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News / City Life

13 Londoners share the places that remind them of their mums

Helen Nianias

 

From buses to all-you-can-eat buffets, our writers reveal the London spots that are special to them and their mothers

1. The Isabella Plantation at Richmond Park

‘My mother loves gardens and gardening. You could stick her on the scrubbiest patch of city patio and she’d be leaning over, saying “Aha!” and reeling off Latin plant names. When I was a child, she would take me around the Isabella Plantation at Richmond Park, which is one of her favourite places. It’s a 40-acre woodland full of especially beautiful plants. She’d spend hours pointing out different flowers and the general majesty of nature while I dragged my feet. “Plants! Boring!” Predictably, I have since morphed into my mother and I love gardens too. One of my favourite things about growing up is finding common ground with my mother – a relationship that approaches a friendship. I’d like to go back to the plantation in spring for Mother’s Day, not as adult and charge but as two women admiring the changing seasons.’  Helen Nianias 

 

Kitty Drake

 2. Royal China Club

‘Every Mother’s Day my mum, my sister and I go to the Royal China Club on Baker Street to eat about 25 rounds of dim sum. My mum is obsessed with all-you-can-eat restaurant formats; she says they make her feel safe. We like to watch all the other families (mostly mega- posh Americans) and work out who is related to who. Usually there will be at least one major fight and one tearful reunion. In 2012 someone threw a Chanel purse. It was emotional.’ Kitty Drake

 

Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff

  

3. Abney Park Cemetery

‘Before my family moved up to Scotland when I was eight, I lived in pre-hipster Stoke Newington, and my mum and I spent many happy afternoons traipsing through Abney Park Cemetery, picking blackberries to use later in milky, sweet pudding. Home to some 200,000 graves, the cemetery celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2015 and has a wild history. Behind its walls is Europe’s oldest non-denominational chapel, and legend has it that Oliver Cromwell was laid to rest there. Its gothic, towering marble tombs and overhanging trees were creepy, but with my hand firmly clasping my mum’s, I always felt safe in the knowledge we would make it out of the wilderness safely, with a punnet of some of the juiciest blackberries to be found in north-east London. We never quite found an equivalent spot in Edinburgh.’ Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff

4. Southbank Centre

‘I used to play in a bunch of wind and jazz bands when I was at school, and we’d jump on a bus every couple of years to take part in a competition at the Southbank Centre. (Not that I had any idea where we were heading at the time.) My mum used to come down and support us on these trips, and we’d often end up wandering around the skate park and book market by the National Film Theatre in between performances.These are my earliest memories of London – so distant they feel more like a dream – and that spot feels deeply familiar to me whenever I’m there. It reminds me of my mum and all the support and encouragement she gave me while I was growing up.’ Alex Plim 

Jo Irwin

5. The 159 bus

‘When I was younger, my mum and I would catch the 159 bus from Brixton to the West End. Sitting on the top deck of that Routemaster, we’d see London at its best: the Houses of Parliament, Pall Mall, Downing Street, Piccadilly Circus. She’d test me on all the sights then we’d spend hours in Hamley’s. In later life, I realised that she took me on the 159 when we were skint and I needed entertaining in the school holidays. Skint or not, one of the best memories from my childhood is of wiping the mist off a bus window and staring at Big Ben.’ Jo Irwin

 

Matt Breen

6. Wilton's Music Hall

‘My mum is a huge theatre fan, and when I took her to Wilton’s, she was enchanted. Now, when she is down in London, we nearly always go to the refurbished, Grade II-listed East End music hall, either to see something in its programme (everything from poetry readings to cabaret) or just for a drink.’ Matt Breen

7. Green Street

‘My mum grew up in Upton Park and whenever we go to see my grandparents, who still live in the house she grew up in, we always visit the Bengali shops on Green Street. When I was really young I thought that as soon as I stepped into Upton Park station, I was actually in Bangladesh. I love the familiar language, the food and the Bengali sweets that I used to beg my mum to buy. I remember when I got my ears pierced in a jewellery shop on Green Street: after the pain of the first ear, I was adamant I wouldn’t pierce the second, but my mum convinced me to do so with the promise of a whole box of zilafis to myself. I recall playing in the clothes shops, picking out beautiful saris, while my mum haggled over prices with the shop assistant (as is expected in Bengali shops). It was in one of those stores that my mum first taught me how to wear a sari. One of my favourite memories is sitting outside abaya shops with my mum, getting our henna done as she told me stories of her childhood spent on the very road we were sitting on.’ Afrin Ahmed

 

 

Salma Haidrani

8. Regent’s Park Library

‘Saturday mornings were memorable as a kid. Not just because Regent’s Park Library, would drop its newest tomes then but because I’d get to spend countless hours there with my mum, years before Instagram notifications would prise me away from our time together. She’d patiently accompany me as I’d make her wait for me in the children’s section while I browsed. OAPs and kids would trickle in from the local estate, and Peter the security guard would monitor the rows of dusty books like they were priceless artworks. If I felt brave – or more likely, if my mum dozed off – I’d wander to the adult section, stealthily devouring pages of the steamiest scenes I could get my hands on. If I felt braver, I’d take them back to the children’s section, tucked between Jacqueline Wilson’s latest. Peter would sidle up to me the moment Mum was out of earshot. “Does she know you’re reading those?” he’d hiss, looking at the piles of Bliss and Sugar strewn around my feet. He didn’t realise that Mum encouraged my curiosity; that’s probably why I’m a journalist now. Since my library closed down several years ago, I feel for the younger generation. Relationships like mine with my mum can flourish within those walls, even under the scrutiny of stuffy security guards. Nowadays, the two of us meet for brunch or stroll around Harvey Nichols. But while pancakes might satisfy me temporarily, it’s libraries that hit the sweet spot.’ Salma Haidrani 

 

Eddy Frankel

9. Needoo Grill 

‘My mother constantly laments the fact that no one on earth except for her and the Pakistanis seems to know what a ‘proper’ curry is. We lived in Pakistan for several years when I was a kid, and it messes with your tastebuds: once you leave, everything lacks the punch and kaleidoscopic aggression of proper Pakistani food. When she visits London, I take her to Needoo. It’s like taking a kid to a candy shop, except it’s an old lady in a curry house. It’s the gift of nostalgia, memories and Proustian flavour. And lamb chops.’ Eddy Frankel 

 

Rhian Daly

10. Ealing Trailfinders Rugby Club

‘My mum’s been a huge rugby league fan her whole life, so when my sister and I started going to see London Broncos play, she tagged along. Most Sundays, she’ll make the trip from Essex to the Ealing Trailfinders Rugby Club (the Broncos’ home ground) with her season ticket round her neck. Our relationship has always been quite tumultuous, but being there week in, week out has provided us with some common ground. There’s a friendly atmosphere at the ground – it’s one of the best things about rugby league – and, win or lose, there’s always something to talk about, from the quality of the away fans’ chants to the on-field bust- ups. Travelling to the ground gives us time to catch up too – and set straight any midweek arguments before the match.’ Rhian Daly

 

Katie McCabe

11. Tricycle Theatre

‘Whenever my mum took me to Kilburn’s Tricycle Theatre in the 1990s, I’d waste hours feeding 20p coins into the clockwork machine in the foyer, watching a tiny metal bike roll around in circles while she browsed paintings in the cafe, wondering how she could get her own artwork on to its walls. Years later, the Tricycle offered her an exhibition; I’ll never forget the look of pride on her face as she was photographed next to its vintage lightbulb signs on the opening night.’ Katie McCabe

Miriam Bouteba

 

12. Liberty

‘Every time my mum visits me from the frozen north, we find ourselves drifting through Liberty’s cavernous rooms. The beauty hall is our favourite; it’s filled with new and exotic products to discover. When I was taking the acne drug Roaccutane, we left with arms weighed down by all manner of moisturisers, but she’s so super-generous that I don’t think I’ve ever gone in with her and not left with a royal purple bag.’ Miriam Bouteba

 

 

Danielle De Wolfe

13. Fortnum & Mason

‘Afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason has become a yearly tradition in my family thanks to my mother’s penchant for bubbles and cakes. I’ll never forget gazing into the ice cream parlour on one such childhood trip, convinced I was visiting Willy Wonka's chocolate factory – to be honest, the feeling hasn’t really changed.’ Danielle De Wolfe

Check out our guide to Mother's Day in London and show your mum some love this Sunday.

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Comments

1 comments
ohprettycity

What a lovely post! The place that reminds me of my mum is Hoxton gardens along the market. We would play in there when we were little while mum went and done the shopping and then we would sit and eat cakes from the bakery across the road.