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  • I meant to arrive early, so of course I was a few minutes late. I was glad though. It's easier to integrate than to be the first to arrive and have to decide where to sit or what to do.

    Annie was there with Amie and Adam and greeted me with a warm welcome and offer of tea. Nicola arrived and we were suddenly a party of Cowbirders who had stepped directly onto the threshold of a cowbird story at the famous Maison Bertaux, except today we were at street level instead of the upstairs gallery.

    Around our pavement table wafted music from Café Boheme on the corner and the Soho street buzzed with life while the rain held off. I popped inside to grab more cups and tea and get one of the chewy macaroons that are so good there. The man at the counter, who’s name I don’t know but who always seems to be present whenever I visit, threw me for a moment by asking me to work out what change he needed to give me. I’m not good at mental arithmetic, and answered tentatively after checking in my head a few times to be sure. He refused to let me carry my own macaroon to the table, “We’ll bring that to you.” I smiled, Maison Bertaux has their own way of doing things.

    Outside, we got to know one another through pieces of conversation. Adam, conjuring rich imagery of a wedding in New Orleans he’d just attended, is enthusiastic and wryly self effacing as I take his photo, though overall he exudes confidence. Amie is suddenly serious and passionate when she speaks about poetry but when she breaks into smiles and laughter they make her face angelic. Nicola, warm and open about her work as a consultant and her own time spent in America shared some thoughtful insights on work ethic and getting enjoyment out of doing what you love versus earning enough money to not have to work at all. Her smile makes you need to smile back. The manager came out and exclaimed at how our party had grown from one to five. This place itself is full of character.

    And of course there was Annie, looking like she’d stepped directly out of her profile picture to join us, saying how she found our grey British summer no so bad given the looming oppressive summer heat that will be coming to smother her Brooklyn sidewalks. Smilingly she divulged her mother’s persuasive efforts to try and get her to move to New Zealand and write about films, despite her protestations. She tells us about meeting Jonathan way back when and forming the foundation of what turned out to be an enduring friendship, and right there in our minds were the two cool but different kids superimposed behind the strong leaders we know them as. Annie knighted us all as London ambassadors for Cowbird to go forth and spread the word in the right places.

    There’s a warmth around this company of storytellers that stems from the work and people they love and talk about and is only enriched by the South American beats humming in the background and the hot tea and crumbling scones and macaroons that are homely and safe and terribly English.

    I felt strangely nervous, but comfortable with these strangers who were not entirely strangers but not revealed fully as yet. Cowbird had brought us here and we all had our experiences of the platform and it’s stories, and our hopes for it. Other Cowbirders were present in our conversations, their names and stories familiar to us all and like the conversation here today, we had come to gradually know a little about their personalities through accumulative bits of word, image and experience they had shared. That I’d been recognised by these people through my stories made me shy and giddy. I chewed my macaroon and tried not to say anything too stupid that would undo any good opinion of me as a sensible human being!

    When we said goodbye it was warmly with hugs and smiles. The rain was starting, like it had only paused for Cowbird and was now catching up for lost time, getting heavier as I walked down the road. It was later than I thought when I arrived home. We'd spun our stories through more time than I had realised. I don’t know if or when I’ll meet any of these people again. I hope I shall.

    In the meantime there are ongoing stories.
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