1 – Volunteering badge for UCLH
When I was 19 I started volunteering at the North London Hospice behind reception. For a couple hours every Saturday I would answer phones, make tea for visiting relatives and have an excellent natter with whoever else was behind the desk with me. Now I volunteer on wards in UCLH, the Hospital in Euston. I love volunteering. The only pressure on me is to smile, be friendly and ask people if they need help.
2 – Bella Freud – Je t’aime Jane
I worked in a shop near Notting Hill called The Cross. I had always wanted to work there – everything in it is either beautiful, funny or both like this jumper. There was a sign on the door asking for a Saturday girl. I wandered in off the street, and they gave me a job. The owner, Sam, is an absolute angel. Everyone who works there are dazzling gems of feminine excellence. When it was time for me to leave, I bought this Bella Freud jumper that I had been eyeing up since I began working there. Every time I wear it I think of the girls.
3 – My Black heels
These are a hand-me-down from my sister, Hannah. I’m 5’11” in socks and 6’3” in these bad boys. I wear them whenever I go out. They’re beaten to hell, but they still go with everything from the smartest white-tie ball-gown to jeans with a flannel shirt. I was always the tallest in the class – and sometimes that included the boys. In a crowd I used to cock one hip and lean back like Sylvia Plath to avoid being the tallest. Nowadays everyone else has to stand up straight if they want to talk to me.
4 – My Jade Wisdom Button
This used to live on my father’s desk. He said Chinese civil servants would be given these when they passed their exams and then sew them onto their hats. There were different buttons for each exam so you could tell which exam a civil servant had passed most recently. I’m not entirely sure whether this is true. I should probably ask. He taught me maths when I was failing miserably at school – I’m not a natural mathematician and neither is he. He taught himself GCSE Maths to a A* level so that he could explain it to me. I got A* in Maths so he bequeathed me the jade button. When I’m failing miserably at something else (I gave up Maths after A Level), the button doesn’t remind me that I can improve with hard work as it’s meant to – it reminds me how much I owe my father.
5 – My house keys and Aspinal keychain
This is a bit of a cheat – these keys get me into the house where the rest of my most important possessions are; my bed, my laptop, my books, my pictures and my family. I’ve lived there all my life – at least, I’ve always had my post delivered there! I’m lucky enough to have both of my parents. My three sisters have all married and don’t live there anymore but they come back with their kids all the time. The keychain itself was given to me by one of the funniest people I know who I haven’t seen in ages. I thought I’d lost it once and started crying. They are the very opposite of sentimental – I hope they’ll squirm in their seat if they ever read this. And then send me a goddamn message on Facebook inviting me for a catch-up dinner.