30 Years

They met in the Yemen. Of all places. My mum was on holiday and my dad was working out there. I’ve heard the tale enough times that it took on an Arabian Nights quality long ago. There were years of long distance love letters to follow, a year in Greece and a life to start again. Then, on March 22nd 1984, they got married in London’s Chelsea Town Hall. They celebrated over lunch with all the friends and family that could make it and drove back to their new home that night. 3 weeks later I arrived.

I’ve always thought of us as the three musketeers, the three of us taking on the world. But today is all about the two of them. I wish I was celebrating with them but instead I’ve raided my photo albums as a toast to my two favourite people…

With parents age 5





IMG_0250Folk music always makes me think of my dad, of the toddler version of myself watching him strum his guitar strings, and there’s a Simon and Garfunkel song playing in the background this morning, “Still crazy after all these years”. Perfect timing, as always.

What to hope for?

As I type this my twitter feed is ticking in front of me, telling me that the boat is surrounded, that the man thought to be one of the Boston marathon bombers, is about to be caught. They have him. He’s alive. The suspect is in custody.

My feed has gone quiet now. What next? What now do we hope will unfold?

In the rush of silence I think of all the horror and heroism of the past week. Of all the ways that people felt fragile and vulnerable and frightened. All of the ways people mentioned how grateful they felt for their loved ones, how tightly they held on to one another.

It has been a long week, we’re all looking for a silver lining.

It seems like a strange time to be celebrating, and yet, on Tuesday night I had a chance to do just that. I was lucky enough to get to be around a lot of people I love. I got to laugh with them, and hug them and thank them for all the ways they changed my life. On Tuesday, April 16th, I had the book launch for Out With It.


It was a night of hours that skidded by too fast. It was gilded, better than I could have ever imagined. There was a billboard in Times Square and a sold out bookstore. It was a night made memorable for all the right reasons.

FB - Crowd at BookCourt

Now, in the aftermath of everything, I think about all the outcomes that we look towards. In the face of disappointments and disasters, what kind of recovery do we hope for?

In the wake of celebration, what then do we hope will happen?

A small part of me gets to hope for big dreams, for Out With It to change the conversation around perfection and normalcy. A much bigger part of me just hopes that a few people read it. I wonder what people will think of it, what they will think of me.

In the aftermath of everything I feel immensely vulnerable. I feel fragile knowing that my book, this thing I looked at in the privacy of my home for almost 5 years, is now out in the world waiting to be judged.

I hope that people like it. I hope I don’t look like a fool. I hope that it does some good to as many people as possible. I hope that the joy I felt on Tuesday will carry me through whatever challenging times, and wonderful times, lie ahead. Looking around an apartment full of cards, and flowers and notes from people I love, I hope that I will always feel as grateful as I do tonight.


Vulnerability and Public Speaking

I’m not sure who would constitute my most intimidating audience, but speaking to a roomful of over 100 Brooklyn hipsters ranks pretty highly.

Public Speaking - PPN

Image courtesy: Andy Gillette and PPN

It is hard to be as fascinating as the guy who speaks for 15 minutes about Peruvian Ayahuasca and ends his sincere talk with an impromptu song inspired by the plant he spent a month talking to. Or the scantily-clad Meta-Physical Jesus, or the man who recounts a story about a possessed Raggedy Anne doll.

It is hard to stand up without any persona, or any shield.

By the time I walked up to take the stage at Bushwick’s monthly speaking series, Presentation Party Night, beer cans were spilling out of the rubbish bins, the room was debating the meaning of virtuous womanhood and I was fully aware of the involuntary shaking that had taken over my left leg.

I was nervous in a way that I haven’t been for a while. Perhaps it was because I was speaking to people who had no idea about stuttering, perhaps it was because I’d left my glasses at home and I could barely see the audience, perhaps I was worried about being vulnerable in front of a bunch of strangers.

Either way I held up the mic to my lips and began to speak into the wide expanse of the room.

Public Speaking at PPNI talked about perfection, about my childhood, about the science of stuttering and the humanity of it. I talked about setting off on a adventure to find a cure and instead falling in love and embracing my ‘weakness’ as my greatest strength.

The hum of the heating-system ebbed and flowed, one guy’s phone rang loudly and the crowd laughed once or twice but largely the place was silent. My voice rumbled and broke into the mic. I slipped into repetitions and fell out of them, I smiled and paused and my leg continued to shake to the beat of its own manic rhythm.

By the end I was spent, I’d given all I could to the speech. It hadn’t been easy but it hadn’t been terrible. It had been honest.

And afterwards, after the cheers and the questions, I have never had so many people come up to me. Each person related my story back to themselves, back to their struggles and their triumphs. They told me about their lives and they asked me more about stuttering. My gratitude to them, to all their joy and compassion, is boundless.

If anyone reading this in NY has a subject that they feel able to speak about for 10 minutes, I can’t recommend PPN enough. Speaking up, making people laugh or cry, encouraging them see the world a little differently – what would you rather be doing on a Sunday night?

Fiercely holding on to joy

Saturday was a strange day. The morning and the evening were wonderful, giggling and telling stories with friends in the city, but the afternoon was quiet and teary. Neither Jeremy or I could get off the sofa. We held hands but didn’t talk much. We both felt useless, drowning quietly in horrific, imagined images.

Newtown has been covered from every perspective, gun regulation and mental disorders have been explored from every angle by every wing of the press. I won’t re-hash their arguments here. Suffice to say the situation has to change, it is not enough to simply grieve, the steady stream of gun violence has to stop. But, in the meantime, it is worth hugging the people we love a little more fiercely, remembering what others have lost and focusing on the joy in our lives.

There’s something about the holidays that, despite the stress of gift-shopping and food prepping and travelling, is inherently joyful: friends hauling a hulking fir tree down the street; Christmas carolers drowning out the crazies on the subway; mince pies baking in the oven; frosty fingers thawing on mugs of hot mulled wine; families telling stories over the crackle of a fire.

This year, despite all the sadness, I have so much to be thankful for: an amazing family, friends I love and a city that really feels like home. This Christmas we are celebrating even more than normal because…

Jeremy proposed!

He asked me while we were away on holiday up in Vermont. After a day spent walking through the evergreens and eating one of the most amazing meals of our life (at this restaurant) Jeremy got down on one knee and asked if I would marry him. I hadn’t realized how over-whelmed I would feel but I managed to get out a yes before he had even slipped the ring on to my finger (between quite a few tears).


So, on Saturday, I held the hand of the man I love and leaned towards all the joy around us and away from all the fear and blame.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season!


We have a friend who is currently solo hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. If you’ve not heard of it, the trail is a 6 month, 2,650-mile trek from the Mojave Desert to the Cascades, it is a never-ending snake trailing up the spine of the central west.

His journey is the kind of adventure that terrifies me. Yet, sitting at my desk in Brooklyn, I can see its appeal. Years ago, early on in our relationship, Jeremy and I spent months camping in the wilderness, hitch-hiking and trekking through sections of the emptier parts of America.

It was a time before we had a business and, as much as we adore the life we have now, we both miss that sense of undiluted freedom.

So, with that in mind, we decided to go hiking this weekend. Not exactly backpacking across the country, but a start at least.

We packed a few bottles of water, some granola bars, a bag of dried cherries, a couple bagels and set off for Bear Mountain. Just over an hour from the city, it offered a long drive past a smattering of mirror-smooth lakes, the promise of a few hours of lush hiking and the treat of a post-workout swim. The perfect city escape on a steamy weekend.

The car park was packed when we arrived and the lawns were strewn with families picnicking. We picked up a bare-bones map from the visitor’s centre and started out on a 6 mile loop. We were almost disappointed. We had come to escape the city crowds and yet, with all those cars, we expected that there would be only one or two trails littered with eager hikers.

We quickly realized that we were wrong. We saw 5 people in the first two hours and none after that. And there were hundreds of trails, crisscrossing each other across the lush forest, with only the occasional dollop of a paint marking to lead the way. We lost our trail and then picked it up again, or thought we did. We lost our way on the map, carried on walking for miles and then thought we found it again. Neither of us had even been lost on a hike before. Starting in New York seemed unlikely, embarrassing even.

Then we ran out of water. We had hiked for close to 10 miles and had no idea where we were. Our map only showed one trail, one trail which we had ventured far, far off. Our phones had intermittent reception. We started tripping over rocks. We told jokes, cursed when we lost the paint markers, looked at our watches and ate the last of our granola bars.

Finally, we ran into a guide, one of those efficient types with iodine tablets at the ready and a GPS unit strapped to his backpack. He shook his head at us, told us off for being so foolish. Then he feed and watered us and sent us on our way again, with the warning, “Take the red and white makers down this trail and then, when you see a blue maker, follow it to the right. The blue is hard to see but don’t miss it. If you miss it, you’ll go even further into the woods and then, you’ll be shit out of luck.”

Shit out of luck, is not the kind of phrase that you ignore. It is the kind of phrase that makes you certain to scour every tree for a goddamn blue marker. Luckily, 6 hours after we had set off, we got back to our car, sweaty, scratched and aching after an unexpectedly grueling 15 mile hike.

I’ll admit that it was a tad scary, and we were more than a tad foolish, but it was good to know that we could get lost an hour from the city. It was comforting to remember that nature still makes the rules, and that, for all the urban chaos of the city, there is still wilderness on our doorstep.

The best thing about England is the people

I just got back from two weeks in England and everyone in New York has been asking me what I got up to. Did I go see the amazing Hopper exhibition? No, but I heard it was fabulous. Did I eat at any of the restaurants I mentioned on my last post? No, but I did eat out a lot. Did I merrily peddle around the London canals on the Boris bikes? Sort of, for a brief time, before I realized that I was wearing a skirt and not entirely opaque tights. Did I catch the stage production of The King’s Speech? No, but from all accounts it was wonderful and I wish I did. Did I gorge on every food stall with free samples at Borough market? Yes, finally I did do one thing that I was planning on do.

Borough market England

Honestly, I didn’t do many of the things I had planned to do in London. I didn’t have time to play tourist in my own city because, well, I spent 2 weeks laughing.

That is not to say that I did nothing. I went to two fabulous hen parties and two amazing weddings, I went out to eat with old friends, went on long country walks and had a very decadent afternoon tea at the Mandarin Oriental. And yet, what I remember most was how much I laughed. I laughed so much that my cheeks hurt at the end of the day and my mascara ended up running in unattractive lines down my face. All that laughing had very little to do with where I was (London was rather rainy apart from two sunny days) but who I was with.


My friends have somewhat unfortunately ended up scattered across the globe. England has a smattering of amazing school friends in London, Sunderland, Bristol and Edinburgh but from that point onwards it all gets rather aggravatingly international. Oman, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Dubai, New York…you would think that we hated each other from the way we have all fled out across the globe. Luckily, we have email and Skype and all sorts of other fancy tech to keep us in touch. But there is nothing quite like being together. Nothing quite like watching someone bust out a hilarious dance move, or cry as they try to tell a joke, or laugh so hard they snort and then laugh some more. There are some things that you just can’t capture over the computer.

Luckily, I have enough happy memories to keep me going until the next time we get together and I’d rather have those memories than a checklist of sites seen any day.

London Calling: travel plans for a British adventure

In the very near future I will be travelling back to this place:

Travel to England

It has been over 18 months since I was last on British soil and I’m very excited to catch up with some of my amazing friends. I’ll be staying in London for most of the trip and I’m starting to make a dream list of all the places I want to go while I’m there. So far these have made it to the top of my list…

  1. Spending a Sunday mincing around Columbia Road Market and hopefully making it over here for a cupcake or two.
  2. Feasting over a vegetarian lunch with my mum at Ottolenghi.
  3. Making it back to my old neighbourhood for a rarified pub dinner at the Albion.
  4. Stinking up my luggage with some of the exceptional cheese from La Fromagerie.
  5. Poking my head around the bookshelves here before settling down to some afternoon tea and cake.
  6. Taking a cultural break for all the gluttony at the Tate Modern and the National History Museum.
  7. Getting to Borough Market early enough on a Friday to miss the crowds and settle down for some people watching at Monmouth while cradling a mug of cup.
  8. Renting a couple bikes to check out the park life with Jeremy. Taking a ride along the edge of Regent’s Canal.
  9. Escaping the city for a couple days with some friends and messing around on the seaside.

British seaside

I’m loyal to my favourite places but this time I have told myself that I should break out of the mould and explore some new spots that are supposed to be amazing. I’m saving up my pennies for here…

St John London

St John’s

And here…

Dock Kitchen London

Dock Kitchen

And hopefully here…

Rochelle Canteen London

Rochelle Canteen

No doubt, there are lots of other gems that I should explore. To those of you who know the city better than I do, where else should I put on my list?

New York Adventures: Joining the polar bears

2012 in New York started out on a good note. Or rather it started out on a very high pitched scream.

new york polar bearsMy voice roared as the cold water hit my ankles. I stopped screaming as my toes started to go numb and I lost all feeling in my arse. In mute admiration I watched Jeremy dive under the water for the third time. We had decided to kick, or rather swim, off 2012 with the Coney Island NY Polar Bears. Hangovers and sanity forgotten, hundreds of us had decided to storm the shockingly cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Polar Bear Club founderAccording to the impressively named Polar Bear Club founder, Bernarr Macfadden, a winter dip in the ocean could improve one’s stamina, virility and immunity. The club had been going strong since 1903 and, if I was to believe Bernarr, a quick dip would be a virtual all-in-one new year’s resolution.

I was keen. The weather was on our side, new year’s day was a balmy 55 degrees. We planned to go with friends, bundled up with enough warm clothes to keep us cosy after our dip and were given the incentive of a post swim cup of hot spiked cider. Jeremy and I ran into the water holding hands like kamikaze storming troops.

I would like to say that I emerged in a state of frozen nirvana from under the water. I’d like to tell you that I stayed with our friends and bantered calmly treading water for 10 minutes in the ocean. Sadly none of that is true. I’m much more of a wimp that I would like you to believe. However it is true that I ran out of the water on a high that lasted well beyond the joy of wrapping myself in my towel.

In fact I felt so good for so long afterwards that I’m tempted to give a dip in the icy water another try on a less crowded occasion. Maybe I’ll even get my head under next time. Anyone mad enough to join me is very welcome.

New York City mantra

Jeremy has a cheery little ditty that started when we were facing the nightmare of apartment hunting in the city. He chants it when a taxi driver won’t take us to Brooklyn or when he spends too long at the Post Office. I hear him mumbling it as he manhandles our bikes into the basement, ‘This city will kill you’.

As I said, cheery.

He’s right, of course. All of the stories are true. New York is dirty and cramped and smelly and hectic and expensive. It is not somewhere you come for an easy, peaceful life. It can be a very difficult place to be, a challenging place to carve out a home.

Yet, in between trying to kill you, the city has moments when it is truly magical, when all the hardships seem trifling in comparison.

There’s a guy in Washington Square Park. He calls himself the Crazy Piano Guy. He drags his grand piano into the space between the park’s fountain and its grand archway. He plays amidst the tourists and the homeless and the buskers and the NYU students. If you stand long enough you’ll watch kids dance, lovers kiss, old men argue and young families take their holiday snaps. You can smell the street carts and hear cars honking in the distance. You can see the world unfold to the sound of his keys hitting the notes. It provokes a certain sense of wonderment, a feeling that you can come alive in this city.

New York piano man