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Home

I haven’t been myself of late, I haven’t slept for several days, but coming home I feel like I designed these buildings I walk by

-Station Approach, Elbow

We’d left the flowers in the restaurant. Tulips, ones picked out by the florist by St Anne’s Square. Purple. Served with a mother’s day card, and forgotten in our bustle to get to nearby cocktails with our names on them. I hot-stepped back to the restaurant on a retrieval mission. Mum, nana and sister on the other side of the road waiting, the rare Mancunian blue sky cut into by the clean stone edges of the library behind them. Reappearing through the doors, flowers aloft, they cheer.

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Queuing, rain drizzled, hoodie-hems bunched into my fists. Never leave the house without a brolly, mate. The cars that steam by tear through puddles, shoring onto our ankles. Merchandisers and touts call out to fans, and I pick up a new habit of always buying a knock off tshirt at gigs. The black doors open, and we have our tickets in hand, giddy.

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On the sixth day, God created Manchester

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Every weekend, without fail. No texts, no promises, no arranging. You just turned up, sometimes bringing in a new person. That’s how the group got bigger, swelling week on week, as our gaggle of teens became a crowd. We’d drink Kick, play tinny bands from our phone and occasionally slope off to snog someone. Pooling money to get cider, the high whispers and sharp crackle of skateboard wheels behind.  1pm, Saturday, Urbis.

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Alright, are kid?

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We’d try and wag the train. One of us fooled the inspector by pretending to be asleep, but it only worked once. Mostly we’d pull into our platform, subvert the one way system, and therefore ticket inspectors, by heading upstairs to the MEN Arena foyer. Maybe we’d nip into McDonalds while we were there. The foyer had a separate exit, so we were clean sailing and £1.40 up. My heart would be in my throat the whole time. They blocked that route years back.

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My first ever concert. Nana won tickets on a Key 103 competition, and I had agonised over what to wear. Some girls from year six would be there, and not understanding the size of the arena I thought they might see (and ergo, judge) me. The music was so loud I covered my ears at first. Later, wired by the dancing, I whispered to my sister how much she would have loved it from my bottom bunk.

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I miss your eyelashes and the streets where I grew tall, I miss getting piss wet through, getting to yours and getting warm

-The Opener, The Courteeners

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Girls I Used To Know

I’ve ordered a mocha, and immediately regretted it. The problem with coffee, as opposed to tea, is that once you’ve started to drink it- which you HAVE to, for temperature reasons- it’s game over.

I’m halfway through my mocha, and my date hasn’t even arrived yet. She isn’t late, I was just a little early and was jumped on for an order the moment my shadow graced the front step of this cafe. Now. I’m going to have to either order another coffee when she gets here, or sit here with no drink as she works her way through ordering, waiting and drinking hers. This is the stuff of nightmare, truly.

Before she arrives, I have a few minutes to muse over my nerves. It’s low level nerves, don’t get me wrong, but they are trickling around in the back of my mind. The girl I’m meeting is an old friend. We only met a handful of times at university, and in the years since barely spoken, unless you count Instagram likes- which I do, incidentally. I guess it’s quite scary putting yourself forward for friendship this way.

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She arrives, I sip on my cold mocha and take wistful sideway glances towards the genius on the table next to me who is gleefully pouring and repouring cups of tea from a lovely, warm, teapot. Fucker.

Obviously, she hasn’t noticed my mocha anguish, and we chat away with happy abound. It’s nice to catch up. We haven’t spoken in a few years, and after a few Instagram posts reveal that we pass like ships in the night at various cafes and restaurants, realise we have a very common taste in restaurants. The busy cafe empties out, I buy another coffee, we share doughnuts, we arrange to do this again some time.

Working your way through your twenties, I think it’s a common enough feeling that it’s everyone else having a good time. Fear Of Missing Out, or FOMO for the time-starved. The electricity two people share over a cuppa (gah, of tea or coffee), whether once or recurring, quashes that feeling that seeps in while you scroll endlessly through feeds at home in your bathrobe alone on a Saturday afternoon.

On my way home, I messaged another girl I used to know.

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Prophecies in pubs

I was at a pub in Spinningfields with some people I didn’t know too well. I’d shlepped out to the outskirts of East London (far, so far!) after work to maybe solidify a friendship or two out of a group of women I’d only met once before.

As the evening twinkled on, and as we chatted through a few bottles of red, the conversation turned to careers. These guys were quite media-y, and we compared notes on our bosses, work kitchen sanitation and plans for the future. Radio presenter, author, journalist, screenwriter. Paths paved and journeys halfway through- all going somewhere else with a nervous energy and wicked eyeline flicks.

The group had shrunk a little and I probably had volume-control issues thanks to the Malbec. I declared that all I wanted was a job that was a) interesting b) paid the rent and c) fulfilled me in some way and (drumroll please) d) I had someone to gossip and go for lunch with there.

Now. Judging by the reaction of my coconspiritors, this was asking a little too much from the media industry. We chortled at the likelihood of me finding this special snowflake princess job, and carried on merrily until it was time for the last tube home.

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That morning, I’d had a job interview. I was pretty happy with how it had gone, but post-performance doubt was dripping it’s way in. I wanted it to work out- it hit so many passion points and it felt like the right place to switch things up for me. But, ah well, you never really can tell with these things.

One phonecall in the midst of TK Maxx Christmas hell later… I got the job.

A month or so on, I’ve started my new role. I can’t guarantee it’ll meet my Princess criteria just yet of course, but either way I’m feeling really damn well positive about the whole thing. These women I’d admired – at the same, earlier and later stages of their career journeys- had seemed so full of zing that I can’t help but think this whole dream career thing has a whole lot more to do with attitude than I’d thought.

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Telling a story.

I’m very well versed in the stories of my own life.

I have phrases deftly crafted to get the right levels of hilarity, tension, and tenderness in every anecdote, told firstly at work, then the pub, then at a dinner party, then recounted over email, and perhaps again at work many months later. This effort is so vigorous, that my only concern when sharing one of my tales is that the listener (/reader) might have already been on the receiving end of this one, and therefore notice how nuts I am for using the exact same phrasing twice. Key events (first day of university,  terrible day at the office, trip to Venice, etc) are on hand, script ready at any given moment. In short, my boyfriend’s nickname for me is ‘Farrah Three Stories’.

Obviously everyone does this to some extent. I continue to tell my retellings with a happy heart. So this weekend, when I told a group of strangers a story that left me in tears, I was a little stunned with myself.

I was sat in a fabulous little old lady’s front room talking creative writing at Laura Jane Williams’ How to Write Words People Want to Read. (You might have already noticed, but I have a blog, and I’m doing my darndest to motivate myself into writing for it once more. Hence the creative writing workshop.) Through the magical power of inspiration, empowerment and doughnuts, we were invited to write about the first time we’d met a significant person. Right. Pen to paper.

I worked on it hard and with pride for five hours. It was only when it came to reading it aloud did I realise the impact this one little memory had on me. Each word that had been put down in innocence now formed a narrative about my own life I had ignored before. Through no conscious decision, I had chosen my own #tragicbackstory. How embarrassing.

There are parts of our lives we choose to engage with. Then there are the other parts. They might be boring, sad, embarrassing. We skim past them, we all-out forget about them, we direct our attentions elsewhere. We fill in the gaps with the things we are prepared to engage with. This is our narrative.

Through this workshop I realised that this narrative is a powerful thing- so powerful that it can inadvertently tap into feelings long since thought of. We spent the afternoon together talking technique, inspiration, editing and critiques, but I think the most impactful thing about this day was the very real realisation of the gentle power of telling a story well.

I was at first frustrated with myself- it really doesn’t shout ~be my friend, I’m super cool and creative~ to be bursting into tears like that. I was mortified, mate. Yet here we are, on reflection, and on reading the very sweet message Laura Jane left in my copy of Becoming, I’ve come to see that this lil’ outburst of mine is the best outcome I could have asked for.

I don’t have to resort to the same stories and the same words on rote. There is a creativity lurking about waiting to be caught and put to work, and if crying in a room full of strangers has taught me anything, it’s that I may as well get imaginative with it.