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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Converting London Apathetics, Eating All Day.

Have you ever brought someone to London, or a town you love, and you can just tell they hate it? They make all the right noises, but their eyes linger on the overflowing rubbish bags rather than the mishmash of architecture and people? They say they like it too, yeah, it’s nice… But deep down you just know that they didn’t quite get it- get why you write home about this place all the time?

Well, that’s how I feel about my mum and London. She’s always thought it was a great town for me, but she just couldn’t see it for herself. The crammed in coffee spots I try to convince her are all the rage, the buzzing parks that are on main road roundabouts, the eclectic markets you have to clutch your handbag through. I felt like no trip to visit me ever really gave her the ‘wow’ London had given me when I first visited (emerging from Leicester Square station like the doe-eyed nervous wreck with big dreams I was).

Regent Street

It became my mission to make her love this place as much as I did. Sure, her liking London had no impact on how much fun we had together, but I became a dog with a bone- constantly extolling the values of no-reservations-restaurants and the Oxford Street Primark (if you go midweek, duh).

Well, I think I cracked it. If you need a foolproof plan for convincing your nearest and dearest of the virtues of London, feel free to use this as a guide. Mum left town with that spring in your step that helps you navigate the tube system like a pro.

Nata tarts and two flat whites from the Soho Grind, drank and eaten in the glory of Kingly Court.

Soho Grind Nata

Soho Grind, Kingly Court

Meander through Carnaby Street boutiques through to Soho- get to the restaurant you’ve been lusting after (no bookings policy, obv) at an earlier lunch. This week’s restaurant crush was Hoppers.

Ramble on about the delights of London food scene as you gnash your way through mutton rolls, chicken heart, lamb kari, dosa and egg hoppers (or similar).

Hoppers London

Chicken heart, Hoppers

Egg Hopper London

Refuse dessert when the waitress offers, instead head to Crosstown Doughnuts. Don’t let your mum see the price list, just buy one and get out. She’d rather not know.

Crosstown Doughnuts

Go to an understated London icon- i.e. give B’ham Palace a miss, go to Liberty instead. Spend forever pointing at designer retro clocks shrieking ‘I had one of those in the 90s!’ and balk at the price tags of hand cream. Buy trinkets. Get samples. Take selfies.




Head home, nip into your local boozer for a swift half and lounge by open fire. Decide on cooking an elaborate Italian meal and venture to three mini supermarkets and a deli. Head home, eat, wine, fall asleep on the couch.

Trust me on this- the conversion rate is so far 100%.