Monthly Archives: February 2014

A day without a plan in London

Living in London is living a dream for me. It is fun, stimulating and exciting. Culture, aesthetics, architecture, people are only a few reasons why London is such an amazing city. But I wouldn’t be honest if I told you that living here is 100% perfect. Like any big city, London living comes with stress, constant speed, which nobody seems to control, and constant pressure to do something, see someone or be somewhere. While I love experiencing all that London has to offer, I won’t pretend it is not tiring. London more than any other European city seems to embrace the “doing” approach of living and “result-orientedness” that defines modern western culture. 

Most recently, having spent two weeks in a non-stop doing mode – work, networking, workshops, business travel – I woke up after a 9 hour sleep still feeling exhausted. Doing my morning pages, a very effective journaling tool I learned from the creativity guru Julia Cameron, I realised that deep inside I am tired of always having a fully booked diary and pressure of “doing” that comes with it. I knew that no amount of sleep would fix that. So I decided to do something radical by my standards: ignore my to do list, reschedule/cancel all appointments, put work on hold and go about my day without a plan (those who know me will know this does not mean watching TV while lying on my sofa all day). I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I new I wanted to enjoy myself and be completely spontaneous.

While doing my morning ritual of thinking about my day and sipping on hot water with lemon, I began to get ideas about what I desired to do and get really excited. I dressed up for the occasion – light greys and pastels to celebrate the arrival of spring – and walked out of the door without the usual rush.

My first stop was Ottolenghi in Islington, one of London’s most exciting residential areas, where I am very lucky to live. They do great breakfast and I simply love their style – I highly recommend it (but do book in advance if coming on weekends). My shakshuka was delicious and my yellow chair was a perfect reflection of my mood.

Next, I remembered that I received an email about a birthday gift waiting for me at Space.NK and decided to pick it up. It turned out to be a beautiful facial rosewater mist. What a lovely treat!

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On my way to Space.NK I decided to stop by a lovely local boutique called Diverse. It stocks on stylish brands, such as Acne, Marlene Birger, Isabel Marant and Maison Scotch. I simply love shopping at independent boutiques without the stress of being on a busy high street. In fact, I love popping into boutiques just to see what they have without always needing to buy something. This time, I could not resist the opportunity to update my spring wardrobe.

After satisfying my food, style and beauty requirements, I felt like going for a walk. Another advantage of living in Islington is being close to the Regent’s Canal, one of London’s best kept secrets. It is my favourite place for walks.

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Walking by the canal and spending time in nature can seem like such a luxury in London. And yet it is one of the simplest ways to instantly add some calm and pleasure to our day.

I suddenly felt called to visit an art gallery for some creative stimulation. I have to confess it had been a while since I visited a gallery. Parasol Unit in Wharf road had a very interesting exhibition of works by Turkish artist Canan Tolon. Her style, using a variety of media, and unusual, at times seemingly random technique really drew me in.

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A painting by Canan Tolon

Next door to Parasol unit is the Victoria Miro gallery, one of the top commercial galleries in London. Here, I saw another stimulating exhibition – a video installation by London-based artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien. It runs until 1 March and I highly recommend stopping by if you have time.

Enjoying the terrace at Victoria Miro
Enjoying the terrace at Victoria Miro

On my way back home I noticed a book that caught my attention in a shop. It was about Paris. I saw it as a sign that it’s time to visit the city of lights and went in to get it in preparation for my trip.

Impulse purchase that revealed  my true desire
Impulse purchase – so revealing of my true desire

I decided to end my afternoon with a beautiful cup of tea and a snack at my local cafe and allow all the ideas, positive emotions and inspiration from this beautiful day to sink in.

Even though all these activities are very simple, I was surprised how much fun I had. The interesting thing is: I enjoyed all these activities because they were not on my to-do list, there was no obligation to do anything, I was treating myself out of inspiration rather than because I thought I had to. This subtle difference creates a very different experience.

The most surprising part, however, was how energised and invigorated I felt all day. Often when we are overwhelmed by too many things on our to-do list, work and personal commitments, leaving it all and simply having some fun seems like the least sensible thing to do. But this is precisely what works. Try it for yourself and see how much energy, motivation and inspiration you will have as a result. Sorry to mention result again, this is my Londoner speaking. Forget the result, take a break and do whatever you feel like with only one purpose – to enjoy.

What do you think of this approach? Please share your own suggestions.

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Thoughts on the power of style

As London Fashion Week is approaching, style and fashion is the topic of the moment. Many people are excited to celebrate the time of creative expression through design. But many simply ignore it, claim they have no interest in it or use it as an opportunity to judge fashion as pure vanity. Regardless of what each of us thinks of the fashion industry or even LFW itself, I believe something needs to be said in defense of style and individual desire to look beautiful. Here is a note on the power of style in my life…

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On a grey and wet Monday morning a couple of days ago, I was feeling equally grim. As I was rushing out of the door to make my dentist appointment before going to work, I felt overwhelmed by all I needed to do even before properly starting the day. My promise to myself to stay calm, grounded and slow down this week went out of the window when I couldn’t find my travel card as I was already running late.

At that moment I became very aware of how tired I feel of this long winter, wearing the same clothes for the past three month and wearing multiple layers to keep warm, yet still feeling cold. At the beginning of the season I enjoyed winter fashion. I had fun mixing patterns, colours and textures – soft cashmere in different shades, silk with thick wool – to create new sweater-skirt combos, my favourite look this season. But after nearly three months of winter I have worn every possible combination and I am bored. Last week, noticing that I was slipping into a style rut, I promised myself to be better at honouring my desire for style in my life every single day (even when I am tired or uninspired). I finally found some creative solutions working around my busy schedule to have my dresses ironed and high-heeled boots re-heeled – so I could no longer use excuses that being stylish is too time consuming when I have to rush out in the morning.

On that Monday morning I had a choice: to wear flat boots I am so tired of wearing so I walk faster to make it to my appointment on time or to wear my recently re-heeled stylish suede black wedge heeled boots. I was stressed and late but something inside me spoke in favour of a more stylish choice. As I put on the boots admiring myself for a quick second in a mirror, I noticed a coat I hadn’t worn in months and decided to put it on. It went perfectly with my new burgundy hat. I no longer felt bored of my look. This may seem irrelevant: I was running late and there were more urgent and important things to do than throwing together a stylish outfit. But bear with me…

As I walked into my dentist’s office (she ended up being more late than I was), I was immediately showered with compliments: “Look at how stylish she is!”
“Let me see your handbag!”
“What a hat!”
“You look like a model”

The morning wasn’t so grim any more. I gracefully accepted the compliments and walked out without a hint of rush. Walking at a normal pace (as opposed to my typical speed walking) I saw that  several people in the street were noticing me. It didn’t feel inappropriate. I was surprised at how peaceful and empowered I felt, even though I was still running late for work, where a long to-do list was awaiting me, the weather was still wet and cold and my travel card was still missing. But none of this mattered because I felt beautiful both on the inside and the outside, and there was an incredible sense of empowerment from expressing who I am through style. I kept this awareness throughout the day. Choosing to honour my need, my desire for style in my daily life even when there appeared to be no time for it (regardless of how other may judge it) made my day.

What are your thoughts on style? Does it empower you?