My London: MP Emily Thornberry
I have lived in Islington for 30 years with my brother, son, husband and a couple of cats.
Where was your first apartment?
My first apartment was a ‘difficult-to-rent apartment’ that the younger generation can’t believe actually exists – these were council housing, which were in poor condition. For the last six months I had slept on people’s couches so I thought it was wonderful to have my own space.
Which shops do you rely on?
5 star cleaning on Upper Street. There is a guy called Mr Ahmed who has been working there for 50 years and they also do remodels and repairs – so they are important.
Where do you go to let your hair down?
Lucky Voice in Islington for karaoke. They have soundproof booths so you can sing without annoying others with your awful singing. I sing everything, I don’t care! I have no qualms about singing at all.
I respect that. Who do you call when you want to have fun?
After a busy day in Westminster I’ll be in touch with Dawn Butler. We’ll have a drink together and fix the world.
What surprised you about your work in Westminster?
When you go into the chamber it’s really small, cluttered and claustrophobic. After it was bombed during World War II, Winston Churchill had it converted so that 650 MPs could not fit inside. We have to sit on the steps and stand on the edge.
What was your first memory of London?
Biba on Kensington High Street in 1973. It was this fantasy store with a giant dog and feathers everywhere. I still have three ostrich feathers that I bought there, they were all I could afford. As a 13-year-old, it was heaven because you could go to the makeup stand and put on things like black lipstick. The record store had a huge record that actually worked and there were famous people who left earlier like David Bowie and Twiggy. They had a rooftop restaurant with flamingos. The restaurant became a nightclub – I rented it out when I got married and they still had the flamingos there.
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
I would recommend the Oxo Tower for a special occasion; I had dinner there with family last year. I remember the sun setting over the river more than the food.
Who is the most famous Londoner?
Sir Ian McKellen for the tremendous work he has done in the film world and for the gay community. He visited my children’s school to talk about his experiences as a gay man. He’ll make a video for them – they’ll say, ‘Then how do we get on with our GCSEs?’ And he’ll say, ‘You won’t pass!’ He’s a great guy.
What would you do if you were the mayor that day?
Make Clerkenwell Green a green again. It’s now a parking lot, but for the left it’s always been a historic center. That’s where the Mayday parades would start, Lenin would leave, there’s a Marx Memorial Library. There has been a movement for a long time to have a statue of Sylvia Pankhurst there, we just need the money and planning permission.
What’s your biggest extravagance?
This can be my nails and eyelashes, which I have Hannah do for me at Fantasy Nails & Beauty on Caledonian Road: it’s quite extravagant.
Best thing a cab driver has ever said to you?
I was 16 when I got into a cab for the first time with friends who were all really cool London girls. I was so excited to be in that cab seeing the machine go around and asking the driver all these questions. Of course, my friends rolled their eyes and said, for heaven’s sake, Emily, just shut up!