The language of obsession – an interview with our Copywriter
“I could not live without languages – I couldn’t live in a world that only speaks English.”
If you live in a city like London, you’ll know it can be tricky to quell the chaos. Which is why it’s quite an achievement that Fran, Swoon’s Copywriter, and her fiancé Nick have managed to carve out a little corner of solitude.
Their South London home is filled to the brim with light, laughter and plants. Lots of plants.
Fran moved in with Nick earlier this year, and the couple got engaged this summer. “It was wonderful moving in. I wanted us to make a home and I loved this flat as soon as I saw it.”
Since moving to London from Cheshire six years ago, Fran has fluttered around the city – moving from place to place in as little as six-month bursts – so it’s no wonder she’s psyched about finding her feet in this gorgeous South London apartment. Still keen to explore London in depth, she and Nick have created a charming map of the city on the blackboard in the kitchen – something that’s hard to miss as she welcomes me in. “I woke up one Saturday and Nick had already done the river and all the parks and then we spent four hours doing the rest together.”
Fran is a keen linguist – language-obsessed, in fact. With an Italian heritage and a mother who speaks seven languages, it’s no wonder Fran took all three of her A-levels in language subjects (Spanish, French and Latin) even if it was a concern to her teachers. But she is, if nothing else, proof that pursuing a passion pays off. Studying languages at university, Fran went on to spend a year divided between Chile and Italy before coming back home and moving to London to, eventually, find her dream job as a Copywriter. “The biggest challenge in my career has been not knowing what I wanted to do and choosing jobs that weren't right for me. It took me a long time to find my thing” she laughs as she puts the kettle on for us. I confirm that I think it takes time for most of us, as we sit down at the dining table with a coffee.
So where did it all begin? What was your first home like?
“We moved to Cheshire when I was very young but I distinctly remember going to view the home we moved into. The lounge had a really old-fashioned 70s style and there were bluebells at the front of the house. I was scared to move house so my mum made up a lovely story about a fairy who lived in the bluebells at the new place. It was sweet – it made the transition really easy for me. My mum and dad still live there – I’ve told them they can’t move!” (laughs)
Yes, you must have lots of memories there?
“I do! The dinner table has always been quite a focal point for me. It’s where we all used to hang out as a family after a day at school or work. It was quite a simple area before my parents had their extension done. I remember my mum making pasta, and we’d just sit there and eat and chat. We’ve always got on really well with our parents – they’re friends as well as parents. So it’s always been nice, just the four of us hanging out. We also have a family Whatsapp group where we talk every day.”
That’s awesome! You’re clearly very close to your family. Is that where your obsession with languages came from?
“Definitely! Languages are very much a genetic thing. My grandma was an English teacher and also a French teacher. She always had a love for language, and then she met my grandad, who's Italian. It was like another hobby for her – to learn about him and his life growing up in Italy. My mum is the ultimate linguist – she’s fluent in Italian and French, she has advanced Spanish and she speaks Portuguese and German as well. And she knows Latin. My dad isn’t as fluent, but he’s got a real gift for making jokes in foreign languages using very few words. And he’s just started writing a novel – maybe that’s where the copywriting comes from!”
You said you speak Spanish, Italian and French – are there any other languages you’d like to learn?
“Oh, there are loads! I’ve got Swedish, Danish, Romanian, Russian, Arabic and Turkish books – I just don’t have the time to learn them at the moment but I need to find the time. I think Swedish is first on my list.”
A strong sense of family is palpable throughout our chat. She and Nick go to visit their families every few weeks. Coincidentally, their families aren’t far from each other despite the couple meeting in London. When I ask Fran who she’d love to invite to a dinner party, she also mentions her ‘zia’ (Italian for ‘auntie’) Egle;
“She was my great, great Auntie, but we were close. She didn’t know her real name until she was about 75. She always thought her name was Egle, but it turned out her actual name was Rosa – she must've never looked at her passport! She was a real character – really zany. She used to go out and play tombola (an Italian game similar to bingo) until 2am – she was hilarious. She mainly lived between England and Italy but she also moved to Argentina on a boat when she was young, and worked in the foothills of the Andes lugging timber out of the river with a bunch of burley men. She was so cool. She didn’t care what anyone thought of her – I love that attitude. It’s so inspiring. I think we might have a sofa being named after her at Swoon.”
Hollywood comedy writer Larry David, late Chilean politician Salvador Allende and Italian singer Jimmy Fontana are also among dream dinner party invites. A refreshingly original list that expresses a colourful background. Speaking of colour, Fran also tells me she has synesthesia, a condition where she sees the vowels of the alphabet as colours. “Originally my family just thought it was a quirk. I have a few quirks.” she laughs.
As part of her obsession for languages, Fran is also a keen traveller and the trinkets that punctuate her apartment are living proof. There’s a set of handcrafted coasters from Vietnam, a seed pod she found in Barbados which now lives on their Aero shelves, and an impressive pile of National Geographic magazines that Nick has collected to keep them up to date with what’s going on in the world.
“My engagement ring is one of my most sentimental things. I also really treasure memories, so I like to keep ticket stubs and restaurant receipts from some of the best times I've had. The memory box is getting pretty full!”
That’s so funny. What are the things you can’t live without?
“The first thing is my sleepy mask. I need a good rest and I like to be ready for life – and to be ready for it, you have to be well-rested. Next is probably pasta – I can't get enough. The third one is tough. Plants has to be one of them – I can't imagine what it'd feel like to have a home without plants. Oh, I also could not live without languages, obviously – I couldn’t live in a world that only speaks English. Sorry – I know that’s four!”
I think we can let her off – they’re all pretty essential. Looking back to the map of London on the chalkboard, she tells me; “The places underlined in red are the ones we know so there’s still loads to explore. I’d like to get to know Bermondsey better”. With such a colourful life filled with language and laughter, and an Italian heritage to boot, it’s clear that Fran is a natural explorer, encouraged by the love and support that’s surrounded her. Hindsight is a funny thing, and can elicit incredible wisdom. I ask Fran what advice she’d give her younger self now, and she smiles;
“See as much of the world as possible… while you still have a student loan.”
We close the interview with a roar of laughter. Humour is the best medicine, and Fran has plenty to offer.
For more blogs about our inspiring humans, take a look here.