Ich Bin Kentishtowner: Poppy Cooper, massage therapist

‘My two-year-old marched up to a burly skinhead who’d dropped his crisp packet and barked, “Oi. Pick that up!”’

‘The strangest music request I’ve had? Lady Gaga, though I keep expecting someone to request Slipknot.’

Poppy Cooper was born in Camden and has lived in the borough for ten years and in Kentish Town for three. She started north London’s first personalised massage therapy service last month, Petals + Leaves, running a holistic treatment room for women in Ospringe Road. Her Twitter account @petalsleaves highlights ethical local businesses and community and environmental initiatives. A single mother and passionate vegan, she believes that the community spirit in the area is unrivalled, and can often be found collecting litter in NW5 with her two-year-old daughter.

When were you happiest?

Giving free massages to women at Petals + Leaves’ launch at the York Rise street party. It felt amazing to be able to relax people and make them feel better. Then it started raining hard. I’d never massaged anyone in a downpour before – I wasn’t sure whether to stop or carry on.

Where would you like to live?

I’m really happy in Ospringe Road. It’s in a lovely little residential enclave behind Fortess Road that often gets forgotten about.

What is your favourite sound or smell?
Almond massage oil. All my clients get to choose their ideal fragrance, as well as the areas they’d like massaged, the duration and pressure on each area, and the music type and volume. The strangest music request I’ve had was Lady Gaga, though I keep expecting someone to request Slipknot.


What is your greatest life achievement?

My daughter. She makes me laugh all the time. The other day I asked her, “Shall we run the bath?” She said solemnly, “No, Mummy – we should never run in the bath!”

“Incredible olive and thyme focaccia”: Bunny Little’s
What is your earliest K-Town memory?
Visiting the wonderful Earth Natural Foods in Kentish Town Road. It’s like vegetarian heaven – no animals have died and gone there.

What makes you unhappy?

People refusing to recycle and dropping litter. My two-year-old marched up to a burly skinhead who’d dropped his crisp packet and barked, “Oi! Pick that up!”. I just hid behind my hand.

What simple thing would improve your quality of life?

More clients. It feels really good to work and contribute to the economy after so long as a full-time single mum. I give a 50% discount to single mums, students, charity workers, nurses, the unemployed and people on income support. And 10% of all profits go to the charity Against Malaria Foundation, distributing malaria nets across Africa – so the more successful the business is, the more people it can help.

What is your most unappealing habit?

Probably evangelising about veganism. Although the term “AN EVANGELIST” is an anagram of “LISTEN: A VEGAN”, so perhaps it’s inevitable.

What is your guilty pleasure?

The chocolate sorbet at Ruby Violet. It’s an orgasm in a pot. (And yes, it’s vegan, yet it tastes better and more intense than their non-vegan chocolate ice cream.)

Where do you hang out?

Bunny Little’s Bakery for the incredible olive and thyme focaccia, Future & Found for the stylish interior design, and Café Rustique (The Literary Café) for the friendly owner who lets me nurse a single cup of tea all day.

Where the veg tastes better: Tufnell Park Farmers’ markets
What’s been your best experience in the neighbourhood?
Going to the farmers’ markets on a Saturday morning. I strongly believe in supporting local independent producers, and the veg tastes better too.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

The extra couple of pounds I’m carrying. It’s partly Ruby Violet’s fault for producing such delicious sorbet, and partly mine for going there daily.

What’s the worst thing anyone’s said to you?
“You’re not really from Camden though, are you? Where are you from originally?” My grandparents aren’t from the UK, but I was born in UCH.

What is your favourite dish and why?

The Colombian breakfast at Guanabana for the fried plantain and pinto beans. The whole experience feels like being on holiday.

What did you do today? 
Gave two massages, ate pitta bread with falafel and ketchup, and updated the Twitter page while trying to stop my little one smearing banana across the floor.

Describe yourself as an animal.

Maybe a kangaroo, as I carry my toddler all the time. Though I look like a chipmunk, so maybe some kind of freaky chipmunk-kangaroo hybrid? Crazy teeth and the ability to jump amazingly far. That’d be good for scaring off burly litter-droppers.

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Poppy will be giving free 10-minute chair massages at Earth Natural Foods, 200 Kentish Town Road from Mon to Fri next week, 11am to 3pm. To get 50% off your first hour-long personalised massage with her, email her at info@petalsandleaves.co.uk with ‘Kentishtowner’ in the subject line.

Got a suggestion for Ich Bin? Email info@kentishtowner.co.uk. And if you’re a fan of the column why not buy the T-shirt or tote bag?

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