Crafting an adventure: an interview with our software engineer
Inside a three-storey apartment, in a leafy corner of south-west London, Joanna is making pancakes. Naleśniki to be exact. They’re just like the ones her mother makes at home in Poland, filled to the brim with cottage cheese and covered in yoghurt and jam. Scott, one of Swoon’s software engineers, delights in introducing us before she asks if I’d like one. Of course, I’d like one.
The couple moved to the flat 18 months ago, having been together for three years, and their happiness is infectious. Not just because I’m offered pancakes as I walk through the door. Being around these two is an utter joy – in fact, my face is actually hurting from smiling so much. “This is better than the gym – it’s hard work, isn’t it? Remember to get rid of my wrinkles please.” Joanna jokes mid-way through the photo shoot. We all laugh.
So what made you choose this house?
Joanna: “Scott! And the space. I love spacious houses.”
Scott: “When we visited for the first time, we felt it’s exactly where we saw ourselves. Out of every flat we saw, that was by far the clearest mental view of home.”
The entrance to the apartment is quite something. A quiet cul-de-sac lined with towering trees that make for a verdant approach. The building itself is a rather unique modernist structure that was built in the 70s. The staircase is visible from the street and feels as though you’re climbing up to meet the trees as you ascend. Home, for both of them, didn’t start here, though.
What were your childhood homes like?
Joanna: “I grew up in the city in Poland and always lived in flats, but my grandmother’s house in the countryside was like my second home. She shared it with my auntie and her family, and I spent all holidays and breaks there. My cousins are like my siblings and I am lucky to have them living not too far now too. We had lots of space to run around. We would spend lots of time outdoors, so gardens and meadows were my playgrounds. My mum had an allotment and this is what I need now – an outdoor area so that I can have veggies and plants around me. I miss nature but I am a city girl and enjoy city life.”
Scott: “I grew up in a village in the Midlands, lots of countryside nearby but also fairly large as villages go. My parents had a three-bed semi which is where they still live. We had a back garden, but it was also on a quiet road so we played outside a lot, too. There were lots of kids on the same road. When I moved to London, it took me a good few years to really love the place. It was just crazy big and crazy busy. Now I really enjoy city life, but it’s nice that we are still so close to the countryside areas of London, too.”
Joanna moved to London after visiting a friend here on holiday. She laughs as she tells me that her friend went away and asked her to cover her job in a souvenir shop for a few days, so Joanna did. It was her first taste of London life and she loved it. It’s clear that Scott’s fallen in love with the city too, though living close to green spaces is important. I realise that home holds some really fond memories for both of them as we get chatting.
What were the most important rooms growing up?
Joanna: “The living room was where we would spend time as a family, but my bedroom was my kingdom. I would move furniture around on a regular basis! Also, the kitchen, as my mum would be there a lot, cooking, baking and making home preserves. I would sit with her and be chatting and drawing – I had a great connection with my mum. We celebrated breakfasts together every day before school or work. It was facing south so was always warm and sunny, and a great place to spend time together.”
Scott: “I would say the dining room and kitchen, too. We’d nearly always eat together, particularly on a Sunday for the best roast dinner! I know everyone thinks their mum does the best roast dinner, but this could genuinely win awards!
After school, we’d always have dinner at the table together, too. I’d usually go to play in my room after that. I had the box room, but that didn’t stop me spending a lot of time in there playing video games.”
They’re such nice memories! What’s been your most memorable moment in this home?
Joanna: “Moving in – there was so much excitement, arranging that space, making that our own, opening the first bottle of wine and feeling happy that we found a nice place.”
Scott: “Totally agree that moving in was very memorable. I remember walking in for the first time when the main room was almost completely empty. Even then it already felt like home, but after a fair amount of arranging and rearranging, it just felt like ours.”
Since then, the couple has certainly made the apartment their own and their love for travel, and fish, in particular, is obvious. They’re both keen divers so a marine life theme has emerged without them even really thinking about it. There are fish dotted all over – on walls, textiles and more. There’s also an impressive mosaic of an octopus on the wall, that a talented friend made for them, welcoming me into the living room. Joanna starts telling me about one of her favourite finds. “I was trying not to buy anything fish-related for a while but there was this guy on the street in Oaxaca making baskets and I really wanted this one. Scott was worried we wouldn’t be able to travel with it as it was so big. It wasn’t the smoothest journey as we had to fold it down to fit it in my suitcase but it made it and it was worth it. It’s now our laundry basket.”
Travel is a shared passion and Joanna’s clearly led the charge as she tells me she’s always been a keen backpacker. After a couple of holidays in Mexico together, Scott’s appetite for adventure started to grow and his face lights up as he relays a story of a treacherous drive they once took together.
Scott: “We were driving along this winding mountain path between Oaxaca and Huatulco and you go through all of these different climates from hot and dry to wet and tropical. It’s incredible. When we got to the tropical weather we hit the thickest fog I’ve ever seen, and we’re driving down this windy road with sheer drops on either side.”
Joanna: “He was stressed and I was taking the piss, so I started taking a video of him asking if he could see the cloud.”
Scott: “She sent the video round to my family and it became a bit of a running joke to the point where we’d buy cloud presents for each other.”
From visiting the flamingos in Las Colorados in Mexico to skiing trips in France, it’s impressive how much they’ve managed to see together in just three years of knowing one another.
Where has your favourite adventure been?
Both: “Costa Rica!” (no hesitation)
Joanna: “I used to work in a tour operator and there was a huge poster advertising Costa Rica that just stuck with me so we decided to go for my birthday last year.”
Scott: “Even the flight in was adventurous. It was really calm until we came into land and hit the runway and then took off again. We were wondering what was going on and later found out that if we’d hit the runway 30 seconds before, we would have been fine. The runway is quite short so they couldn’t guarantee we would stop in time so they took off again. After circling the airport for an hour and a half, we had to fly to Jamaica to refuel.”
Joanna: “Whatever you want to see you’ll find in Costa Rica. Everything was just new and fantastic. Costa Rica has 6% of the world’s biodiversity – it’s incredible. The best part of the journey for us was the Osa Peninsula.”
Scott: “Yeah, even getting there was an adventure in itself. You drive to a really small town and get in a really small boat with about 20 people and all of your luggage. The boat takes you along the river to where it joins the sea where the waves are huge but the drivers somehow know how to navigate them. And then it’s a wet landing – so you have to carry your luggage on top of your head.”
What’s so nice about talking to the couple, is how excited they are to share their stories. With trinkets from travels and antique finds around every corner, it also becomes clear that they’re quite sentimental, too. Joanna is a maker – knitting, crochet, vodka, you name it – and even her sewing machine is an antique find. An original Singer, found in a little shop in the Cotswolds.
So what are the most sentimental things you both own?
Joanna: “My grandma’s old watch – it’s from the 60s – very vintage and still works.”
Scott: “I have an old games console (SNES) that has such nostalgia. Reminds me so much of my childhood (even though it’s not actually the original one I had!)”
That’s cool. And how do you both relax when you’re not adventuring?
Joanna: “Knitting mostly, or any form of crafts.”
Scott: “I still enjoy the odd video game, but also playing the guitar.”
The apartment is spread across three floors and at the very top is a terrace where the couple enjoy drinks with friends, and barbecues in the summer, amongst a myriad of plant life including an impressive tomato plant. “I love plants – I like having some green around”, beams Joanna.
So what’s on the travel list next I wonder? The couple tell me that they’re looking for something a little more sedate this time around – it’s time to relax a bit. As we draw the interview to a close, Scott is joking with Joanna using snippets of Polish. I ask the couple what the words mean and one of them sticks – ‘dobra’, which means ‘good’.
Life for these two is ‘dobra’ indeed.
To read more interviews with our inspiring humans, take a look here.