pretty reasonable to me…

Greenwich by boat

Pop down to the Millenium Pier and use your Oyster card to get a discount on one of the boat services that’ll take you on a scenic route eastwards on Thames.

It takes less than half an hour to get to Greenwich and it’s so much more fun than the tube. Once you’re there I’d recommend taking a peek at the Old Royal Naval College and the Market.

(I do just have to add how much I’m loving the camera on my Samsung phone)

Greenwich Market

Probably the best sweetshop in the world
Probably the best sweetshop in the world

Mr Humbug, Greenwich

Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich

London Buddhist Centre

I had a great session yesterday morning at the London Buddhist Centre in Bethnal Green.


My visits to the centre tend be quite infrequent. Stupidly I treat meditation a bit like going to the dentist; I wait until things get really really bad before scheduling an appointment rather than going for regular visits.

Yesterday was probably the first time in a month but it was such great timing as the centre had literally just finished being refurbished after what seemed like an age and a half.

London Buddhist Centre

The results, as you can see, are impressive. The feel of freshly laid carpet beneath your socked feet was  a delight!

The day before my class there had been a big funeral at the centre for one of the teachers who I remember as a friendly, gregarious chap who always took time out to chat with and reassure new visitors.

London Buddhist Centre

He died of a heart attack but during his life he spent of lot of time running a group for carers showing them how to use meditation as a release. So it was really touching that an older lady, who knew him and participated in his classes, to come along to the centre to pay her last respects to him during the meditation class.

It was beautiful, and such a pertinent reminder of the brevity of life and the imminence of death. It gave an insightful context to my meditation.

Map – the coolest club night in London?

Map Club London

“He’s the king of the LA hipsters.” Apparently that’s all I needed to know when I asked how one of MAP’s founders who to describe DJ, blogger, label-owner and promoter extraordinaire Franki Chan.

The dude behind Iheartcomix is set to explode onto the London scene this Bank Holiday weekend as he headlines for the debut of MAP, a new club concept that’s set to make a big impact on the capital’s underground club scene.

Itinerant club night MAP brings you acts that are defining the trends on both this side of the pond and the other. Over four nights, the club travels to intimate but edgy venues in north, east, west and central London (I guess south doesn’t count).

It’s very cool, and very hip; plus the Bank Holiday weekend means you have no excuse for missing it!