March 22, 2021

Living the Cheapskate life: journalist Suyin Haynes on brilliant Bromley, the Barbican Conservatory & London's best frills-free Thai

Suyin Haynes is a senior reporter for TIME magazine, based in the London bureau. In her spare time, she runs The Caring Touch with her mum, Linda. The pair make and sell natural bath and body products, as well as hand-poured candles, through their successful Etsy shop and at markets.

I rest my head in…

Bromley baby, born and raised! Is it London? Is it Kent? It’s Zone 5, so to me, it’s south east London (at least, that’s my go to answer).

Where’s the cheapest place you’ve lived in London? And the most expensive?

Am I allowed to say the cheapest place is with my parents, where I currently am? (Although I hasten to add that I am still paying rent). The most expensive was in Haggerston/De Beauvoir Town during my third year of uni. I lived in Hong Kong for two years, and the rent prices there are out of this world.

Have you had any disastrous London rental experiences?

In my second year of uni, I lived in a lovely little flat near Exmouth Market, near to Angel. At least, it was lovely until we discovered we had a rat infestation in the summer. I was home alone one day when I heard a rattling noise coming from the kitchen, where we’d set out a bunch of traps that were intended for small mice, not large rats. Let’s just say it wasn’t a pretty sight when I found out what the noise was.

Where’s your favourite place to eat for cheap?

I am sad to say that I’m not sure whether it’s open anymore, but I used to really enjoy getting a cheap, quick and frills-free Thai takeaway from Siam Eatery in Covent Garden. I might be biased because I did do a few months’ part time work there, but even before then, their red curry was my fave.

Your perfect no-spend London day would involve…

During lockdown (let’s face it, there’s not been too much to do), I’ve really been enjoying exploring the Green Chain Walk and places more local to me, like Eltham Palace and Beckenham Place Park. Uncovering those gems and spending more time in south London’s green spaces has been one of the few pleasures of the last 12 months.

Where’s your favourite free place to visit in the city?

I love the Barbican Conservatory. Earlier in the summer, I did the outdoor sculpture walk The Line, which goes from Greenwich to Stratford’s Olympic Park. Great in nice weather, although make sure you’re well hydrated and ready to get that step count going.

What’s your top London ‘hack’?

Walking wherever I can. I never thought of London as a really walkable city before living in the centre, but you do come to realise how close together some of the tube stops are.

If you were mayor for the day, what would you change about London?

This is with the caveat of completely utopian thinking, but I’d want affordable housing for all, and better transport links in south London! There’s been so much back and forth about extending the Bakerloo line out this way. Also I would introduce a freeze on travel prices and keep free travel for under 18s.

What’s the biggest London rip off?

The generic tourist-y attractions like Madame Tussauds and London Zoo. They are the antithesis of what I would call a fun day out.

If you were going to splurge in London, what would it be on?

This is going to sound very basic, but probably afternoon tea at Sketch. I’m a sucker for gimmicky places like Mr Fogg’s and Cahoots, so probably drinks at either after.

What are your favourite London small businesses?

Ah so many! Getting gifts and going to Christmas markets is one of my favourite things, so I missed doing that last month, but tried to support small businesses online wherever I could. I really like jewellery by Anisha Parmar and About November. There are so many London-based artists I love, like Chin Chin Prints and Becky Glass. I love Peckham’s Forza Wine and Miss Tapas for food. Local to me, in Bromley, I love Theo & Gilbert for all things floral and the Lavender House for coffee and cake.

Since helping my mum to launch The Caring Touch, we’ve been supported and encouraged by so many amazing small businesses, and I want to give a shout out to Faith at British Chinese Biz for creating such a great community, as well as Bianca of the Mindful Market.

I would also recommend A South London Makers Market and Women of Colour Makers Market as they always highlight amazing small businesses. And it goes without saying, Cheapskate — obv.  

In three words, what makes someone a Londoner?

Curious, resilient, umbrella-wielding (sorry I know that’s cheating!). 

Follow Suyin on Twitter and check out her website here. The Caring Touch can be explored on Etsy and Instagram. All products are handmade in south London, using natural, plant-based ingredients and aromatherapy essential oils.

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