I am *so* excited to be kicking off a new series, Meet the Countryfilles, with uber Editor (think of a glossy and she’s probably beauty edited it) and vintage fashion maven (her online vintage boutique, Lovely’s Vintage Emporium is a serious edit of on-trend vintage pieces) - Lynnette Peck. The new Q&A posts are going to be with inspiring, successful, brilliant women who embody the ‘Countryfille’ ethos. In short, they have led full, exciting, creative lives, working at the top of their chosen fields and have since decamped from the city to live equally glamorously in the country. I’m always inspired to read about women who have made that city-country leap – be it for family, careers or simply that they want a different pace of life – whilst still maintaining their identity and passions.
I’ll hand you over to Lynnette now, as the perfect embodiment of the Countryfille. I’ve asked her to regale us with stories of how she cracked the magazine industry, glamorous anecdotes of early Noughties excess and how life now on the Isle of Wight is shaping up…
Tell us your city story
I moved to London in 1992, after finishing university, with no clue about where I was going to live or how I was going to get a job. I just knew that I wanted to live in Chelsea (high expectations!) and that I wanted to work on a magazine (more high expectations!).
I started out on a sofa at a gay male friend’s mother’s house in East Sheen for three weeks and I took a bus into London on my first day and got off at Hammersmith roundabout thinking it was central London…
I signed on with a temp agency in Hammersmith and they offered me either a six-week typing job in the City or a two-week job as a receptionist for a magazine publishing company. I am sure you can guess which one I took?
Once I was at the magazine company I went straight to the boss (youthful bravado) and asked if he had any jobs. He said he had one as a Compiling Editor on a puzzle magazine but that 250 people had already applied. There was a recession back then, too. I applied, was interviewed and I got the job! I was Editor of Kriss Kross and Cross Reference magazines and stayed there for two and half years.
I managed to rent a room in a shared house on the Fulham Road in Chelsea too (wahoo!) and I lived with a model called Kia (she now lives in LA and is a yoga teacher) and a guy called Johnny who had a sandwich-making company (he now owns and runs a gastro pub near Oxford).
Bingo, I worked in magazines and lived in Chelsea. But, to be able to pay the rent and have a good time I also took a weekend job at a vintage clothes shop on the Kings Road in Chelsea called Steinberg & Tolkien. Working seven days a week was not brilliant but in order to make my way in a new city fresh from university it was the only way I financially survived.
Eventually I worked for magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Eve, Now, Marie Claire and many others and I bought my own flat in Fulham after nine long years of renting. I also put the vintage shop experience to good use as two years ago I launched my own vintage shop, albeit online only, called Lovely’s Vintage Emporium.
With determination and hard work city living can be fulfilling and you can make your dreams come true.
What made you fall in love with London?
I first came to London as a teenager on school trips to classical music concerts at The Royal Albert Hall and I thought it was just the most exciting place I had ever seen. I grew up in a small village near Cambridge, so London was just such a buzz. I then came to Chelsea on a shopping trip at 17 with my then-boyfriend and I vowed that one day I would live there. When I did finally live in London I fell in love with it even more as there was so much to see and do and so many people to look at and observe. It is the high energy that I loved and still love. You feel like anything could happen – and it often does.
Tell us your most glamorous city moment please:
What a hard question! There have been so many as working in magazines can be glamorous at times anyway. My top three are as follows:
1) I dated a famous TV presenter in the Nineties and we used to go to incredible parties and restaurant openings around Notting Hill, where he lived, and it was an up and coming place at the time so I mixed with lots of interesting and creative people.
2) Doing fashion and beauty photo shoots in various locations around London for different magazines was fun – such as shooting vintage cars with models in Hyde Park and summer dresses on models on Tower Bridge.
3) I was also the beauty presenter for LK Today for a couple of years (now called Lorraine) on ITV and we used to often film on the Southbank in summer which was magical. [Editor: you can watch the videos here]
At what point did you realise you needed an exit strategy?
The London bombings in 2005 were a turning point for me as it was obviously very frightening. I was on a tube train that morning and it was only a few tube trains behind the one that got blown up. I felt different about London after that. The city changed and so did I. I also knew someone who was seriously injured. Very unpleasant.
I still lived in London for another three years but I did have it on my mind that it was time to leave and have a different way of life. I was fed up of many things including not being able to park my car – I would spend hours driving around near my flat to find a space. I also started to want more green space and fresh air. I also wanted to live in a bigger space where I could have friends to stay and have dinner parties, plus I wanted a dog. They are all impossible in a one-bedroomed flat. There is only so long you can work hard and party hard before you start thinking that some calm and quiet would be good, too.
What three things did you initially miss most about city living?
Ironically I found it too quiet when I moved to a village in Kent! The only sound in the morning was birdsong which would wake me up. I also hated the fact that by 5pm all the shops would close. It was impossible to go and get a pint of milk or loaf of bread later in the evening, something I had taken for granted in London. I also missed my girlfriends as I knew no one when I moved.
What did you find the most brilliant thing about living in the country?
I loved living in a bigger house, having a drive to park my car and being able to go on the most amazing country walks…with my dog I now had. She is a rescue dog, called Miss Polar, from The Dogs Trust charity in Canterbury and is the best decision I ever made. Forget partying in Chelsea, walking her by a country stream or on a beach makes me feel the happiest.
Did you ever have any ‘what have I done moments’?
In the first 12 months I had many as I missed all the easy convenience of ’24 hour living’ in London and I had to learn to slow down and be patient. People in the countryside like to chat when they are being served in shops for example, so I had to learn to stand and wait and not be in a rush. I also wasn’t used to neighbours being interested in my business, as in London it is so easy to be anonymous, in the village we moved to it seemed everyone wanted to know everything about us.
What ‘city living’ traits have you held on to?
Pretty much everything! I still get my hair blow-dried every now and then and get manicures and pedicures – although of course they are a quarter of the price here. I still go for coffee and subscribe to magazines and wear designer clothes (mixed with vintage and high street as well of course). I sometimes don’t wear make-up when I walk my dog, so that is a change. I have also learned to be much slower as I have had to.
Would you say, on balance you are a city or country girl?
I am now definitely a country girl. Although ideally I would like to be able to afford to live in homes in both and divide my time. Life is about a balance but for now I am living away from the city and is suits me just fine.
What would be your top tip to someone thinking of ditching the city?
Move somewhere in the countryside with shops and lots of people first…then buy somewhere in the middle of nowhere when you have got used to it.
Thank you Lynnette! Such an inspiring read!
Lovely’s Vintage Emporium is the ultimate online vintage boutique for trend-led vintage fashion and accessories and is the inspiration of UK magazine journalist and stylist Lynnette Peck – nicknamed ‘Lovely’ by her friends…she has a distinguished fashion pedigree working on magazines as a fashion & beauty director and editor for twenty-one years with key roles on successful magazines. The online boutique has pieces from the 1920s to the 1980s and in all sizes and to suit all budgets.