April 13, 2012
Kidspot Ford Territory Top 50: Feel the difference*
The seed for Wee Birdy germinated with an actual trip: from Sydney to London. Now, an Australian moving to London is not exactly new/s. Or even remotely interesting. Indeed, moving to London, living in a crowded share house in Camden and pulling pints at the local pub is a veritable rite of passage for many Australian 20-somethings.
But instead of waiting in the poo queue at Glastonbury, I spent my twenties getting a first class honours degree in English literature, editing a swag of glossy magazines and burning myself into a hole of misery by the time I was 30.
In the meantime, London was burning away at the back of my mind.
I had always adored London. I was fascinated by British culture and history. I loved British bands. And although I had visited London a few times, I wanted more. I finally made the move, along with my husband, who was happily up for swapping Bondi for Blighty. We had no plans, no jobs and nowhere to live. Like thousands of other Australians before us, we were just going.
1. February 2007: London
We found ourselves living in East London on the Kingsland Road. On our first weekend we went for a stroll along Regent’s Canal, and stumbled upon Broadway Market. Despite it being a market for over 100 years, it was still relatively under-the-radar and mostly frequented by locals. It was just starting to find its hipster cred – not that I had any clue about that.
But my – how I adored my new local market. A Ladybird Book Lady! Kate Sheridan handbags! Violet Cakes! I told a few London mates about my wee finds, and they were intrigued. Where was this place? Who made these luscious violet-flavoured cupcakes? And who on earth was the Ladybird Lady? The idea of a Wee Birdy telling you a secret was hatched.
2. July 2007: The inspiration
So I started blogging about my wee finds. Writing and publishing stuff wasn’t exactly new to me, but writing and publishing stuff that I was actually passionate about was a revelation (confession: I was never really a Cosmo girl). And while it wasn’t a deeply personal blog, it gave purpose to my day – I was still unemployed at this stage – and focussing on stuff I loved about London was the perfect antidote to the stuff that I didn’t particularly love about my newly adopted home (ie. getting mugged, bleak weather and mind-numbingly tedious bureaucracy). I set out to become the little bird who told you where to find all the cool stuff.
3. Making mistakes street-stylee
At some point I thought it would be a brilliant idea to take photos of some of the cute girls around town and find out where they bought their clothes and what shade of lipstick they were wearing. Thankfully, I soon realised The Sartorialist I was not, so I abandoned The Great Street Style Experiment. Lesson learnt.
4. The shops
I discovered Cheshire Street – just off Brick Lane – and a cluster of shops I adored. I spent time getting to know the owners, examining the wares, learning about their providence and points of difference. I dedicated one blog post to each shop, detailing the best buys, the most unique items, and what to take home. And I took lots of photos. It’s a format that I continue to this day.
5. Bird is the word
At this stage, I was reading and linking to other blogs like Liberty London Girl, Meet me at Mike’s and Girl with a Satchel. Suddenly, they started reading me. And leaving comments. Liberty London Girl tagged me in a meme, Meet me at Mike’s told me she missed me even though she’d never met me, and Girl with a Satchel wrote about me on her blog. I made new friends. The word about the bird started to spread.
6. Mapping it
One of my major goals was to help my readers find the best that London had to offer, so I started to map each shop that I visited, as well as nearby cafes and other favourite spots. I created maps for different parts of London, as well as “Secret London” maps, specifying the locations of some of my favourite London insiders’ secret haunts.
7. Other good stuff
My magpie’s eye for sparkling treasures turned online, and I started to blog about wee fashion, beauty, design and crafty finds. And birds, of course. Somehow these new posts worked alongside my London shop profiles. People started emailing me about stuff that they thought was “very Wee Birdy”. It was a particular look and style. And then it hit me: Wee Birdy was me! And I guess that’s my point of difference, too.
8. Paris and beyond
I had an idea: if people liked my take on London, then they might like my take on other places, too. So when I went to Paris, I blogged about my edit of the best shops. Ditto Glasgow, Wales and Copenhagen. And I’m still going.
9. Time Out
I was desperate to work for my favourite magazine (and London institution) Time Out. But even though I had loads of mag experience on my CV, I was still the new girl in town. And Time Out staffers were not only passionate about London, they had the most extensive local (and insider) knowledge. So I had something to prove – and a dream to chase. Finally, in 2009 I was appointed deputy shopping & style editor at Time Out London. My (first) dream job.
10. Back to Sydney
Just as I was having the time of my life at Time Out, covering London Fashion Week, interviewing designers, and going shopping for a living, I got sick. I needed my family, I needed to rest, and deep down I knew that we had to move back to Sydney. So with a heavy heart, we packed up our lives again, and resigned ourselves to the next chapter in our lives.
11. My own wee birdy
Surprise! I’m pregnant! Back in Sydney, I fulfilled another dream and got myself well and truly knocked up. But I gave new meaning to the medieval notion of lying-in – and not only did I struggle to walk, I was too sick to blog. So I had to take an extended maternity break, which was difficult but I was heartened to find that the Wee Birdy community was waiting for me on the other side – along with my own wee baby bird.
Blogging and being a new mum is hard. There are 49 other blogs that attest to that. And I’m still trying to work it out. But with the promise of all that Sydney has to offer, it’s an exciting new challenge. And there is still loads more to talk about in London. So Wee Birdy continues to be my work in progress, just like me. Funny, that.
12. New York or…?
Next stop: New York? Well, that’s entirely up to you. I’ve been nominated as one of Kidspot’s Top 50 Bloggers for 2012 with the chance to fly to New York and attend BlogHer – the ultimate blogging conference. The winner also gets to drive a fancy pants new Ford Territory for a year.
Click here to vote for Wee Birdy – if I make it over there, I’ll blog about New York’s best shops, secret finds and best places to visit.