Sunday, July 29, 2012

Feel Good London (or things that make you say 'Aaw')

Image from
Don't believe the naysayers; we're not all rude, overworked, passive aggressive cynics, tutting and elbowing each other on public transport. The spectacular opening ceremony for London 2012 has ushered in a new mood of friendly optimism in the capital. 

London is full to the brim of feel-good, cute, heart-warming and magical moments, if you look hard enough. Here are just a few of my highlights...

1. Play the piano  

Street Pianos, Leicester Square. (Image from
Chances are you might have already spotted one of these friendly looking pianos somewhere in London this summer, each one handpainted with the instructions, 'Play me, I'm yours'.

From Holland Park and Marble Arch, to Liverpool Street Station and the Gherkin, wherever you are in London, you are never far away from your very own 'street piano'.

Pensioners, kids, city workers, night time revellers, wannabe buskers and high street shoppers have all been spotted taking some time out to tinkle the ivories, much to the surprise and delight of passers by.

According to the artist Luke Jerram, the Street Pianos project brings together invisible communities in London. People who might pass each other every day without a word now might just have a reason to stop for five minutes, smile, listen and sing with strangers. 

Still dubious? Check out the group performance of Hey Jude in Soho...

2. Dog watching in Battersea Park

People-watching is overrated, bird-watching even more so. But dog watching? That's a thing.

As locals take their mutts on their Sunday morning walks in parks across the city, you can enjoy a cross-section of doggy London. Noble old labradors, pampered pugs, scruffy terriers and clumsy spaniels come out in full force for their daily scamper. It's impossible not to smile as they joyfully run, leap and frolic around as though they're in Disneyland.

Dogs are the ultimate ice-breakers. I am like a moth to a flame when I see a cute dog, try as I might, I can't stop myself from going and saying hello in a ridiculous voice. And it's another of those rare but marvellous situations when Londoners really don't think it's weird to be spoken to by a stranger.

3. Tributes to selflessness at Postman's Park

Tucked away in an unremarkable little park near St Paul's Cathedral, the lives of extra-ordinary people are immortalised in a beautiful way. Under an easily overlooked canopy in the corner of Postman's Park, surrounded by office blocks, are fifty Art Nouveau tiles embossed with the stories of people who have tragically died while saving the life of another.

These are not the tales of generals or officers - just ordinary Victorian civilians who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Reading their stories doesn't feel morbid or macabre. Instead, a quiet hour browsing the tributes - each with fascinating insights and flashes of detail like paraffin lamps and runaway horses - takes you back in time to Victorian London and introduces you to the Herberts, Marys and Godfreys whose heroism time might otherwise have forgotten.

4. Support the old family-run places in your area

Marine Ices, Chalk Farm (Image from
In a city full of self-consciously rustic and quirky establishments with distinctly modern price tags, it's rare and wonderful when you discover the real thing. Every neighbourhood has them, Fawlty Towers style operations where the decor hasn't changed for at least 20 years and retro classic dishes are served without a trace of irony. 

Marine Ices in Chalk Farm, the oldest ice-cream parlour in London, is a family-run Italian, which couldn't look more dated if it tried - but the great thing is it's not trying, at all. Where else in London can you still get a proper Knickerbocker Glory? Plus, your granddad would approve of the generous ratio of prices to portions. 

London is still just a collection of villages, really, and despite their dwindling numbers, there is a total feel-good factor to finding and supporting your local independent greasy spoons, dusty bookshops, barber shops and butchers. You know you're winning when the start asking if you want your 'usual'.

5. Read the Metro Good Deed Feed 

Let it never be said that chivalry is dead. As long as accident-prone women keep leaving things on public transport, there will always be good deeds in London.

I have a dark green cashmere scarf from Zara that has been on adventures and misadventures across the world, and continues to find it's way back to me, like a trusty homing pigeon. My faithful scarf has been left at the Royal Festival Hall, on the pavement, at a lunchtime disco, even in Germany - but I've always managed to retrieve it thanks to kind people handing it in to lost property.

Now, we finally have a way of thanking these honest folk. If a fellow Londoner has ever paid your bus fare, lent you a tissue, ran after you when you've left cash at an ATM, or given you their cab, simply text into Metro's Good Deed Feed and let them know they made  your day.

If however your hero is a hottie, you may however prefer to text into Rush Hour Crush, another of Metro's new feel-good reader columns. (It's like a less pervy version of Tube Crush).

6. Receiving a free meal in Pret

Image from
I got let off paying for my Monday morning Pret a Manger breakfast a few weeks ago, in a confusing encounter. The till assistant just mumbled, 'Don't worry about it', and then served the person behind me. I must have looked hungry. 

I did feel a bit like a thief... but not enough to insist on paying (a free ham, mozzarella and tomato croissant and mocha tastes even better than usual). But apparently I’m not special – the same thing recently happened to my friend at work in a completely different part of London, and upon further discussion, we uncovered an urban legend that every London branch gives a free meal out every single day!

Whether this is a) true, or b) heartwarming is debatable. It could of course be a myth or a cynical marketing ploy circulated by the company to encourage loyal custom. But who cares? Free food simply brightens up my day.


  1. Beautiful, especially the bit about the dogs!

    Also I saw those pianos at Latitude! Hen x

    1. AH Hen! Thanks so much! So sweet you took the time to read it all the way from Chaing Mai! How goes it? Let's skype very soon! xxxxxxxxxxx