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Life with Lavendar in London town

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Tanya Gold Chose My Birthday Present

I'm a Guardian reader which apparently, according to the English love for classification makes me a middle-class leftie snot. That said I also read the Daily Mail on the weekend for its trashiness and I buy the Times on a Sunday but read the mags only. If I'm bored I may delve into the Independent and if I'm desperate, I’ll browse the Telegraph.

My loyalty to the Guardian and Sunday Observer is not for its news reportage. I read it because I like the style of writing found within its pages and also for the topics the paper covers. I always keep an eye out for pieces written by Hadley Freeman or Tanya Gold as their writing almost always engages my interest because of the way they say things. As a fledging writer of short opinion pieces (a.k.a blogging), I admire the force of personality and voice behind their words. So much so that sometime in the past year I decided that if I were to write professionally, that these two would be my role models. And then didn’t think anymore of it until two days ago.


Tanya Gold. Role model.

It was my birthday. I was celebrating in an overheated bar in central London with friends. I'd had too much to drink and was trying to be a birthday host which was not going so well. At some hot, foggy point in the evening my mates, Renata and Cassandra sat down next to me. Cassandra had a book on her lap.

This is your birthday present, she said, But first I have to tell you a story.

Ok. I instantly felt more alert. I love a good story.

Do you know who Tanya Gold is?

Yes, I replied, I love her writing.

This was clearly not expected as my mates started squealing in that hyper way that only women and queens can do. I’m a joiner so I squealed:

Why? Why do you ask? She's one of my favourite Guardian writers!


She chose your birthday present! She chose it! Cassandra squealed back.

What?! How did you manage that?!

I didn't know why we were all so excited but we were. Tanya Gold’s ears must have turned purple.

It turns out that Cassandra had gone to Daunts in Belsize Park to buy my birthday present. Browsing the shelves she overheard a conversation between a woman (Tanya) and the bookshop assistant and got the impression that Tanya was someone who knew books. Cassandra is one of those naturally affable people who could chat to stone and get a reply so she sidled up and asked:

Excuse me but I'm trying to buy a birthday present for my friend and you seem to know a lot about books. Would you mind suggesting something?

Tanya to her credit went right along with it.

What kinds of things does your friend like?

Oh, erm. Travelling. New York. Books. Writing.

(note here that Cassandra might have added: She’s also stunningly intelligent, will work for peanuts and needs a writing break. Can you help?)

Has she ever been to Venice?

I don't know. I don't think so.

Well if she's never been, this will make her want to go. It’s the best book about Venice ever written.

And with that Tanya pulled Jan Morris', Venice from the shelf and started to read aloud:

If you take an aircraft over Venice and fly low above her mottled attics, you will see her canals thick with an endless flow of craft, like little black corpuscles.


Maybe it was the word corpuscles but Cassandra was sold. When she went to pay the shop assistant whispered to her:

That was Tanya Gold you were speaking to.

Oh. Was it? Who's Tanya Gold?

Cassandra, not being a Guardian reader it seems, applied the powers of Google and forthwith was regaling me with this tale several hours later.

Renata her accomplice leaned over and looked me seriously in the eye. Well eyes.

You must write to her. This was meant to be.

To say what? Thank you for choosing my birthday present?


Yes. You must. Something has happened.

At that point all that had happened was that I had turned thirty-six and was drunk. But I knew what she meant. Synchronicity is one of life’s random, strange and delightful gifts. It’s always good to acknowledge it.

So thank you Tanya for Venice and the journey ahead. And thank you C & R for brewing up some magic for me on my birthday.

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