I was born South of the river and spent my first eight years in Streatham. After a ten-year interlude balancing an acting career with exams, it was time to return to the big city to attend university. My first set of keys opened up student accommodation off the Gray’s Inn Road; the second were for a council estate flat in Euston where, as a college drop out, I’d sit in a wornout red cardigan, chain smoking Vogue Menthols out the window of my box room. This progression north led me to a wonky but cosy flat behind the Shell station on Upper Street in Islington where I’d frequently buy my bodyweight in Snickers. I was nineteen, trembling sweatily in the doorway to adulthood.
A year later, I headed to Stoke Newington via Farringdon, where my acting agent took me for high tea one afternoon in Spring. Midway through my third scone, he gently asked if my gippy appendix and wheat intolerance were the reasons why I had become so fat. Regrettably, it was due to rum and kebabs. I decided not to fret, and instead obtained a personal trainer boyfriend with a yoga-teaching mother who both lived in Stokey.
I took to juicing and jogging, and got a part time job at an independent coffee shop. Inside, white walls displayed black murals, mostly indecipherable ‘right-on’ patterns. The shelves bore mini smoothies for kids, arranged as traffic lights, the most popular flavour being ‘red’. In this environment, customers relaxed, leading to a tendency to over share; gladly volunteering their thoughts on the state of the country, their marriage, their guts. Parents let their offspring make an unholy mess, somehow managing to fuse gluten-free cake to table, then generously donate a whole penny into the tip jar before breezing out. The best response was to smile, and stay on a steady drip of soya lattes until the caffeine convulsions became incapacitating. The cornerstone moment was the day someone left behind a copy of selected poems by Dorothy Parker. The precision of her observation