Pop singer Tracey Thorn on the best and worst of London life
The delights of Chelsea Physic Garden, the horror of fake classical architecture: "I've always preferred the messy version of London", says one half of the duo Everything but the Girl.
Thorn, now a mum of three, is about to release a new solo album, her second since Everything but the Girl's extended hiatus (photo: Patrick Ford/Redferns)
What's your favourite neighbourhood?
I'm going to say Hampstead because it's where I've lived since I moved to London.
Does it drive me mad? No, I have a sentimental, nostalgic view of it, with Michael Foot walking around shaking his stick at me or bumping into Peter Cook or Ian Dury in the local bookshop.
It's not like that most of the time but I close my eyes to it. It's also got the Heath, which is as much countryside as I can manage.
Your favourite building?
Chelsea Register Office, the Old Town Hall. Ben (Ben Watt, her band partner in Everything but the Girl) and I were married there, more recently than people might imagine. It was a real Swinging London scene afterwards when we stepped outside.
Most hated building?
I really hate the Richmond riverside buildings, those apartments that were put up in the 80s. They're like fake classical buildings and I remember seeing them go up and thinking, this is horrible.
It's not what London is about. I've always preferred the messy version, not London Botoxed.
Best view in London?
From the very top of St Paul's Cathedral. You climb up and it's about 500 steps. You can stop at various galleries along the way and when you get up there, it's unbelievable. It's really worth doing.
Favourite open space?
It's a garden for people who like growing plants, like me...
Tracey Thorn on her favourite open space, Chelsea Physic Garden
I really like Chelsea Physic Garden. It's a little space where they originally used to grow herbs for medicines.
It's still there now and it's a garden for people who like growing plants, like me. It's not ornamental, it's nice and hidden and private.
Most interesting shop?
I'm not much of a shopper. You can get everything you want from John Lewis. I suppose it's because shopping for me is not a leisure pursuit. If it's got to be done, it's got to be done.
Favourite pub, bar or restaurant?
I'm going to go for the Coffee Cup cafe in Hampstead, on the high street, as an antidote to Starbucks and the others.
It's been there for donkey's years and the fact that they don't ever change anything about it means it has a lot of charm.
Most memorable night out?
A really memorable one was in the late 80s, when we went to see Prince at Wembley Arena and then afterwards he did one of his post-show gigs at the Camden Palace.
It was amazing to see him play a smaller venue and amazing just to see someone do two gigs on the same night.
How would you spend your ideal day off in London?
I've already talked about our lovely wedding at Chelsea Town Hall, but we then had a one-day honeymoon - in London.
We got up the next day and because it had been such a low-key wedding, with no rings exchanged, we went on to Tiffany's in Bond Street, bought each other wedding rings and put them on our fingers right there in the shop.
Then we went and sat in the bar at Claridges and drank champagne for the rest of the day. It's all you need really, Claridges and drinking, and you can't do that outside London.
Where would you take a visitor to London?
London's Inns of Court have played a central role in training barristers
I think a good day to visit is a Sunday and I really love walking around the Inns of Court area, Lincoln's Inn, the Middle Temple, down to the river.
It's all a mystery to me, I've no idea what they are or what goes on there. But it's an incredible part of London that again isn't like anywhere else.
The worst journey you've had to make in London?
As you know, I'm not a driver so I can't give you one of those awful stuck-in-traffic stories.
My worst though is a journey on foot, when I was 15 and came up to London to go to that big anti-Nazi League demo in Victoria Park, the one where The Clash played.
I came up with a group of friends and it was brilliant but I got separated from them. Bear in mind this was pre-mobile phone and I was a little girl from the suburbs of Hatfield, and I had to make my own way home.
It was terrifying, walking through Mile End surrounded by hordes of people, trying to find the tube station.
Your personal London landmark?
Somewhere that I go past and each time it brings back vivid memories is the Lyceum Theatre.
Again, it goes back to that same era when I used to come up on Sundays to go to gigs there. There'd be five bands on the bill and you might see the Human League, Gang of Four or the Fall.
Coming from outside town it felt like a really cool place to be hanging out. Sadly, it doesn't do concerts anymore. Is the Lion King still running there after all this time?
Your favourite fictional Londoner?
1987's Withnail and I has become one of Britain's biggest cult films
I'm a big Twitterer at the moment so I tweeted last week and asked people about this one because I was really stumped.
The best suggestion, the one that made me go, "Oh yes!", was Withnail from Withnail and I.
And the next thing was, people were tweeting with lots of quotes and we were practically doing the whole film: "We've gone on holiday... by mistake"!
Favourite London film, book or documentary?
I'm going to go for The Ipcress File because it's got such brilliant scenes set in London.
I went to see it again a couple of years ago, at the BFI, which is a great place to see it, on the South Bank, and it's got those amazing scenes outside the Albert Hall.
You can't see those places now without thinking that's where spies are probably living.
Which time period in London, past or future, would you like to go to?
I'd like to go back to the late 19th century, when my ancestors first came to London from Norfolk. They settled in Kentish Town in around 1860
I can trace back generations of the Bush family, my mum's line, and I'd really like to go back to meet them all - the first lot to have come into the city from the countryside.
Tracey Thorn's Love And Its Opposite is released in mid-May on Strange Feeling Records.
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