You can't choose your family but what about your family friends? Thank God they are lumbered on you as well because if they weren't, there would have been no way that Bella and her sister Lizzie would have ever hung out with Miranda (my sister) and me. I can't blame all my pre-teen woes on my mother, but she had us both on an exclusive diet of 1950s films which meant our pop culture references were lacking, not to mention our 'terribly chic' hair cuts which made us look more like the chuckle brothers rather than two young girls (and nowhere near Twiggy as was promised). So for a few years the four of us muddled along, watching Jonathan Creek in silence whilst our parents had raucous dinners in the next-door room. But then, I am not sure how, or what year, but we suddenly became friends. Which I thank my lucky stars for, as some of the funniest moments of my life have been with the four of us in the village we grew up in.
Anyway, that is neither here nor there, but I thought I would set the scene on my history with Bella Mackie, the acclaimed author and journalist who in a matter of months is about to release her third book, a novel called 'How To Kill Your Family'. Her first book 'Jog On', which was a sensational success, tracked a difficult period of her life in which she was struggling through a divorce and mental health issues. She helped herself cope with these afflictions by running. When Bella started running - I was surprised. She was not your typical runner; she liked chips, smoking and wine. I suddenly worried our pub suppers were going to be axed, but I was a fool as Bella's running goes hand in hand with the chips & wine. She is my type of runner; a woman who continually tells me if she could do it, then so could I. And so I took on the Couch to 5K, a hideous endeavour, but I got there. If I thought I was the only person Bella had inspired I'd be wrong, DEAD WRONG. I am just one of many people that she has encouraged. You don't have to look far through the list of reviews to see that. Her writing resonates; she is witty, intelligent and not afraid of being brutally honest. Her piece for Vogue in 2017, 'Single-Minded: The Difference Between Being Single And Being Alone,' is a piece I constantly site when talking about relationships. Not only because it starts by talking about her excellent mother Lindsay, but because it gives such a stark view of those misconceptions that you go through your twenties believing, only to realise with a little age under your belt that they are actually nonsense. All in all, you can see I am not only a fan of the woman, but also a massive fan of her writing, and I pulled on those useful heartstrings of hers to persuade her to take part in this charade of an interview!
Top Destination in the UK?
It’s a toss-up between Oxford and Edinburgh. I got to know Oxford when my dad got a job there a few years back and it’s now my go-to place for a break. I love running in the meadows, mooching about the old lanes and alleys, and drinking at the Rose and Crown, a brilliantly eccentric pub which has live jazz on Sundays. Edinburgh will never not feel magic to me. I’ve been so many times because I have family there, and I never ever EVER don’t feel giddy when I step out of Waverley Station. The architecture is overwhelming. The cobbled streets of new town, the dark steps of the old town, the beach at Portobello. I am at my happiest when I’m there. Truly. I plot to make my husband want to live there.
Favourite Tube Stop/ Line?
This is funny. I didn’t take the tube from aged 16 to aged 30 because I had such huge panic attacks on it. Once I got over this fear, I realised I properly loved the tube and was annoyed I’d missed out on zipping around the city on it for so long. And since the pandemic I haven’t been on it cos I’m anxious again. My favourite station is Great Portland Street because it feels like something out of a Poirot Drama. My second favourite is the closed York Road station in Kings Cross because I am so intrigued by empty tube stations. What’s going on down there? Got to be ghosts right?
What thing kept you sane during lockdown?
Very on brand for me - it’s running. If I hadn’t been able to go outside and run off my anxious adrenaline I don’t know what I would have done. No wonder I’ve seen so many runners out on the streets this year.
Who Is the best animal you have ever met? (TRICKY)
Very tricky. I love my big stupid dog Barney very much but I think honestly my previous dog Bonnie was the best animal to ever live. We used to joke that she’d lived 100 lives before she came to us. She was like a small anxious human, not like a dog at all. She was fascinating and she got me through a divorce. Ugh even thinking about her makes me want to cry.
People I would desperately like to be friends with? Always Jane Fonda. Lolly Adefope. Peggy Guggenheim. Marina Hyde. Crystal Anderson who has the most incredible style I’ve ever seen.
Stanley Tucci. But long before you all got in there too you come latelys. Tan France, my beloved. Albert Finney in Annie, I’m not ashamed and my therapist says it’s nothing to worry about.
I want to be tasteful and say something muted but really it’s bright green. Or even more honestly, neon orange.
Any good advice? Who gave it to you?
“Always make that call” “always go out” both from my mama and she’s never been wrong. “You never regret a run” which is my own and therefore wildly narcissistic to say that but I have to tell myself it every day. And variations on “not all thoughts mean anything” when I’m feeling really anxious. I think I got that one off Reddit.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A writer! I got there aged 34. Ha! Failing that I genuinely wanted to be the Baroness in the Sound of Music. Why did he pick MARIA over that glorious woman??? Truly men are baffling.
Do you believe in Star Signs?
No. Nor do I believe in crystals, energy, auras or the idea that prune syrup is an acceptable substitute for sugar in brownie recipes. If it works for you, fab. But no, not for me. I believe in making absolutely every single thing in my life into a joke and I believe in medication. I also believe in the healing power of cornettos.
This is such a phenomenally hard question Charlie! My favourite restaurant is Rossella in Kentish Town. It’s the perfect local Italian run by a very nice man called Luca and it serves the most enormous garlic bread. Plate sized bread is going to do it for me. If I’m being fancy I want to go to the River Café but I’m never being that fancy. Honestly, at this point in 2021, I would go to any restaurant that would have me.
A song that can always make your foot tap?
Che la Luna by Louis Prima. Go play it. It makes me dance about when I feel anxious. And it reminds me of Italy. Which I miss.