Yesterday, my heart hurt.

To think of how many times I’d been on that bridge in Westminster, both on my own and with Nick, really, really upset me.  I cried a lot last night.

London is still one of the places I consider home and for something so awful to happen in a spot I’d been in countless times… well… it’s difficult to put into words.  There’s not much I can say.

I can’t describe the relief I felt after our people had been accounted for.  Everyone we know is safe and OK, which is the main thing.  But there are those today whose people aren’t safe, aren’t OK.  My heart breaks for them.

But London is resilient.  Parliament is already back in session and so life trundles on.  Londoners don’t stop, and I love them for it.


Guest Post: Top 4 Swimming Pools in London

Swimming is one of the best kinds of exercise because it uses many muscle groups, rarely results in injury and provides an excuse to find out what your crush looks like in a swimming costume.

Seriously though, swimming strengthens the respiratory system and kicks your metabolism in to gear, helping you break down that winter puppy fat. One of the many great things about living in London is that there are so many swimming pools to choose from. Indoor or outdoor, luxury or plain old pond, there’s something to suit everyone’s tastes.

Here are the top 4 swimming pools in London:

LondonFieldsLido1. London Fields Lido
If you want to swim outside all year round, but you don’t want nipples with the carbon density of diamonds, then this might be the place for you. This heated Olympic sized outdoor pool is even open in the winter months.

But it’s even better in the summer, particularly if you live in Hackney. You can spend a lazy day in Victoria Park, followed by a brisk swim and a visit to some of the trendy hipster pubs in the immediate vicinity of the Lido.

Hampstead Heath, Pond Number 3 (The Mixed Bathing Pond) - - 17184342. Hampstead Heath Ponds
OK, so these are literally just some ponds in a park, but they are something special and uniquely London. The ponds are open all year round for swimming, but there have been medical warnings given to the “polar bear clubs” which swim in sub zero temperatures. Make sure you have a strong heart before you try anything like that!

In the summer, it’s a truly delightful place to cool off. You can choose from a unisex pool frequented by fun loving young people or male only and women only pools around the corner, the latter sheltered from prying eyes by surrounding foliage.
Natural swimming is coming back in fashion and this is the most urban place to give it a try.

York Hall, Old Ford Road, E2 - - 3948833. York Hall in Bethnal Green
The pool in this historic building has been there since it opened in 1929. It was reopened in 2005 after York Hall underwent a major multi-million pound refurbishment in a joint project between Tower Hamlets council and Greenwich Leisure.

Many of the building’s historical features were also lovingly restored making it a truly exceptional place for a swim. Don’t be surprised if you see some rough looking old blokes going in and out the hall though, this is also one of Britain’s best known and oldest boxing venues.

4. Golden Lane Leisure Centre
Close to the ominous towers of the Brutalist beast that is the Barbican, you can find this attractive, light filled roof top swimming pool. It may be only 20 metres long, but it’s quite cheap for the area at £8 a swim, especially if you live or work close by. This small pool is a good for beginners as there are a variety of swimming lessons taught throughout the week.

If you want to get a beach body in time for summer, then now’s the time to put some work in. Strap your goggles on and step into your Speedos, the water’s lovely!

tom rowsell profileTom Rowsell is a writer and film maker living in London. Keen on health and fitness, he ran the Rome marathon in 2013 and writes for several sporting blogs. His background in language and history led to him becoming manager of the Empowerlingua translation blog


steph2If you’re interested in getting in touch or writing a guest post for The London Diaries, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or email me at emailthelondondiaries [at]!  I love getting emails and am always open to new ideas and post pitches.

The best sleepover ever…

As you’ll already know, N and I were guests at Friday night’s Waterstones Sleepover event at their flagship branch in Piccadilly… and it was the best sleepover I’ve ever been to!

We got there a few minutes before 9PM, pyjamas in hand, and were greeted by the Waterstones and Airbnb teams.  They had a spread of drinks and nibbles laid out while winners and their guests mingled and got to know each other.

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After a bit of a housekeeping chat (fire exits and the like), the Waterstones crew took us on an extensive tour of the shop, pointing out interesting architectural quirks and giving us a history of the building.  Before Waterstones, the building was a department store called Simpsons which was used as inspiration for the long running British series Are You Being Served? (my grandmother loves that show).  The building is listed, meaning it’s a protected site–and that includes the old Simpsons sign which is on display up in the HQ offices on the upper levels.

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Cool, no?  Also, the light fitting that runs down the main staircase is listed (and amazing), so anytime a lightbulb blows they have to get planning permission to change it.  Crazy!


We got to briefly check out Waterstones HQ but the highlight was the view–something not a lot of people get to see.  Sorry for the slightly grainy/blurry photos… we only had our camera phones.  But you get the idea.

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As we headed back down, we were stopped by a Poirot lookalike who read us a chapter from the new Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah.  Very intriguing, indeed!

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After Poirot’s departure, another dapper fellow joined us…  P.G. Wodehouse’s much loved character, Jeeves!  Jeeves read us a portion of the newly compiled book of short stories, Jeeves and the Yuletide Spirit and Other Stories.  Very funny!

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We were coming up to midnight and starting to get a bit peckish.  Thankfully Waterstones had us covered with a load of pizza, snacks and drinks waiting for us after our tour and visits from Poirot and Jeeves.  After munching for a bit, there was yet another treat in store for us.  Professor Richard Wiseman chatted with us about sleep disorders, dreaming and how to get a good night’s sleep.  He was so interesting and engaging that N picked up a copy of his newest book, Night School, to take home.  I have a feeling we’ll be fighting over it (and my younger sister D has already called dibs on it when I go home to visit in a few weeks)!


Finally, the moment had arrived. We were going to see our sleeping area, change into our pyjamas and our reign of the store was to begin! Our camp was set up in the children’s section (how appropriate!) and we managed to secure a little alcove to ourselves, which was nice.

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N and I were so delightfully surprised by our gift bags. Waterstones and Airbnb honestly thought of everything we could possibly need–toothbrushes and toothpaste, small towels, soap, mugs, tea, booklights (!!!), bookmarks, Graze boxes, bottled water… and so much more. Firebox sent across some amazing unicorn slippers. I have to say it was hilarious seeing N walk around in those all night!  Of course, my bag had a copy of the book I chose for my competition entry, All the Light We Cannot See.



How kind! And that was one of the nicest things about the evening–just how nice everyone was. The Waterstones staff were brilliant and attentive, making sure everyone was comfy, offering book recommendations and just chatting and getting to know everyone.

After we changed into our pjs, N and I wandered up to the third floor (cookery section, of course) where I parked myself on a couch and N browsed through various cookbooks.  Though we wandered around a bit more, we kept coming back to this area as it was super comfy with couches and a plug to charge my phone (hey, I was constantly tweeting!).  Glass of wine in hand, I settled in and started reading my book (which is amazing).


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Sending out another tweet, I’m sure.

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I did pick up various other books throughout the night so my book wishlist has grown ridiculously long.

Finally, around 3.30, we hit ‘the wall’ and could barely keep our eyes open… especially knowing that we were babysitting N’s 3 year old sister from 10AM.  We slipped into bed quietly, but there were a few people up with their booklights on.

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I won’t lie–it wasn’t the most restful sleep and part of me wanted to get back up and roam the stacks a bit more!  Eventually I drifted off and woke up a few hours later at 7.30.  Ever the gracious hosts, Waterstones and Airbnb had a nice little spread set out for us for breakfast before we ‘checked out.’

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Super yum!

And that was our night done!  I have to say a big ‘thank you’ to Waterstones (and the folks at the Piccadilly branch) for sharing their amazing store with us.  Airbnb were fabulous with the furnishings and Firebox’s slippers were the bees knees.  A massive ‘well done and muchas gracias’ to Sandra Taylor, Head of PR & Events for Waterstones.  For someone who’s only been in the job a few weeks she did an amazing job throwing the whole thing together within a few days.

What a night! Neither of us will forget the freedom and peace that came with wandering four floors of books in the middle of the night in our fabulous unicorn slippers.

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For more photos, check out my flickr album.  You can check out everyone’s tweets from the night here.  Oh and The Guardian were on hand as well–you can check out their wrap up of the night here.

steph2If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or @londondiaries1. Alternatively you can email me at emailthelondondiaries [at]

Exciting news…


You’ve probably already heard the hilarious story about American tourist, David Willis, getting trapped in the Trafalgar Square branch of Waterstones (a bookstore).  If you haven’t, here are the basics:  Willis was browsing on the upper level at the end of the day for about 15 minutes.  When he came back downstairs the shutters were down and the lights off and he was living my (and any other book lover’s) fantasy–he was locked in a massive bookstore.  A series of phone calls followed by tweets got him freed a few hours later as well as making him a Twitter sensation.

Waterstones, keen not to miss out on an opportunity, partnered with holiday rental site Airbnb (which we’ve used a few times now) to offer ten lucky booklovers, along with a guest, a sleepover in their massive Piccadilly store with a book of their choice, comfy air mattresses, snacks and breakfast the following morning.

Over 1,200 people entered the contest which simply asked the question:  what book you would read if you were to spend the night in a bookshop, and why?  On a whim, I entered.  My answer was:  ‘If I were to choose any book, it would be Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See because I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to read it the way it deserves to be read—devoured in one sitting.’

I checked Airbnb a few times throughout the day to see if I’d had a response to my entry but by the evening I gave up.  And then, around 10 last night, I got an email saying I was one of the lucky ten!  To say I squealed would be an understatement.

So tomorrow night, I will be spending the night at Waterstones!  N will be coming along as my guest, of course.  Expect a post this weekend with photos galore and lots of exclamation points.  I’ll also be live tweeting tomorrow night.  You can follow me on twitter here.  To keep up with the sleepover, check out #WaterstonesSleepover on Twitter.  It’s sure to be an amazing night!

steph2If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or @londondiaries1. Alternatively you can email me at emailthelondondiaries [at]

Steph does… volunteer work with FoodCycle

I’ve been looking for a local charity with a cause I can get behind to volunteer with for a while now.  Via the black hole that is the internet, I stumbled across the group FoodCycle.

The aim of FoodCycle is to work to end food wastage all while providing a community space for the vulnerable and socially isolated (i.e. homeless, elderly) to come and have a hot meal and meet and talk with other people.  FoodCycle doesn’t ask for diners to pay for their lunches but they’re more than happy to take a donation from those who are able to give one.  Check out their video–it’s really simply and effectively put.

I loved the idea and I equally loved the fact that the Wandsworth Hub was nearby with Saturday lunches being served a 10 minute walk from home.

So I signed N and I up and last Saturday was our first service.  I put us down for kitchen duty which we were both really excited about.

We rocked up right on time at 10.30 and met Ash and Akruti along with a few others standing outside of the venue with a load of food donated by local shops.  Once we got inside, all of the food had to be weighed–just over 250 kilos of fruit, veg and bread had been given to us!

That’s only a small portion of the food donated…

Next we went all MasterChef and designed a three course menu based off of the food we’d been given.  I loved this part and everyone was so creative with their ideas.  We settled on Aloo Gobi (a potato and cauliflower Indian dish) for the starter, an Okra/Aubergine Gumbo with green beans on the side for the main and for dessert we had two kinds of crumble–apple/pear and peach.

BwSEoubIMAACZ7p.jpg-largeAnd then the cooking commenced.  It was a bit daunting not knowing the amount of people we’d be cooking for but we put the radio on, mugs of tea were distributed and we got cracking.  I got potato duty (my Granddad would be so proud) and peeled and diced up potatoes for the Aloo Gobi.  N was doing cauliflower and everyone else got stuck in with peppers, onions, pears, apples and so on.  It was a busy little hive in our kitchen!

Kitchen selfie!
Kitchen selfie!

At 1PM, people started showing up for food.  We were slightly behind, but the food was well worth the wait.  The Aloo Gobi was being snapped up and praised highly (props to me and N) and people couldn’t get enough of the gumbo with many asking for seconds.  The crumble also went just as quick and, before we knew it, we’d run out of food.

Managed to get a photo of the gumbo but food was going so fast we didn't get photos of the other dishes!
Akruti managed to get a photo of the gumbo but food was going so fast we didn’t get photos of the other dishes!

We served 47 people–one of the busier services they’ve seen recently.  Any extra food was put out for guests to take and what food couldn’t be used was given over to someone for composting purposes.  No food went to waste–brilliant!

All in all, FoodCycle kitchen duty was a brilliant way to spend a Saturday morning/afternoon.  I met some really brilliant people who I can’t wait to work with again.  It was hard work, don’t get me wrong, but it was fun, rewarding and everyone was so friendly and happy to be there.

N and I will definitely be going back… I’ve already signed us up for the last Saturday in September!  Looks like we’ll be doing FoodCycle on a monthly basis!

*All photos are courtesy of the Wandsworth FoodCycle twitter account.  Follow them at @FoodCycleWands for updates, photos and general food fun!*

steph2If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or @londondiaries1. Alternatively you can email me at emailthelondondiaries [at]


Steph explores… Peckham

It’s really no secret that N and I don’t get out much.  After a while of doing the same old stuff, you get in a bit of a rut… home, work, home, weekend (sleep), work, home, etc.  And when we do decide to venture outside on the weekends, we know where we like and we tend to stay in that comfort zone.

But last weekend was different–I decided it was time to branch out and explore new, uncharted territories in South London.  Area of choice?  Peckham.

Now, I’ll preface this by saying that when I first came to London years ago, Peckham had a bad rep (it still kind of does).  The area has undergone a bit of regeneration and, thanks to some fantastic shops, bars, restaurants etc, Peckham has a nice, almost village-like feel to it.

So what did we do in Peckham?  Well, I put the word out on Twitter last week asking people where they recommend we go and the response was crazy (thanks to The Peckham Peculiar).  People were tweeting me so fast that I couldn’t even keep up.  Out of all of the responses, there were two places we knew we had to visit:  The Begging Bowl (for lunch) and Frank’s Cafe (for drinks).

First stop on our jaunt in Peckham was Persepolis, a brilliant shop for all things Persian.  N and I have both been getting more and more interested in his Persian roots (on his dad’s side) and food is a big part of that.  We’d chosen two very Persian dishes to cook and try out last weekend–Gourmeh Sabzi and Koresht-e-Gheimeh.  We got most of the ingredients locally but N and I both knew of Persepolis and wanted to go there for some of the more specialist ingredients.

I loved this shop.  There were so many yummy ingredients around (plus pastries/sweets) and I just wanted to try a little bit of everything.  I have a feeling we’ll be going back soon, especially as we’re cooking more and more Persian food.

After our spree at Persepolis, we meandered around a bit and eventually found ourselves at The Begging Bowl on Bellenden Road.  We were starving at that point and ready to sit down to some gorgeous Thai street food–The Begging Bowl did not disappoint.

The idea behind The Begging Bowl is exactly the same as Spanish tapas only with Thai food–you order a bunch of little plates and share everything.  We only ordered three items (instead of the recommended five for two people) as it was only lunch and we were cooking up a Persian feast later that evening.  Dishes arrive when they’re ready so they’re always piping hot and fresh.  For £1 each, you also get unlimited sticky or jasmine rice.

Sweet Potato Fritters - so delicious we nearly forgot to take a photo!First up was our Sweet Potato Fritter with chilli sauce.  This bad boy was so amazing that N’s trying to wrap his head around how to make it–I see some experiments in the kitchen in our future.  The sweet potato was crunchy and gorgeous without being oily despite being deep fried.  The little kernels of sweetcorn were a nice addition.

Pork belly and fishcakes, both amazing!

Our other two dishes arrived one right after the other–fishcakes with sweet chilli sauce and pork belly with fried, crispy rice.  The fishcakes were nice but the highlight was the pork belly dish.  This was so scrummy that N and I ended up fighting (politely) over the bits of pork and crispy rice.  This is one dish I’d happily have again!

Price-wise, I’d initially gasped (inwardly) at the prices and the suggestion that we order five dishes, but we ended up actually paying probably what we’d pay had we gone anywhere else for lunch–especially as we’d stuck to water to drink.  If you’re out with friends and nearby, I’d definitely recommend The Begging Bowl for a nice, and quick, dinner.

After leaving The Begging Bowl, we walked off lunch by strolling down Choumert Road toward out next destination, Frank’s Cafe.  Choumert Road has a lot to offer–little boutique shops, bakeries, grocers and all sorts of other things.  Lois, a little shop that I’d been recommended to visit, had so much that I wanted!  N could see the gleam in my eye so steered me out quickly in order to protect his wallet.  I have a feeling I’ll have to go back and pick up the Verity Necklace though… that necklace really caught my eye!

We finally made it to the above ground car park where Frank’s Cafe is located and then… we got lost. Yep. We made it to the venue and then got lost… but we weren’t the only people who were confused and perplexed as to how to get up to the sixth story of the car park where the bar is located.  We cased the outside of the garage, thinking maybe there was a special (marked) entrance.  Nope.  There’s a metal door leading onto the stairs of the car park.  Truth be told, N and I were very apprehensive climbing those stairs–it looked and felt like something out of a bad, scary movie.

At the fifth floor, the stairs finished so we were left confused yet again.  We ventured out into the parking area and decided to walk up the ramp for cars.  As we walked through the garage, standing at the bottom of the ramp was a scary looking guy dressed all in black.  So we were more creeped out… until we realised he was a bouncer and checking bags.  Whew.  We live to drink another day!

When we finally made it to the bar, we were absolutely stunned by the panoramic view of London.  Really, it was quite special and beautiful.  Getting to see London laid out like that made me realise just where I’m living–every time that happens it takes my breath away.  And now, a few photos of the view (click for larger images):


Canary Wharf and the 02


London Skyline1


London Skyline2

As far as drinks at Frank’s Cafe go, they were averagely priced.  I had a Dark and Stormy (rum, ginger beer and lime) and an Aperol Spritz (Aperol, white wine and seltzer).  They were ok–but let’s be honest, Frank’s appeal is the large outdoor space and spectacular view.  I’d go there again for another drink–but I’d want to take along a few friends.

We wanted to see more of Peckham but (as you can probably tell from the photos) the weather took a turn for the cool and drizzly and we were without umbrellas so headed home.  I know I’ll definitely be checking out more of Peckham in the future, so if you’ve got suggestions, bring them on!


steph2If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or @londondiaries1. Alternatively you can email me at emailthelondondiaries [at]

London Bucket List

As of later this month, I’ll have been living here in London for five years.  Five.  That’s half of a decade.  And what have I done here in London for the last five years?  Other than work, not nearly as much as I wanted.  There are loads of things I’ve always thought ‘oh that’s cool, I should do that/go there/etc’ but in the end the daily grind gets the best of you and before you know it, the years have passed.   Five of them.

So with that in mind, I’ve come up with a bucket list of five things I want to do in London before the end of 2014.  Obviously N will be along for the ride (most of it, anyhow) so if I were him, I’d be paying close attention to this post (*wink, wink… nudge nudge*).

Photo courtesy of Visit London.  Click for original article.
Photo courtesy of Visit London. Click for original article.

1.  Explore Crystal Palace Park

Ok, there are dinosaurs here.  WHY have I not been here yet? The dinos alone should be enough reason for me to get off my backside and go to Crystal Palace Park but throw in the maze and museum and I’m sold.

I honestly don’t know why we haven’t done this already.  There’s a bus right around the corner from us that stops at the park, so it’s not as if it’s not accessible!

Geffrye logo

2.  Visit The Geffrye Museum

I love a good museum and I love the fact that, beyond special exhibits/events, museums are free in London.  FREE.

I envision The Geffrye Museum being a lot like Locust Grove or Shaker Village back home, both of which I loved and found horribly interesting.  Might actually look at doing this one on my own next week during my week off!


3.  Have a drink at the Evans & Peel Detective Agency

Oooooh I love stuff like this.  The Evans & Peel Detective Agency is relatively new to the London scene but it’s definitely had a bit of a buzz around it, particularly as there’s role playing involved.  Noir crime/thriller films are my favourite (hello, Sunset Boulevard).  I wonder if it’s acceptable to rock up in costume?

Photo courtesy of Visit London.  Click image for full article.
Photo courtesy of Visit London. Click image for full article.

4.  Go ice skating at London’s Natural History Museum

N and I went to the ice skating rink at Somerset House a few years ago and I loved it… but skating outside the NHM just has a totally different feel to it.  I’m absolutely rubbish at ice skating, but that doesn’t stop me from trying!   Definitely looking forward to doing this in the winter.


Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0
Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

5.  Picnic on Primrose Hill/visit Open Air Theatre

There’s nothing like a bit of romance–and a picnic dinner in Regent’s Park on Primrose Hill followed by taking in a show at the Open Air Theatre sounds gorgeous to me.  OAT will be showing To Kill a Mockingbird, one of my favorite books of all time, later this month.  As much as I want to go, tickets aren’t cheap and most of the performances are already sold out.  I have to say, overpriced theatre tickets are a real shame.  This one may have to wait until next season, but it’s going to happen!

So that’s my current London Bucket List for 2014.  Is there anything I’ve left out?  If you’ve got any ideas, give me a holler!


If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or @londondiaries1. Alternatively you can email me at emailthelondondiaries [at]