ask Philippa about
Museums • theatre • trendy food • parks
a bit about Philippa
What do you do and why do you do it?
I work in fundraising for a major environmental charity. I used to work in the arts, but when this opportunity came knocking I had to take it - the world is in a precarious place at the moment, and I'm grateful that my 9-5 means I'm doing something important to turn the tide on climate change. I also love the huge range of inspirational and passionate people I meet - both the donors I work with, and my colleagues in the office. And my office overlooks one of London's gorgeous parks, so I think I'm pretty lucky.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had and why was it so effing bad?
For a VERY brief time I interned at a rather smug PR company. I mostly had to stuff and lick envelopes till my tongue was raw, and had to deal with being looked down upon by some very superior colleagues who thought that the fact I was an enthusiastic intern was licence for some serious workplace bullying. I lived for my lunchbreak which was all of 15 minutes. Needless to say I got out as fast as I could!
Were you born and raised in London? If not, where did you grow up and what brought you to London?
I was born in Croydon (me and Kate Moss - I'm in good company!) but my parents moved to the Peak District when I was small, so I grew up in proper Pride-and-Prejudice-country in the heart of the English countryside. I moved back to London after university when I was chasing career dreams and craving the bright lights of the big city. I got off the train with only a rucksack, laptop, a few hundred pounds of savings, a friend's sofa to crash on and a sense of adventure. I fell in love the minute I got here, and have never looked back.
What’s your current hood in London and what’s the best/worst thing about it?
I live in Stoke Newington - Stokey to us locals. I LOVE living in this green, friendly, trendy part of North East London. The area has changed a lot since I moved here seven years ago, but it's retained a lot of its charm and character. Clissold Park and Stoke Newington Church Street are the heart of the community with great shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. Brunch is compulsory when you have so many great choices! We also have more beer gardens than pretty much any other part of London, so it's a great place for summer evenings. Abney Park Cemetery is one of London's hidden gems, and possibly my favourite place in London.
What kind of music do you listen to and what kind of music do you absolutely HATE?
I have SUCH eclectic taste. Kate Bush to the Sterephonics, David Bowie to Chvrches, Daughter to Hidden Orchestra, and Fleetwood Mac to the Les Mis soundtrack. My dad loves all kinds of music (he's much cooler than me) and used to leave me mix tapes outside my bedroom door when I was a kid. There's very little I HATE, but I love singing and so tend to like a melody. Let's just say that rap and hip hop don't feature in my record collection...
You’re broken hearted - what tracks does your heartbreak playlist consist of?
Jose Gonzales, Stay Alive; Counting Crows, Colorblind and Dashboard Confessional, Vindicated and (more embarassingly) Leona Lewis, Bleeding Love (and yes, my heart was torn in two in 2007. Hence the vintage playlist...!)
Name the best TV shows of all time, and what makes them so good?
Oh my goodness, where to start? I studied English Literature, so of COURSE I'm going to say the BBC adaption of Pride and Prejudice (complete with Colin Firth in the lake) and the adaptation of Brideshead Revisited starring Jeremy Irons. Twin Peaks also remains a masterclass in television. Bringing things into the 21st century, The West Wing changed my world (and my understanding of US politics) and Game of Thrones is modern-day appointment television in a sea of binge-watch box sets. I'm considering rewatching the whole thing in advance of the new series...
Name some spots in London that are good for a Tinder date.
Scootercafe on Lower Marsh - it's perfect for a first date, it's chilled, cool, cheap and quirky. A walk in any of London's amazing parks is my go to first date; suggest meeting by the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens or the Chinese Pagoda in Victoria Park and then go exploring.
Which public figure would you want to see “roasted”? (every public figure is fair game).
I like to think that I have a generosity of spirit that wouldn't want to see anyone roasted, but to be honest, I'd love to see Jeremy Hunt get a good, flaming hot grill. I am passionate about the huge benefits we all enjoy because of our wonderful NHS, and am a big supporter of our junior doctors and nurses, and count many health professionals among my friends.
Who’s your hero and where in London would you take them out for a serious hang?
Neil Gaiman is my rock star. The first of his books I read was Neverwhere, which tells the story of a Londoner called Richard who falls through the cracks into 'London Below', where there's an Angel named Islington and a real Earl that presides over his west London Court. We'd probably get deep and meaningful discussing our literary loves over a winding walk taking in all London's secrets that I'm sure Neil knows, and finish in whichever of the Soho members clubs served as the inspiration for the Diogenes Club in his spooky short story 'Closing Time' for storytelling and whisky until the wee small hours.
Where do you buy those fabulous clothes of yours?
All sorts of places - on the high street, I buy a lot from Zara, Mango and River Island, and spend time rummaging in Beyond Retro in Stoke Newington, Retrouve near London Fields and Paper Dress Vintage in Hackney for more unique finds. I shop online at Modcloth.com, and I am also fortunate to be exactly the same size as my mum when she was my age, so a few of my pieces are actually hers. And the thing I covet but don't have (yet!)? The perfect Kate Spade bag.
What’s the area/ spot in town you’ll never be caught dead in?
One of the best things about London is that there is something to discover absolutely everywhere. I have my favourite parts of town, sure - but one of my favourite things is walking down new streets I've never walked down before. There's still so much about this fabulous city that I'm discovering - as Samuel Johnson famously said, 'a man who tires of London is tired of life!'
What’s the thing you LOVE to do in your city that you never get to do?
I love going to visit my favourite portrait in the National Portrait Gallery. I LOVE the fact that you can see some of the best art in the whole world for free in London - whether that's at the National Gallery, The National Portrait Gallery, the Tate, or any of the smaller but equally brilliant art galleries the city can boast of. I have discovered I love portraiture, and my favourite is a huge portrait of the 19th century actress Sarah Siddons, the superstar of her day.
Where do you go in London for a casual night out?
Casual nights out in London very often tend to turn into spontaneous bigger nights out! I'd probably head to Broadway Market between London Fields and the Regents Canal. A drink at the Dove with a bit of people watching, pizza at Bella Vita and then a cocktail at Broadway Baby. Perfect.
Where would you go in London to celebrate some freaking good news?
Freaking good news calls for champagne! But where? Probably with a damn good meal too, so maybe a night at The Blind Pig and the Social Eating House in Soho - with friends of course, and an open tab...!
What’s your choice of transportation in London and why?
I am a bus kind of girl - I love seeing the city from above ground, and take a huge amount of pride in the fact that I'm that friend who seems to know all the bus routes, and the most effective way to get from A to B! So many of London's best neighbourhoods are most accessible by bus, and I love discovering new routes, new views and new perspectives from the top deck of a routemaster.
What are the London spots a first-time visitor can’t miss?
If you want to see the tourist highlights, jump on the number 9 bus - it'll take you from Somerset House, down the Strand to Trafalgar Square, on to Piccadilly and then Green Park, Knightsbridge, Harrods and Kensington Palace. Then you can get stuck into the stuff that makes the city really special - and explore some Cool Cousin maps ;-)
What are the London spots tourists should run from screaming?
Madame Tussauds. Step AWAY from the creepy, seriously overpriced waxworks. I am, to be fair, terrified of mannequins, so Madame Tussauds is my idea of a personal hell, but even so.
Tomorrow’s your last day in London. How do you spend it?
I'd wake up early and watch the sun rise over the city from my terrace, take a final wander through Abney Park Cemetery, and then jump on a bus into town to walk through the streets of Soho and the West End just as the city is beginning to wake into life. I'd meet friends for lunch before pints in some of our favourite haunts, and then to the National Theatre's main stage Olivier Theatre in the evening. After the show, I'd walk across Waterloo bridge in the dark, taking in what I think is the most spectacular view in London, and say a last goodbye.
What’s your favorite vacation city in the world and why?
A few years ago, on a west coast US roadtrip, I found myself, rather unexpectedly, in Santa Cruz - sun, sand, surf, an All-American boardwalk, incredible people, and amazing atmosphere. To top it off, it was Pride weekend, and I was so moved by the huge celebration that took over the whole city, not just the LGBTQ+ community, but everyone. It was a weekend I'll never forget.