Why I do London Dreamtime: A true story

I started London Dreamtime as a response to a life-changing event you can read about it at the bottom of this blog post.

I’ve always loved London’s hidden corners but after that night I realised their power- I became obsessed with the city’s secret magic and wanted to share it with anyone who would take the plunge and join me.

I believe the city is for everyone and we shouldn’t need official permission to use and enjoy it, so I don’t ask for permission. I really hope storytelling can be for everyone too, so I try not to charge too much!

Storytelling and London seem to be the perfect partners. The streets and gardens are full of enchantment and atmosphere. A story is the perfect excuse to experience the city and the city is a  great excuse to lose yourself in a story.

And so I hunt out the most special secret magical corners in London and aim to fill them with amazing but simply-told stories and live music. If you want to come, have a look on the calendar, find one you like, turn up, experience the magic and drop your coins in our hat at the end. Just send me an email vanessa@londondreamtime.com to reserve your space.

This is a true story but the names have been changed:

1997. London was in the grip of a heatwave. I was lying in bed in my flat trying to sleep. I lived in Soho.

My latest flatmate was a small charming person who bleached his hair with a toothbrush and used Flora as a lubricant.

He had many friends who were all devoted to him.

That night he was out, as usual.

“Hey! Niko!” 

I sat up. This woman was outside, screaming, calling to be let in. I should say that, unlike Niko, I’m not the sort of person who likes inviting strange people into the house. I pretended I was out too, but she just bowled louder.

After about ten minutes of shouting I stuck my head out. “He’s not in!”

She was tall and blonde. “Oh thank Gahhd!!” she cried when she saw me. “Can I come in and wait for him? Please!”

I went down and opened the door.

She hurried up the stairs after me, jabbering thankyou thankyou… As she came into the light, I saw she was wearing a black flared jumpsuit with flames up the legs.

“Oh you like it?” she caught my eye and smiled. “It’s my Elvis outfit. It’s got Velcro on every seam cause it used to belong to a stripper.”

I pointed her towards Niko’s door, but she ignored the hint and followed me into my room.

“Thank you so much for letting me come in!” she repeated. “You don’t know how much you’ve saved me. I’ve been speeding like a fuck all day and I was stuck in this shitty little booth. You know I work in this little theatre? I bend over like this and men look at my rear eight hours a day. It’s not a bad job eh, it’s alright, but it was so hot today, it was like being buried alive inside this little hot box, you know?”

She leaned over the TV and circled her hips demonstrating the dance she did.

“I was getting more and more scared, like I couldn’t breathe, and I was in hell… or dying for real.”

“That sounds awful…” I said weakly.

She nodded and plonked herself down on the bed. “I thought all the guys were, like, devils… Anyway. I’m Stace. I guess Niko told you about me?”

I nodded vaguely. And guessing added “Aren’t you in a band?”

She beamed. “Have you seen our video? It’s the best!” She scampered into Niko’s room and produced a videocassette.

“Lick the Pole?”

“Yeah, that’s the name of our band. Watch this!”

She put the video on. Over the fuzz and noise I could see her- thrashing- blonde hair flying.

I still remember the lyrics:

“We’re Lick the Pole! Believe the hype

We had to become rockers cause we couldn’t learn to type…”

Stace danced along. “You like it? And the great thing is it’s true… We’re such a bunch of goofs!”

She lay back on my bed, covering herself over with my duvet. Then she threw it off, and wiped her face, dislodging a false eyelash.

“Oh Fuck!” she cried. “Have you got any glue? It’s so hot.”

She was right, the heat was relentless. After a minute’s useless work, she tore off her other eyelash. “I’m so glad you invited me in.” she said, yet again. “I feel so fuckin’ grim. I can’t shake that feeling, like death is all around. I just want to cool off.”

Then I had an idea. “Do you like swimming?”


“Shall we go swimming now? On Hampstead Heath?”

“Okay” she said.

So I grabbed a swimming costume and we went downstairs to my Datsun. Rolling down the window, Stace picked out a tape. “Jerry Lee Lewis, man! This guy fuckin’ rules. How did you know I love Jerry Lee?”

She maxed the volume, and we drove rowdily up the hill to Hampstead, round the back of Gospel Oak, and through the sleeping mansions of West Hill.

We pulled up in a cul-de-sac.  I clicked off the music.

Silence rushed in.

I grew up by Hampstead Heath. The landscape, the trees and the ponds were mapped directly onto my brain. I knew exactly where we were.

“Where the fuck are we?” Stace whispered, giggling.

“This way.” I tugged her arm. The moon popped out,

and for a moment we saw the side of a hill. It was covered with waist-length grass, completely dry, white in the moonlight, like a negative. The trees were black shapes. The moon went in again, and the scene dimmed.

Thunder growled slightly. Stace skipped along beside me, completely trusting. Finally we came to the pond.

I knew that the sign said “Ladies only” but you couldn’t read it. It was so easy to climb over the fence! Stace and I walked together down the narrow path; smelling the fresh muddyness of water. Reeds, webs and leaves brushed against us on both sides.

Then we came to the pond itself- It was large, black, and shiny as patent leather. Trees bent over both sides. You could just about make out the white blobs of the ducks.

“It’s really cold…” I warned.

“I don’t care!”  Stace declared. “I grew up in Canada. I used to go swimming in the rivers, and they were icebuckets man.”

She tore off her clothes and, without a blink of hesitation, dived into the water.

I climbed down the steps after her.

With a splash, Stace’s head burst up. “This is RAD!” she cried. “This is so fuckin’ rad!”

We spent about twenty minutes sploshing around. Stace was out of her mind with joy. She dived and swooped, tearing through the water like a mermaid, sometimes laughing, sometimes reminiscing about her childhood riding horses in Canada.


Niko didn’t stay much longer in my flat. One day he got more drunk than usual. Tearful and angry, he set light to his collection of pornography, making a bonfire on his bed. As the fire got out of control, he tried to calm it down by throwing the burning pages out of the window onto passers by.

Sadly, I realised that he had to go.

After he went, I lost touch with his friends. I didn’t see any more of Stace. But a while back I did bump into one of her bandmates, a small thin gentleman with scarlet hair. He smiled and shook my hand. “Well fancy- it’s you!” he said, asking how I was. “Stace is always talking about this amazing night you and she had together on Hampstead heath. She’ll never forget it, she reckons.”

“What’s she up to now?” I wondered.

His face fell. “I can’t really say.” He said. “I mean it’s private. She’s in a bit of trouble. She’s not that well right now.”

“I hope she gets better.”

“So do I.” He said. “I really hope she does. It’s up to her.”

I never found out if she got better. But I’ll never forget that night either.