Olds Friends

The week after I finished my journalism course I became a business reporter.

It was not a great time to be alive. 

I'll insert a Venn diagram to explain it:

As part of my job (the only bit that was remotely bearable) I covered social events in the business world.

I met Daniel at one such event, a charity dinner. He was the PR guy for the organisers. I didn’t want to like Daniel because...PR...but he turned out to be alright. 

We were put on the same table as the evening's entertainment: a magician. The magician seemed to be very on edge and emotional. I overheard as he explained to a child that he used to be a very famous actor.  Grim. After the meal, he pulled ten pence from behind my ear. He was pretty good, I mean, how did my salary get behind my ear?

Daniel was a bright spot on the evening. He was funny and thoughtful and we had enough in common for a viable friendship to commence and so we did that. We lived in the same neighbourhood and hung out on the weekends in Hyde Park and Holland Park.

Daniel gave me Stag's Leap by Sharon Olds when it came out in 2012. It's a collection of poems about the end of her marriage and hope that comes with healing. Olds won the T.S.Eliot Prize in 2012 and a Pulitzer prize for it in 2013.

I changed jobs, flats and some life stuff happened. We lost touch and three years passed. 

About a month ago I had to travel across town to a meeting. Mid-meeting I remembered that he worked in the same building. As I had no other means of contacting him, I sent him a message through Linkedin (who knew that would be useful?) 

Anyway, to conclude the story, he’d moved to China and wasn’t in the building. We're now back in touch. Good news. 

Parting gifts

Easyjet sent this email recently:

Far from being freaked out that the company still held this data, I thought fondly of that Easyjet flight, which cost just £10.

Flights on budget airlines aren't typically things you get nostalgic and dewy-eyed over, but this one was different.

I was making my way to the university of my dreams and I also met one of my best friends on that flight, Julia.

Julia was a visiting student from Canada. We were assigned to the same hall of residence. After we landed in Edinburgh we boarded a university-bound bus. On the way to our hall, our luggage got lost.

Julia and I had to go to our first formal event that evening (dress code: black tie) in Birkenstocks and flip flops, respectively.

One of my favourite memories was at an Ancient Greek-themed ball, instead of dressing up as a toga-clad goddess, which is what every other girl did, she went as Medusa. She wore a brown dress, Birkenstock sandals and clipped long rubber snakes into her hair. It was so weird and so funny. 

The day before she returned to Canada, she gave me Birthday Letters, a collection of poems about Sylvia Plath by Ted Hughes (I like Sylvia Plath) I think it had just been released and I hadn't read it yet. It was really thoughtful. 

The message on the inside cover of the book had a summary of our greatest times and a quote by R.L. Stephenson.

“We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.”


Gift of the week: Friendship Bracelets

Aged ten, I came back from holiday in the Bahamas with six friendship bracelets made by a lady on the beach. 

I gave them all to one dinner lady, Mrs. H. 

Read into that what you will.

Here are the loveliest friendship bracelets I can find.

Throwback Thursday: Pineapple? Fineapple!

A post in which I find out whether it's possible to give someone a serious pineapple-themed gift.



When I was in America earlier this month, my friend Laurie asked me for gift ideas for her friend, Sarah.

The only thing Laurie told me about Sarah was that she liked pineapples and wore silk kimonos.

An actual pineapple was vetoed and novelty pyjamas were out.

This was the ultimate test of my gift-giving abilities. As I was out of my natural environment, I couldn’t suggest any shops in San Francisco that would sell something both pineapple-y and desirable. We went to Jonathan Adler on Fillmore Street but a trip there proved fruitless, literally.

My suggestions fell short. I was a fish flopping about on dry land.

I failed.

In idle moments since getting back to London, I thought about that challenge. Could a chic pineapple gift be done? Was it ridiculous to give a pineapple-themed gift to someone?

I wondered why I thought so much about pineapple-related gifts and then it hit me.


I remembered seeing a painting of Charles II receiving a pineapple.  If Queen Elizabeth II commissioned a painting of her receiving a pineapple, you'd raise an eyebrow. But in the 17th Century, it was a mark of wealth and privilege. 

When pineapples were first available to buy in the 1700s, a single fruit cost the equivalent in today’s money of £5,000 (about $7,000).

Pineapples weren’t a ridiculous point of inspiration for gifts! They had a noble provenance!

And like the comeback you deliver too late, one month later, here are my pineapple suggestions.  

San Fran, The Beats & A Gift For Laurie

I am not a daring person. I never swim out of my depth, I am always several hours early for flights and I won’t let a dog lick my face.

On that last point, I don’t hate dogs. It’s just that I once witnessed a dog jump in and out of a pond and then lick his owner's eye. His wide-open eye. I'm 100% sure that can cause blindness.

Being risk-averse means that traveling alone isn’t something which appeals to me. But inspired by the wisdom in Kylie Jenner’s video, I’m trying to make 2016 the year of realising and doing stuff.

So last week, I threw caution to the wind and flew to San Francisco. I'm 'into' American poetry from the 1950s onward. I wanted to visit the home of the Beat Generation, see Vesuvio Café where the writer Allen Ginsberg drank with Jack Kerouac and visit City Lights Bookstore.

I contacted my friend Laurie who lives in San Francisco to ask if she was around to meet up. Without a second thought, she invited me to stay at her flat and booked a day off work to hang out. That's the kind of excellent-hearted person she is. 

I told her about the literary sights I wanted to see. She hadn’t come across the Beats before which was great for me because it meant that I got to talk about it at length. It occurred to me that it had been a long time since I had confidently talked about something which actually mattered to me without saying: ‘Sorry, I’ve been talking for ages’ or ‘Sorry, I'm being geeky’ or 'Sorry, this probably isn't interesting'. 

It also occurred to me that it had been a long time since I’d found someone willing to listen. Unlucky, Laurie!

So together we went to City Lights and read some poems, bought some books and had a drink at Vesuvio. 

To thank her for hosting me and for being a good friend (one who can bear to be a tourist when she is really a local) I decided on a trio of Jo Malone gifts, a jumper, fresh flowers selected by a lovely lady called Courtney from the Floral Loft and a meal at AQ (which I'd heard was awesome - confirmed).

I'm glad I found and embraced my pioneer spirit in San Francisco, if only for a few days. 

It seems appropriate to end the post with a quote from Kerouac's Desolation Angels:

— Jack Kerouac


Here are some pictures from my visit. They include stops at City Lights, The Japanese Tea Gardens in Golden Gate Park, Alamo Square, Twitter HQ and Pier 39.