A writer’s week in London

The Wordy House was in London last week for client meetings and magazine work. Here are a few of the things I got up to…

Sevens Dials, London

Photograph of Seven Dials via singaporeaninlondon.com

Most of the time I work from home in a leafy village near Bath. Lucky, right? It certainly didn’t happen overnight and there were many, many times when I nearly gave up and went back to office life. But I’m so glad I stuck with it. I really appreciate the peace and quiet and general sense of calm – no commuting, few interruptions, and a gentle pace that suits my preference for a slow and steady approach to work and life in general.

But having lived in London for 16 years I have to admit that I sometimes miss the thrill of the city – the ever changing scenery, the diverse population, the constant movement. I used to find London exhilarating, vibrant and a lot of fun – there was always something new to see and do, it was creatively inspiring, and there were fresh ideas round every corner.

So now I try to visit for a week or so every two or three months. I catch up with friends and clients, visit galleries, enjoy the views and and soak up a bit of the crazy, before heading back to the West Country, creatively reinvigorated if physically worn out.

Last week I spent five days in the big smoke and managed to fit in a fair bit of the above. First up was three days of freelance sub-editing at Vogue – one of my absolute favourite places to work. Yes, it’s more glamorous than most offices, but the team there is down to earth, funny and wonderfully polite. You’d think that the editors would be major control freaks but in my experience they are surprisingly hands-off. They hire really good people and then trust them to get on with their jobs without micromanaging every step, which makes for a far more enjoyable working environment. For a sub-editor, it also helps that they cover a broad range of subjects including a lot of cultural stuff – theatre, literature, art and design, as well as fashion of course. Oh, and there are a LOT of pretty clothes to look at…

The corridor at Vogue

Magazine covers on the wall at Vogue

Editing other people’s work (which I did for 15 years before I moved out of London) helped me become a better writer – I became much more aware of the pitfalls to look out for and the traps to avoid. I also honed my appreciation for beautifully crafted writing – although it’s SO much harder to anatomise that and work out the formula (if there is one).

I also visited my amazing new client, furniture maker Tom Faulkner. The company is based in the Chelsea Harbour design quarter – it is really not a hardship to hang out round there – and makes stunning handcrafted tables and chairs, combining metal with wood, marble, stone and leather. The metal is available in a range of finishes – some of which are painstakingly hand painted – while the wood and stone is carefully selected for its quality and natural detailing. For a content writer, it’s always a pleasure when you can extol the merits of a product and really mean it, and this stuff is just gorgeous. I was there to see the finishes and materials up close, and it was definitely worth the trip:

Tom Faulkner furniture samples

Tom Faulkner furniture samples

I also dropped in on my longtime client Eyewear Concierge, at their stunning boutique in Soho’s Ham Yard Village. I wanted to discuss the company’s new bespoke design service, for which they will hand make a pair of glasses to a customer’s exact specifications. You can recreate a favourite pair, take in a photo of a vintage design or go wild with some Elton-style palm trees – literally anything you want. For a glasses wearer who can never find a pair she likes this is an intriguing concept and I was VERY excited to be measured for my own bespoke frames. I spent some time trying on various different shapes, under the expert guidance of Eyewear Concierge’s Phillip Meyer and Nazreen Mills, before having my facial dimensions mapped to ensure a perfect fit. Next, I’ll receive a 3D prototype in the post to try on, and only when I’m 100 per cent happy will the final frames be made. Can’t wait!

Eyewear Concierge bespoke glasses samples

Eyewear Concierge bespoke eyewear fitting

Finally, I managed to squeeze in two cultural excursions. Firstly, I took my daughters to see Matilda The Musical at the Cambridge Theatre in Covent Garden. My youngest loves Roald Dahl and Matilda is a particular favourite, so this was a huge treat for us all. I have to say that the price of West End tickets is shocking and kind of immoral – it puts those shows out of reach of so many families, especially during the school holidays. It was good though – crazy and anarchic and a refreshing change from those slickly choreographed and slightly saccharine shows that dominated musical theatre in the 80s and 90s when I was growing up.

The staging for Matilda The Musical at London's Cambridge Theatre

Secondly, we went to “Vogue 100: A Century of Style” at the National Portrait Gallery, which celebrates Vogue’s centenary year. On display are a multitude of incredible and incredibly diverse photographs that have appeared in the magazine over the years, collated from the Vogue archives and private collections. It’s proving hugely popular and we had to wait our turn to get in so I took the girls around the rest of the gallery in the meantime. This meant that they were pretty grumpy by the time we finally arrived, but the Tim Walker shots cheered them up no end:

A Tim Walker photograph from Vogue magazine

It finishes on May 22nd and I would recommend it to anyone – it’s a photography exhibition rather than a fashion exhibition and reflects the cultural ideas of the past 100 years in a mesmerising display of unrestricted and joyful creativity. Go see it!

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