The Tab meets…Caroline Calloway
ABBY JITENDRA catches up with Instagram celebrity Caroline Calloway to talk about Cambridge, castles, and forcing people to be friends with you
Caroline Calloway is late to meet me. I’m trying to spot her among the yummy mummies, kids and grannies in the Botanical Gardens cafe when I get a frantic text from her saying she’s lost. The next thing I know she’s walking through the cafe towards me, all smiles, laughing about she can finally cross visiting the Gardens off her Cambridge bucket list.
The first thing you notice about Caroline is that she really really loves Cambridge. She’s in awe of all the old buildings. ‘We don’t have castles – it’s literally like if one part of one castle in Cambridge was transplanted to America it would be our greatest national treasure.’
The second is that she’s nice – manically nice. She keeps asking me questions about my love life and veers away from answering questions about herself. When people recognise her from her blog she’s more excited to meet them than they are to meet her. She’s obsessed with making friends, and even hosted an ironic-but-not-really ‘friendship party’ in her room for people she wanted to befriend.
A St Edmunds second year living in Downing, she cries that ’Downing friends are very exciting to me. This past Sunday I was invited on a Downing-Downing second year swap – life will just be downhill from there. Downing-hill!’ She’s got these slightly crazy eyes and I joke that we’ll have to find a picture to match. She shrieks and says she doesn’t want any more crazy in her life.
And the third thing you notice is that she’s really savvy, using her blog as a stepping stone to becoming a real-life writer. Her blog has around a quarter of a million followers, and her audience is growing by the minute. ‘I’ve always wanted to be a writer so I find it hard to let go of the dream of holding your own book in your hand.’
She’s talking about the book she’s in the process of writing, a collection of funny essays about her escapades. Like when she and her boyfriend got trapped in the Palace of Versailles overnight. Or when she was featured in Hounds magazine because of her ‘fetching if rather inappropriate hunting attire’.
She tells all these stories with utter glee, totally revelling in the Englishness of her new life here. There’s something deeply un-British about her complete adoration of Cambridge and England, something she acknowledges. ‘I love England so much, in the evangelical way only an immigrant can.’
She’s aware that her “ridiculousness,” as she puts it, doesn’t gain her fans amongst the cynical Tab readership. The comments to her last Tab interview, a year ago, were some of the most vitriolic she’s ever read, and she laughs that she’s had to repress them (safe to say she won’t be reading the comments for this article).
But when I suggest that her Instagram may present a Cambridge alien to most – a Cambridge of back-to-back balls, of hunting trips, of society dinners – she looks genuinely upset. She snaps: “But everything at Cambridge is alien to me though. What specifically is alien about my blog to you?”
I suggest that the filters, the editing, the glossy Cambridge she shows is perhaps a little false. She looks down and says: “I guess I’m sorry they seem alienating, I really hoped that if anything they’re comforting to people.” She talks about how she wants to portray a sense of loneliness in her posts, and a sense that the pictures are just snapshots of stories too difficult to condense.
I didn’t expect to like Caroline. There’s something about her Instagram which is too celebratory, and invites you to sneer at how seriously she takes it all. Cambridge for most is a series of hungover mornings spent procrastinating in the library (or maybe that’s just me???). But she’s using the medium of Instagram, where everything seems so superficial and temporary, to write meaningfully about her experiences. And there’s no food porn or a selfie in sight.
As we walk back through the Gardens, Caroline compliments me on my animal print TK Maxx jacket. I return the favour – she’s wearing an amazing leopard print coat, and we laugh that we match. But later, talking to a mutual friend, I find out that the coat isn’t just leopard print but actual leopard-skin. Which reminds me of just how ridiculous she is. But she knows it – with a grin she describes how she talked her friends into thinking she was normal.
Her voice gets higher and those crazy eyes come back: “Oh yes I’m very normal. I’ve had all the normal things happen to me. I do all the normal things all the time, I’m being normal right now!
She also wants to clarify the coat was her grandmother’s. So everything is fine.
Want to be one of her growing gang of followers? Visit http://instagram.com/carolinecalloway.