London Eye - Stig Nygaard - Creative Commons Photo

I published my second book, London Eyes, this month and some of you are already reading it.

It’s hard to explain how that feels. The best description I can come up with is that it’s like somebody going through a drawer full of your best underwear. While it feels very personal and invasive, you’re also quite proud of your fine silk undies so you don’t actually mind and you very much hope the snooper likes what they see.

Gosh, that was a really bad way for me to encourage you to read my book.

I can promise you that the metaphors are much better in London Eyes, and that it’s an underwear free zone… Ish. Because this book is a collection of short stories about London, very much inspired by the time I spent living in London during my twenties. I was single, I was taking the first steps of my professional career and I was going on a string of dates with unsuitable men. Of course, not all of the dates were bad, but they often didn’t amount too much.

What did amount to something were those journeys I made across the city to meet up with men, or my friends or to simply get to know the city a little better on my own. I spent those hours walking, hopping on Tubes, spending too much on black cabs and (eventually – see below) sitting on double-decker buses (on the front seat at the top, if possible) absorbing the streets of London and trying to figure out the stories of those who surrounded me.

London Eyes Cover - Frances M Thompson

When it came to sitting down and writing London Eyes, I already had an idea of what I wanted to write (stories of bad dates, of weird encounters on night buses, and about the daily struggles and triumphs of my fellow Londoners) but I because I’d already left London to travel indefinitely, I still needed some visual stimulation.

And so I did what all high-brow authors do when they commence research on their new literary masterpiece.

I went on Pinterest and started collecting photos of London.

Now the book is published and hopefully being enjoyed by readers (I’m pretty sure I didn’t leave any old greying pants in there) I can share with you a little bit about the photos I found and kept going back to which also inspired the stories I wrote about the good, the bad, the ugly and the downright odd sides of London. And read on to find out how you can get one of the stories for free.

Black cabs of London


I love how iconic and instantly “London” the black cab is. Although they are now found all over the world, whenever I see one I can’t help but  think “LONDON”.

Famous for knowing the city “like the back of their hand”, a London cab driver – or “cabby” – doesn’t get to know London on the job, it is actually a pre-requisite for getting the job. The Knowledge of London – or “the Knowledge” or “the blue book” – is comprehensive test that examines a driver’s awareness and memory of London streets. It can take some taxi drivers many years to pass the Knowledge and few pass it after less than two years study. With this in mind I wanted to write a story about a London taxi driver that paints him as much more than just a driver. So in Keep the Change I created Mick, London’s most flirtatious cabby who likes to chat up the women he picks up in his taxi.. But why exactly?

If you’d like to know more about The Knowledge, this is a great article and I loved reading this interview with a London cabby so much I used a quote from it to introduce Keep the Change.

The girl in the red jumper

Girl in the red jumper in London - Frances M Thompson
I snapped this shot of a girl wearing a bright red jumper and photographing Trafalgar Square from the top deck of a tour bus. It was my first time being a proper tourist in London and it got me thinking about how so many people live in London but never see the things that tourists do. This was the basis of the story, The Tourist, with a little twist, as the woman on her first tour bus (after 21 years of living in London) is also newly divorced so her journey around the centre of London is something of a bittersweet trip down memory lane…

On a totally separate note, I do really recommend taking a bus tour of London. You’ll learn a lot…

Abandoned Underground Stations


More a map than a photo I have spent many hours looking up the locations of abandoned Tube stations online (yes, you can call me a geek!). I’ve always been interested in the disused stations on the London Underground network. All that effort, all that hope for a place to give people access to travel across London’s vast sprawl, and then nothing. In fact some London Underground stations were only open for a few decades, or in the case of poor King William Street, just 10 short years. Many of the abandoned tube stations are visible throughout London. Keep your eyes open for the maroon tiles of Aldwych or Strand station on The Strand, and the old arches of one entrance to the Hyde Park Corner Tube station now houses a restaurant, but the really interesting spaces lie under our feet as there are miles and miles of abandoned platforms and tunnels that are prime hunting ground for (admittedly illegal) urban explorers.

In my story, The Ghosts of London Underground, I give the abandoned Underground lines a new purpose. That’s right, they host the ghosts of London and act as a sort of sorting office for whatever their next destination may be… (You can read a short extract here.) And this website is a must-peruse if you’re equally as interested in the abandoned stations on the London Underground.

Shepherd’s Bush Market

Shepherd's Bush Market Sign - Frances M Thompson

I lived in Shepherd’s Bush for four years before I left London to travel indefinitely so it was always going to serve as the setting for at least one of my stories. Because I knew the area so well, I felt that I could be a bit more creative with the storyline and so in A to Zed I wrote about two teenage boys who are truanting from school. They spend their day following “A” a local gangster who they try and pluck up the courage to ask for work. The results and A’s own story are not what they expect.

In the story the boys spend eat fried chicken opposite the entrance to Shepherd’s Bush Market and one of them notices that the entrance sign to the market has changed. I know it sounds strange, but when this did actually happen I felt sort of sad that they old sign had gone. Isn’t it funny that in an ever-changing city like London, we can feel a little upset when something we’re so used to changes?

By the way, Shepherd’s Bush is a great place to be based during a stay in London. You’re connected to the rest of the city by the Overground and Underground and numerous buses, plus you’ll be likely to find cheaper and more spacious accommodation here. There’s also plenty of restaurants, bars and shops to keep you busy locally.

St Mary-le-Bow Church

Inside St Mary Le Bow Church by Frances M Thompson

It felt impossible to write a book about London without making at least one reference to the unwritten rule that defines who is and isn’t a cockney. Although I was unable to identify who it was who first said it, it has long been considered that being born within earshot of the church bells of St Mary-le-Bow church on Cheapside in the City of London is what makes you a true cockney. While centuries ago this would have included a vast area of many miles, nowadays London’s noise levels mean that much fewer real cockneys are born anymore.

For nearly two years, I actually worked just around the corner from St Mary-le-Bow but I never actually went inside. On one of my trips home recently I did just that and was so moved by the calm inside that I decided to write a story called The Wedding Bells of Bow about a wedding which takes place there. (If you’ve already read Shy Feet, you may actually recognise the couple too!)

If you’re into history of buildings and famous London architecture I encourage you to read more about the church here, as it was designed by the architect Christopher Wren who was also responsible for the magnificent St Paul’s Cathedral which is just a short walk away from St Mary-le-Bow.

An elephant and a castle

Elephant & Castle

I knew I wanted to set one of my stories in a part of London not many people know much about, though I’m not sure why I chose Elephant & Castle.

Famous for being home to Ministry of Sound nightclub, it’s not a neighbourhood I know well but I used to find myself there for nights out and always found it strange that there weren’t many bars in the direct vicinity of the club. This is especially strange because the name of the area took its name from a pub called the Elephant & Castle, though there is some discussion about the origin of the name. I decided to change this in my story The Wizard of Elephant & Castle. Because I was also feeling romantic, I made the Wizard a barman who makes magic cocktails that make people on dates fall in love with each other… See, I did tell you the stories were influence by my dating history, and how badly I could have done with the Wizard of Elephant & Castle’s magic back then!

The cat in the window of a London pub

Cat in London pub window - Source Reuters

I have to credit my boyfriend with coming up with the idea for the story that is Routines, and for suggesting it include a cat as one of the main characters. Considering most of his story suggestions involve robots and time travel, this was one I was very keen to write.

The story of how strangers’ routines intersect one another and how when one person’s routine changes it can impact all the others wasn’t originally going to be set in London – in fact, I was thinking of using my current home Amsterdam as the city – but then I stumbled upon this photo of a cat sitting in the window of a London pub. The cat looked so peculiar with his legal collar and off-centre black beard that I couldn’t forget him. Although the cat in Routines, Mr Bojangles, is nothing like the cat in this photo, who has quite the story (his name is Ray Brown and he is dressed like a judge because his home is the Seven Stars in Holborn, where lots of law firms and courts are based) in my head, this is exactly Mr Bojangles’ expression as he watches his neighbours’ lives cross over one another.

You can read an extract here.

Double Decker Buses

Double Decker Buses in Kensington

I never used to like travelling by London bus. I was always quicker to jump on a Tube. But then my friend, who always travelled by bus, forced me to go on one with her and I realised how much more you saw of London. It’s like your very own personal tour of the city. Until you get stuck in traffic or some smelly person falls asleep on your shoulder… But sometimes you have no choice because the Underground closes fairly early (last trains are normally all finished running before 1am) night buses are often your cheapest way of getting home after a night out.

You only have to go on a night bus once to realise how many “characters” you’ll meet on one. And that in a nutshell was the inspiration behind Night Bus, a story of one young woman’s life-changing meeting on the number 94 night bus heading home from the West End to… you guessed it, Shepherd’s Bush.

And if you’d like to read Night Bus right now you can! It’s completely free to download from Amazon’s Kindle store until FRIDAY 26th September only. Enjoy!

All photos by Frankie except: London Eye, London Cabs, Abandoned Tube Stations and Ray Brown the Cat.


This post was written by Frankie Thompson who was a Travelette from 2012 – 2015. Originally from London, UK, Frankie was nomadic for several years before settling in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, where she lives with her Australian partner and baby boy. She spends her time buying vintage dresses, riding a rusty old bike around the canals and writing books inspired by her travels. Frankie blogs about travel, writing and motherhood at As the Bird flies blog.