Thursday 22 February 2018

Ella Griffin: When I was 21, I wish I'd known...

Author Ella Griffin
Author Ella Griffin
Author Ella Griffin in her younger days

THAT I didn't actually like punk music at all. That I had fooled myself and everyone else into thinking that all that rage and nihilism was my thing because I wanted to be cool. But it wasn't. If I'm singing in my car, I am more likely to be singing Desparado or Supertrouper than Anarchy in the UK.

... That the wrong paths take us to the right places. If I had done anything differently. Any. Single. Thing. Smoked one less cigarette, been on time for once, instead of perpetually late. Actually gotten up instead of sleeping in, then I would not have met the love of my life. It's all about 'Sliding Doors' in the end.

... That I would be good at something. I had dropped out of college and run away to Holland when I was 21. I was working in the darkroom in a Kodak factory (not too great when you are afraid of the dark). I thought I would never have a proper career. But I came home and fell into advertising at 23 and I am still there, in between writing books. I have met the funniest, maddest, loveliest, most creative people along the way. And been paid to sit in a room and make things up. That's a pretty nice job!

... That it would take a long (long, long) time but that I would eventually have the confidence to start a book, and the self control to finish it. And what I write would make people laugh and cry. Nothing makes me happier than getting an email from a reader saying, 'I cried my eyes out when I read that scene.' It's almost always one I cried my eyes out writing.

... That all the people I thought were supercool and confident at 21 were just as insecure as I was. It has taken me a long time to understand that when I compare myself to someone else, I am comparing my messy insides to their bright shiny armour.

... That I would always hate Paris. I have been there alone, with girlfriends, gay friends, boyfriends and my husband and I can stop trying now and get on with loving other cities. Like Athens and Rome.

... That I would have stepchildren. There are two small words that have made a huge difference to my life and my heart. They are Elli and Aidan.

...That a dog, not a diamond, is a girl's best friend...

... That the swear words I picked up in Delft when I was 21 would stick like superglue. I still swear in Dutch when I stub my toe or burn my finger.

... That 'mantequilla' is the Spanish for butter. Not 'burro'. Had I known that I would not have asked that poor waiter in Lanzarote for a donkey with my breadroll.

... My husband. It took far too long to meet him. He would have been 19 when I was at 21. I could have handled being called a cradle snatcher!

Ella Griffin's second novel, The Heart Whisperer, is published by Orion.

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