Brick Lane, Sunday – Cultural Contrasts

london, Thoughts on Life

I had a plan to take some street portraits last weekend.

Plan vs. reality…    Friday late night – no camera, saw lot’s of cool people. Saturday – camera, got soaked in the rain. Sunday – camera, saw no cool people…

But I do have a couple of interesting images to share from Sunday.

The first is a hackney carriage mobile coffee shop. Isn’t it a perfectly cute package of a traditional London icon and modern city culture?

Sometimes I regret the dilution of traditional culture. I remember visiting London when I was really young. The vibe that Camden used to have. The greasy spoon cafe’s. The old vans and cars. The time when London really had it’s own style. Nowadays, huge swathes of London are ‘generic international city’ zones with international chains like Pret etc.

On my last trip to Tokyo I was so annoyed to see a Fernandez & Wells store open in Omotesando. A coffee / light food etc. chain from London. I desperately don’t want to see my favourite parts of my favourite cities diluted to the same look, feel, behaviour, culture.

Development and change is good, but we desperately need to support individual style, culture, small businesses etc. and stop proliferation of generic, bland chains everywhere. There is a place for these in demand businesses, but surely they don’t need to take over every corner of our cities.

Rant over…  :)

As usual around East London I also saw some of the ever changing street art. I saw a load of people taking selfie’s in front of some art below one of the rail bridges near Shoreditch High Street.

I was thinking it’s another interesting contrast. Street art must be at least in part about making an individual statement, customising an otherwise regular wall into something unique.

Are selfie’s not the opposite?

Self portraits that by the nature of the phone camera / angle tend to look similar and are usually taken from a shallow perspective of showing off.

Are selfie’s so unartistic that maybe they become a valid candidate for contemporary art!

OCD photography tip – it’s so important for me to get the bridge line starting from the corner :)

 

 

Portable Loft, Yangjae Citizens Forest, Seoul and; Fish in The Pool

south korea

I found the cutest local cafe in Seoul with the friendliest owners.

It’s called Portable Loft. They also have a craft / design store – Portable Lollipop.

I found their blog; you can see some pictures of Portable Loft and the owners plus their friends / family here http://blog.naver.com/jungurion/220896163629. The Lollipop website http://www.portablelollipop.com/

The cafe and store are located in Yangjae Citizen’s Forest; totally off the tourist route, but not far from Gangnam. About ten different buses from Gangnam pass by the area.

It was a lucky find, I happened to stay in an Airbnb apartment above the cafe for the week.

The owners don’t speak English, but despite that they made me feel super at home. Through pointing and gestures I managed to order their delicious hand drip coffee in the morning. They also have two draught craft beers on tap and a selection of other drinks.

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The owners gave me one of their postcards which is based on a hand drawn sketch of the cafe. You will recognise the lady in the postcard and blog pictures by the distinctive hairstyle :)

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Portable Loft really inspired me. If I were to have my own cafe / shop business this is pretty much the blueprint I’d love to create it based upon. Some of the charming features I loved were:

  • Hand chosen craft beers and hand drip coffee that show care and love for quality
  • Beautiful natural interior decoration – a little bit ‘Scandinavian wood feel’
  • They do have a food menu, but it’s literally one cooker behind the bar, so cute
  • A lot of customers appear to be friends and I saw groups come and enjoy relaxing and talking to the owners
  • The cafe and shop show an interest in art and design and they have built a really interesting collection of products.
  • They are off the beaten path so I think most of their customers are local or may come based on word of mouth etc. no unappreciative tourists!
  • They have a music system in one corner and they have a pile of vinyl and CDs next to it and their selection of music is beautiful. A lot of acoustic and calming sounds.

Talking of music I came across the fish in the pool by Hekuto Pascal album while sitting in Portable Loft. I didn’t know what it was, but realising it was Japanese I snapped a pic of an empty CD cover with Japanese text on it. I later found the album on Spotify:

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This is some seriously beautiful music.

I’m slightly embarrassed to say this music actually brought me to tears a few times.

The album is mostly instrumental, but the final track has lyrics and there is something soft, sweet and magical about the melody and vocals. Perhaps there is an undertone of sadness. It’s a songs that makes me feel an appreciation for people and places, but also a sadness for lost opportunities and lost times.

Portable Loft is one of the reasons I love to travel. Forget the tourist checklist, I really appreciate the chance to see a corner of local culture and to meet people that care about art and design and customers.

I recently came across a book called Do / Design: Why Beauty Is The Key To Everything by Alan Moore.

It’s a great little book that takes about good design and why that matters in life. This resonates strongly with me and I think design along with community are two of the most important things that can bring enjoyment to everyday life.

Portable Loft hit’s both of these perfectly.