This week’s interviewee, is South London legend, the Onion Bag Blog, who has been musing about all things South of the river since 2003. We caught up with him to find out what about London keeps him typing.
If you had to describe your blog in less than 15 words how would you do it?
South London, SW8, local history, swimming, cycling, cricket, photography – is this a personals ad?
Why is it called ‘Onion Bag Blog’?
The original intention was to blog about football – onionbag is a silly name for football netting. But then I realised that I was moving on, and actually had very little to say about the not-so-beautiful-game. My blog has evolved alongside me, and indeed it continues to evolve.
How and why did you start blogging?
“Here’s a chord, here’s another one, here’s another one. Now form a band” – this was the punk call to arms from the old Sniffing Glue fanzine days. Mainstream media seemed so distant to me when I first started blogging. It really was as simple as “Here’s a blogging tool, press publish and do something similar tomorrow.” As in “Why Don’t You Just Switch Off Your Television Set And Go Out And Do Something Less Boring Instead?”…Except I sit in front of my Mac all day now.
What about London inspires your blog?
The people, the history and the stories – but ultimately it all comes back to the river. London was founded on trade from the Thames. It divides us as well as unites us. I’m lucky to live within walking distance of Vauxhall Bridge. Whenever I cross the river, it always remains a highlight of my day, looking from East to West across the past, present and future of the city. I still haven’t got past the first chapter of Peter Acroyd’s London though.
What would be your dream day / event in London to post about?
I’m able to live my dream day in South London pretty much everyday from May to September: swimming outdoors, cycling, watching cricket – I really wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in the world during this time of the year. I have everything I need all around me.
You’re a keen cyclist, how’s life for the cyclists of London?
I cycle because it is the most enjoyable way to travel around London. If driving a pink Cadillac through Piccadilly were more enjoyable, I’d do that. But nope – it’s all about the bike. The life of a cyclist in London is pretty much the same as the life of a tube passenger in London – it’s what you personally make of it. There are good commutes, there are bad commutes. The trick is not to see it as a race. That’s what the velodrome is for. You’ll still arrive at your destination ahead of public transport; if you’re lucky you might also get chatted up as you stop at the lights. Chapeau!
What’s your favourite post you’ve ever written?
I was fortunate to get an invite to blog and photograph the Deep Level Shelter at Clap’ham North. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to capture on camera part of London’s secret history. I’m rather pleased of the photographs I came back with.
From a purely personal perspective, I’m very proud of my annual Stockwell Christmas tree posts. These are my personal reflection of the past twelve months for me.
Would you feel more or less connected to London, would you have missed out on things without your blog?
Oh, less connected for sure. I have very little reason to leave the Stockwell – Vauxhall – Oval triangle, both work and leisure wise. My camera, my bike and my blog get me out and about.
My blog isn’t a means to an end, but without the shop front to communicate with people I wouldn’t normally meet offline, there are some great friendships and drunken nights that I would have missed out on. I probably wouldn’t have found the pleasure in cycling from Crystal Palace up to Hampstead Heath either.
How has your blog connected you to another community of bloggers in London?
Sadly I think the days of the dreaded blogosphere are long since gone. The space is now occupied by either big media or idiots. “There’s no such thing as community?” Not so, just that the community has now shifted from blogs to Twitter. And I’m sure it will shift again.
Tell us about another up-and coming London blogger you like.
Stockwell News is doing a damn fine job of documenting every aspect of local life around SW8. This is the micro local level of blogging that I love. If blogs can help a community to engage with one another, and then take this relationship offline, then putting up with the big media and idiots will have been worth it.
And for some general London chat… Where do you live and why do you love it?
Sunny Stockwell, SW8. I’ve been here thirteen years now, and so it is officially home. ‘Love’ is quite a strong adjective for the area. I like the location, being handy for the madness of Brixton, the calmness of Clap’ham and within easy reach of both the West End and the City. Little Porto is perfect for taking any visiting friends. Oh, and the river.
What’s your favourite place in London?
Brockwell Lido is a way of life for me during the summer months. The season opening in May is better than my birthday. I’ve been known to – shhh! – cry when the lido closes on the last day in September. The Oval and Herne Hill Velodrome also feature high on my list of favourite London locations.
Have you ever been sick on the tube?
No, but I once sat on a replacement bus service with a not so fresh pile of pewk being warmed by the heater below my feet. I haven’t used public transport since.