The Fox Family album cover, by the multi-talented Andy Fielding.

I am in danger of falling in love.

It’s a strange thing, after all these years of avoiding moving to London, how swiftly I have embraced the city. Getting a job here has transformed my experience of it, and I have been swept away, grinning and willing, in the steady, oiled flow of London days, rocked by the rhythm of my daily commutes. There is a joy to being lost here, to finding small treasures in all the bustle and tourist hordes and transportation woes. I think back to the similar post I wrote, this time last year, about Singapore. I couldn’t help listing everything I hated about the place. How my life has changed, how I have changed! I come home, weary from a day at the studio and a long commute, and look forward to the next. I walk, endlessly, through forests and parks, and along the wide, placid Thames with its small shingled beaches and improbable bridges.  I watch people: shiny-eyed toffee-coloured children with hair like cotton candy, angular, dessicated women in worn ballet flats, the man in a camaieu of mustards and yellows rolling a cigarette on the tube. I smile, and I am soothed.

Each week end I try to fit in something new, but it’s hard, even in a city as rich and variegated as this, to resist the lure of routines. Here are 10 of my small London joys. Try them. Let me know if they did anything for you.

1. My bus ride through Peckham

The 363 makes its arthritic way from Crystal Palace to Elephant  Castle in just over half an hour. It is not the most picturesque of routes. It passes rows of suburban terraced houses, the grimness of Lidl, and a street called “Bird in Bush Road.” But passing through Peckham I can see rows of cassava neatly stacked, buxom African women in short skirts and elaborate hairdos, a pile of durian at the Chinese store. There’s the promising, inviting neon of Theatre Local, and when I get off the bus I’m often greeted by a fox who seems to welcome me back home.

2. Crystal Palace Park Dinosaurs

Large Victorian statues of anatomically incorrect dinosaurs. What’s not to love, really.

3. Rose and Pistachio cake

It is perfumed and nutty, gluten free, and topped with a layer of frosting like a cloud of cream. Found at the London Review Bookshop, who have great books and even better cake.

4. Urban foxes

Yes, I know, they are vermin and they root through bins and screech through the night and their shit is pungent (I should know, I unwittingly dragged some into an interview room a few days ago). But every time I see one I am transported to Le Petit Prince, and the fox who asks to be tamed.

5. Jacob’s Ladder burger

This one will need a post of its own. Succulent cow slab with roquette, a generous spread of raw stilton and mustard, served in a toasted sesame brioched bun. GOOD.

6. Sydenham Hill Forest

I am still baffled and delighted by this patch of forest outside my door step, a short 15 minute ride from Victoria station. There are fields of bluebells, twisting lanes that smell of earth and leaves and life, and escaped parokeets in the trees. On the other side lies Dulwich Park, with its outdoors exercise machines, enormously fat geese, and golden horses that canter powerfully along the dirt track. There are also children called Margo and people in those annoying reclining bikes, but you can ignore them.

7. Pain poilâne at Waitrose

This week’s grateful discovery. There’s a Ladurée and a Pierre Hermé too. Who needs Paris?

8. The morning commute

These days I get up at 6 to be in the studio by 8 am, so I can get an hour of writing done before the rambunctious crowds of animators arrive. I find, bizarrely, the hour’s commute restful. It’s a great time to write a few notes down, before my brain is completely clear of the night’s fog, or to just look out the window at the crowded, Victorian rows of Brixton, or the ungainly silhouette of the Shard. There are regulars – a thin, calm woman with a different head scarf tied around her head every day, or the small girl with corn rows with a distracted, blonde mother. I always get a seat.

9. Swing Patrol

Nothing has made me more deliriously happy than taking up swing dancing. I come home sweaty and full of love for humankind, possibly with delusions of being an extra in Swing Kids. I have step-step-kick-kicked my way through a couple of classes, trodden on feet and grimaced apologies at a social dance, and I want more, MORE. It’s like crack, innit. Happy swingy crack.

Last week we did this:


10. Cocktails

Well, some things never change. These guys, in a basement bar rife with girls in twee vintage clothing, make a fabulously pink lychee concoction. Just don’t go if you’re allergic to mould or new wallpaper “artfully” ripped off the walls.

What more can I add to this list?

I am feeling delicate.
I sat at my computer yesterday morning, my hair coarse and untamed, pressing my fingers against my temples. I had not slept. I tried to explain this to my mother, who was looking at me disapprovingly and with a hint of concern from her side of the Skype call.

“It’s the peacock,” I said.

My feet were raw, bloated and blistered from stumbling home from Soho after too many small, sparkling glasses of Prosecco. I rubbed my toes gently against each other. It had tasted of summer.

When I first moved to this leafy South London suburb, I was excited about the peacock. “Peakie,” my flatmate calls him. He doesn’t seem to belong to anyone. I knew he was there, somewhere in the collection of neat, English gardens my flat looks down on; I could hear him cawing out from his hiding place whenever the rain eased for long enough. I first saw him on the roof of the little house next door, silhouetted against the creeping dusk, looking into our living room. He was improbable, with his shrunken head and strong, elegant claws. When he flew, briefly, over to the roof of our building I saw the soft blue green of his belly, and the heavy drag of his tail feathers fanned out in the air.

That evening I’d removed my shoes as I reached my street. It seemed like such a long walk from the night bus stop. I tread carefully, avoiding sharp twigs and anything that sparkled in the dark. The night smelled sweet: the rich, heavy scent of trees in bloom and warm air on bare skin.

That’s when I heard him – a long, strident scream bouncing off the empty roads. I rolled my eyes. Peakie is a bastard. He is like the neighbour who listens to loud dustep on quiet Sunday mornings, or bangs his door at 3 am. Working from home, I spend too much time in his loud, obnoxious company. He is needy, always cawing for this thing and that, always keen to make his presence known. “I am here,” he shouts. “I exist. I am a peacock.”

At home I dumped my shoes in the hall and filled a glass of water in the dark. I heard him again. It was shorter, more insistent this time. I lay in bed and closed my eyes against the nauseated feeling in my stomach, grateful to be home, waiting for the oblivion of sleep. Then he cawed again. It was pained, agonised. There was something wrong. I peered out the window in the gloom but there was nothing to see, just the lazy flap of tarpaulin at the construction site next door. By 5 am my nerves were frayed, electric, my eyes wide open in anguish. The cawing had gone on all night, in five minute intervals, tearing the night apart. I got dressed and stumbled down the stairs, still dizzy, blinking at the dawn. Was Peakie hurt? Trapped or locked somewhere, crying out in despair? I walked impotently round the back garden, trying to see where he was, shaken by each new piercing screech. I imagined him struck to the ground, a broken wing flapping senselessly, easy prey for a rogue fox or cruel child.There was nothing I could do.

Later that morning the cawing stopped. Sleep was elusive. I was listless. I dragged myself to the computer again, and googled.

Peacocks can be noisy; they have a very loud high-pitched meow like call. They call a lot during the mating season (early spring to early autumn). Dawn and late evening is a favourite time for this.

Peakie was just randy. Is he wild, domesticated? I doubt there are peahens in his life, or even other peacocks, should he be that way inclined.

So every now and then when I catch his cry, harsh and heartbreaking, I can’t help thinking of the anxiety of peacocks: to die alone, on a warm summer night, with only the sound of your own voice for company.

I knew I had a better story for the World Nomads travel writing competition.

Last year I went to Koh Rong island. Ageing Korean buses through the Cambodian countryside. Sugar palm trees and paddy fields, thin cows and sleeping dogs on the road. Karaoke blasting over the air conditioning. Shared pineapple from a plastic bag. A moto ride winding through Sihanoukville hills. 3 hours on a rusty ferry. Tree houses swaying gently in the wind, sand like icing sugar. The great mass of a buffalo swimming towards me, in the encroaching dusk, the bulge of its eye as it strains against the rope, how quietly it moves through the warm, clear waters.

I’ll write it another day. But in the meantime I’ve made a little video – all filmed on 35mm on my Lomo Kino. Hope you like it.