You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.
― Andy Warhol
That’s the quote that inspired me to start Little London Observationist in 2009 and now Little Observationist in 2013. It’s a reminder to appreciate the little things in life. There have been many of them this year. One of them that surprised me was that I really started to enjoy the whole hands on process of cooking or baking something from scratch, creating something that people can enjoy from a few ingredients.
Some others: Having tons of plants indoors, enjoying flights which bring no obligation other than to relax, running in the rain, laughing with old friends I’ve known for more than 25 years, understanding a Spanish conversation that I wouldn’t have a year ago, candlelit dinners on no special occasion and plenty more.
Below, I’ve chosen one of the little things from each month of 2013 that stood out for me.
JANUARY. Snow in London.
Snow transforms this city. It makes the grey streets glow, caps off the bright red postboxes, sparkles under street laps. It makes you look at your own neighbourhood differently. We went for walks past the icicles hanging from the fountains of Sloane Square, admired the dusted pink roses and rosemary at the Chelsea Gardener and shivered at the bike handles and benches covered in white on the King’s Road.
FEBRUARY. Street art.
In February, I ventured out to Trinity Buoy Wharf in East London to interview Paul DON Smith, one of London’s most prolific street artists. Every time I interview an artist it gives me a deeper appreciation for what they do. While there, I also spotted a few of the tiny chewing gum art pieces that Ben Wilson painted on the pavement, which always make my day when I find one. In July, he made one just for my blog that’s outside my front door, and a few months ago another one on the doorstep where I work, so now I see them every day.
MARCH. Little connections to home.
It was a chilly Saturday afternoon and I had decided to brave the crowds in Portobello Market to take some photos before having tea with a friend. I stumbled upon a display of gardening tools and random signs, one of which was about ballooning over Niagara Falls which is 10 minutes from where I grew up. Below that sign was a Chelsea Flower Show bucket – an event that takes place 10 minutes from where I live now. It made me smile to see them next to one another.
APRIL. Surreal moments and chance encounters.
ROA, one of my favourite street artists, was covered in paint when I met him, all black and white. It was engrained under his fingernails, in the creases of his knuckles, wiped across his hoodie and trousers and splashed on his shoes. Another street artist I know told him I was coming (not many people knew where he was painting) to see what he was up to and it was a bit surreal hanging out in a random back alleyway rooftop of East London with my favourite Belgian artist, a videographer who grew up in Malaysia and another friend of ROA’s from Zimbabwe, looking down on this amazing gigantic piece of artwork that barely another person in this city knew existed at that point while a Bangladeshi woman with her head covered hung laundry on the roof next door.
MAY. A memorable meal.
May brought trips to Amsterdam with the girls and St. Louis for work, my first group photography exhibition in Soho and a visit the Chelsea Flower Show, but one of the little things I remember most was a meal Jorge and I enjoyed at Iberica in London’s Marylebone. We were sat by a huge window with plenty of natural light for hours slowing eating our way through plates of delicious Spanish tapas with quite a few drinks. The staff was lovely as well. We followed our lunch with a walk through the pink spring blossoms of Regent’s Park.
JUNE. Picnics and blue skies.
London’s best summer weekend was the last one in June, the sky a vibrant blue with crisscrossing plane trails from Heathrow, roses all in bloom. It was the perfect weekend for a picnic and Jorge prepared an immaculate one that ended with my favourite moment of the year. In all the little details, it couldn’t have been a more perfect day.
JULY. Being in nature.
Jorge and I spent a few days camping in New York with my parents and brother. We walked through mud puddles, down a trail to a stream where we skipped stones, admired great morning sun rays spilling through the tree branches, sat around the warmth of a campfire enjoying that unmistakable campfire smell. We went kayaking in a lake for the first time, sun beating down with Summer heat and just enjoyed the great outdoors.
AUGUST. Spending time with friends and family.
It’s easy get distracted, caught up in everyday life and forget to make an effort to carve out time for people. August brought plenty of friends and family time with a day throwing wet coloured powder at London’s Holi celebration with Dimple and Kiran, a day for crepes in Hampstead with Carolina, time for end of Summer walks through the backstreets of Chelsea with Jorge and a few days of visiting with my parents who came over from the States.
SEPTEMBER. The change of seasons.
September is my favourite month. Maybe it’s because school always started in September, but it seems a month of renewed inspiration and fresh beginnings. It’s also the time the air starts to cool, the leaves start to fall and the mushrooms spring up in Hyde Park. I love to go for walks this time of year, to kick through the leaves, photograph the bright orange berries and smell the Autumn air.
OCTOBER. Being home.
I spent about 15 days of October travelling in Ireland, Denmark and the States. While it was an excellent month of adventure that brought the discovery of Copenhagen – one of my new favourite cities, during the weeks in between I appreciated the little things that being home means, like drinking tea from my favourite mug, using my own gigantic towels instead of the hotel’s and not ordering every meal from a menu.
As Jorge pointed out, my family loves a good surprise and I definitely got one in November when my dad showed up unexpected and unannounced from New York for the launch party of my first solo photography exhibition. The exhibition was a big thing, but the little details were what made it amazing. Seeing my dad standing there in the gallery wearing one sneaker and one shoe to complete a joke that started a few weeks earlier in New York was one of the little things. Seeing all the support and encouragement I received from so many people that made it possible for it to all come together was another.
I heard true silence for the first time in a long time from our hotel room balcony on La Gomera in the Canary Islands. I turned 30 that weekend and it was a perfect place to sit back and reflect on the last decade. It is nearly midnight as I write this post from my flat in London and I can still hear growling motorcycles, engines roaring, car tires rolling over wet streets, laughter outside the window, high heels clacking and a dog barking in the distance. This is silent London, where there is never true silence. Silent La Gomera was only a soft fold of ocean waves, an occasional chirp of a bird and the low rustle of palm leaves in the wind. And that was daytime. There is a definite beauty in silence that, since moving to London, I appreciate more than ever when I hear it.