Monthly Archives: October 2012

Nighttime London

Here I am again at Caffe Nero, East Dulwich, having a late lunch and attempting a blog post. But, this time WordPress will not defeat me. I am backing this baby up, saving it on Microsoft Word and Apple Text and online and in Gmail and whatever other program I can find on my computer to store text.

I mentioned in my last post that I had ‘many things’ to write about and its true, but I’m feeling more than a little low today (is it because of the onset of an autumn cold? Is it because I’m currently listening to Ben Folds’ ‘Still Fighting It’? Was it because I started the day by watching ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’? FYI, never start the day by watching ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’. That shit is powerful dangerous, like) and we all know what happens when I’m feeling a little melancholy. I end up watching ‘Friends’ re-runs on the telly and comparing my life to Jennifer Aniston’s. Oh, ok, I do that on good days too. But, you know.

Anyway, here I go again, trying to get motivated. I have plenty of things to write about. I could tell you all about my Writers’ Retreat in Suffolk, which was delightful fun and involved much laughter and wine and Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer and feminist discussions and Spotify playlists. I could tell you about my merchandising job, which is not wonderful fun, but at least affords some interesting interactions with people in the supermarket (exhibit A: today a man walked up to me in the store as I was rearranging the cosmetics, shoved a green bottle under my nose and yelled, ‘Face Wash!’ I was uncertain whether or not he was asking if it was, in fact, face wash; or if he was offering it to me to put on the shelf; or was wondering if I, personally, would like some face wash, perhaps to wash my face with; or if he was commanding me to wash my face RIGHT THIS SECOND; or if he was simply bragging that he had face wash and I was clearly face wash-less). I could tell you about my pub job, which I am surprising myself with how much I am enjoying (in my whimsical moments, I like to think that pub work is in my blood, as my aunt and uncle own a pub in Newcastle and the father of my great-great-uncle owned one of the first pubs in Newcastle, which was named, for a time, ‘Help a Lame Dog Over a Stile’. Showing shrewd business sense, my great-great-great uncle -or whatever that relationship is – shortened the name to ‘The Lame Dog’ within a month of opening). But, I’m going to tell you, instead, about something remarkably stupid I did on Friday night.

I went out on Friday night and had a few drinks (with some new friends, not just on my own – things aren’t that bad in the melancholy stakes yet). After some excellent Mexican food and free tequila shots (here’s a little tip: try to figure out what the bar is out of and then order that. Then, when they realise they are out of the only drink on the menu you wanted to drink, they will feel so bad they will give you free tequila for you and your friends. IT’S TRUE), I managed to find myself stuck out in Homerton (really? Homerton? That’s a place?) at 4:30am and needing to get home, showered, fed and out to freakin’ East Dulwich by 8:30am. Of course, I only had to be at East Dulwich so early because I had to be back at Clapham Common to start my pub shift at 12pm, so you can see that the whole thing was like a long line of metaphorical dominos just waiting to topple over and, in fact, I had already given the first domino an almighty shove by accepting a free tequila shot and then drinking three more glasses of red, thus ending up in Homerton at 4:30am in the first place. It was only a matter of time before the next dominos fell too.

However, I made a valiant attempt at keeping the dominos straight and upright. As Homerton is out in East London, underground stations are almost non-existent. Which is ok, because underground services generally don’t start until 6am anyway. I was advised to go to an overground station that would ‘probably’ have trains running. Not wishing to walk on my own out in the dark and deserted streets of Homerton, I ws called a minicab. The minicab arrived and off I headed to the station. Of course, the station was closed, deserted and, to top it all off, down a back alley. I said to the cab driver I didn’t really want to get out at the station and he said, ok, where did I want to go? Having no idea where Homerton was, let alone, whereabouts in Homerton I was, or where anything else of use would be (for example, a bus stop), I dithered too long for the cab driver’s liking. He took matters into his own hands and said he would drop me at the high street. That seemed reasonable, except for the fact that I actually wanted him to drive me all the way home to Clapham Common and I was finding it oddly difficult to ask him to do so. It was probably too far away. It was out of his ‘district’. He probably had other jobs to go to and I had only asked to go to Homerton station.

So, against all my better judgement, I got out of the cab, into the dark, deserted high street of Homerton with not a single clue of where I was, if I was safe or how to get home.

I can only blame the remnants of the tequila shot and the four glasses of red wine and hope against hope that my father isn’t reading this post, because he made me promise only two weeks ago (after everything that happened in Melbourne) that I wouldn’t even walk the 10 minutes home from the pub on my own and I can’t imagine what he would say to such reckless behaviour. In hindsight, and in context of Jill Meagher, it was a senseless risk to take. But then again, I thought that at 13 when I read about Anna Wood dying after taking half an ecstasy tablet. To me it made perfect sense that no-one would EVER take illegal drugs again. It was a point A to point B line of reasoning. However, as far as I know the illegal drug trade is still flourishing, so… I don’t know, further evidence that we’re all kind of screwed up, risk-taking, douche bags with no consideration for the people who care about us. Or, at least I am, and also those drug-users too. Maybe the rest of you are completely rational human beings who never venture out after dark and only take drugs that have been verified in umpteen medical trials (though, really, now that we’re on the topic, many of those medical trials are fixed by the companies anyway, so even you smug rational people can’t know exactly what you’re putting in your bodies, or the effect they’re going to have…)

The thing is, once I get used to a neighbourhood, I quite like walking around the city in the night on my own. Back in Sydney, if I was particularly worked up after… I don’t know, a movie, a bad shift, an argument with a friend, a script that wasn’t working out the way it was supposed to, sometimes the best way to clear my head was just walking out the door and doing some laps of nighttime Newtown. The streets are emptier, the stars are out, the city is lit up, the air is cool. Its calming. And I know that could seem contradictory, especially if you enter into all the fear and anxiety of being a young woman walking around alone at night.

On Saturday morning, I certainly didn’t feel comfortable or calm. I was completely freaked out. Apart from the whole dark, deserted thing, I had no clear idea of how to get home and had no smartphone with which to check where I was. My motto in London so far has been, ‘there’s always a map!’ But at 5:30 on Saturday morning, I didn’t want to be searching for a map and then stopping in front of it for endless minutes whilst attempting to identify familiar sights and orientate myself. I just wanted to be somewhere inside that was warm, light and filled with people I could trust.

Luckily for me, a night bus drove past only a minute or so after I got out of the cab and onto the street. Desperately, I ran after the bus and the driver was nice enough to wait for me at the bus stop (there was no-one else on the bus, so he may as well, but that would never have happened during the day). I had no idea where the bus was headed, but I figured that at least it was a light-filled, inside kind of place with CCTV cameras and a person with a uniform on (even if it was just a bus driver’s uniform and even if you can’t ACTUALLY implicitly trust any person with a uniform on). I figured I could sit in this light-filled, inside-kind-of-safe-place, until, at the very least, it went past an underground station at which point maybe the trains would have started again and I could get back to Clapham Common.

In the end, I got out at a tube station east of the Olympic Park (which is pretty east anyway) and got the (surprisingly full) first train back into the city. I even managed a half hour nap, a shower and some breakfast before having to head out to East Dulwich Sainsbury’s again.

I’m not entirely certain what the point of this blog post was. I started composing it when I was on the bus, relieved and amused by the fact that I had absolutely no idea where the bus was taking me (it also ended up taking me the complete opposite directed of where I had hoped and thought it was taking me). I was thinking about it whilst enjoying the feeling of being on a bus at 5:30am and watching the world wake up. I thought perhaps it was another amusing example of me trying to get used to the city in which I now live. But, after sitting here, writing it all out and maybe its the Ben Folds or maybe it was the Lionel Shriver/Tilda Swinton this morning, but it all seems very serious and awful. I’d really like to go through my life doing the things I like and want to do without having to worry that my life might be in danger.

Image

Homerton Station. Really, would you have waited there at 5:30am on your own? Found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homerton_railway_station

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Introspection, London

This Time is Not Like the Last Time

The title of this blog post takes on a whole new meaning because WordPress freakin’ deleted my freaking’ blog post with no warning simply because I asked them to ‘pop-out’ the window it was in. They have also not saved it (WHY??? WHY??? Blogspot would not have done this to me!!! *shakes fist at sky*) and I now really don’t have time to write another because I’m on a break between Job No. 1 (arranging cosmetics at Sainsbury’s) and Job No. 2 (working in the restaurant at the pub) and I need to get back to Clapham Common.

SO FURIOUS WITH YOU RIGHT NOW WORDPRESS AND THE FACT THAT YOU ARE AN INANIMATE BEING AND CANNOT TALK BACK MAKES LIFE SO MUCH WORSE (ok, so I should have saved it, but I really, truly believed that WordPress was doing it for me, because these days I’m so used to things being backed-up and saved on other devices or what-not that I don’t ever really think to do it myself. Which is probably a really stupid statement and I KNOW there are times when you can’t get the data off of the magic hard-drive no matter how hard you try, but, oh, nothing bad has ever happened to me before, knock on wood, the loss of this blog post is probably the worst, so I have no motivation. I know, I know it makes no sense. But people don’t make sense, do they? Otherwise we’d all eat only as much as we needed and stop when we’re full; and we wouldn’t leave the heaters on all night long with the windows open when there’s global warming; and we wouldn’t be tricked by advertisers slapping ‘New and Improved!’ over the exact same product we’ve been using for years and then agree to pay twice as much for it. I really need to go back to trying and writing this stupid post again).

I’m back at Caffe Nero, with the free wi-fi, a bottle of Diet Coke, a packet of (now devoured) ‘salt-n-sweet’ popcorn, and a blog post to write (which was actually written, thanks SO much wordpress). But, the problem is (was) that I don’t quite know what to write about. Its a problem I’ve come up against quite a lot recently and have been pondering whilst I polish cutlery at the pub, or put the No. 9 lipsticks back in their appropriate boxes. In fact, rather than write this post, I spent a good twenty minutes going over previous blog posts and laughing embarrassingly to myself about how amusing they were (is it still dweeby if you laugh at your own jokes two to three weeks after you wrote them? Its probably more dweeby then, isn’t it?) Last year, it seemed like I spent most of my day composing blog posts in my head. One of the kids I was looking after said something cute: blog post. There was a nice sunset: blog post. I ate pancakes: blog post. But, these days… well, even the ‘sweet-n-salt’ popcorn won’t do it for me.

I do wonder if its a little case of ‘blog fatigue’, which another blogger friend of mine has written about recently (she is a wildly more successful blogger than I, probably because she is wildly more interesting and less self-absorbed), which you can read  here and then ponder whether or not you think this is my problem.

I also wonder if its because I’ve been reconsidering how much and what exactly I share on the blog. There’s only so many times that you can hear people say, ‘Oh you’re so honest on your blog, I could never be so honest,’ before you start to think that perhaps you are doing something wrong. Or, at least, something different to everything everybody else is doing. And whilst I still do wish to record as much of this experience as possible, if only so I can bore my future children with the stories ala ‘How I Met Your Mother’, I’m beginning to wonder if its actually necessary to record EVERY SINGLE THOUGHT that passes through my brain whilst overseas. Because, lets face it, some of the thoughts are exactly the same as I had back home, I’m just having them on a different hemisphere.

But, I think the main reason that I am having trouble finding things to write about these days is that everything is so very… well, ‘Australian’ here in London. My pub manager is Australian. One of the managers is Australian. The man who sat next to me at Caffe Nero is Australian. I’m living with an old high school friend. I went away to Suffolk with Australian university friends where we devoured Tim-Tams and Cadbury’s Green and Gold (Olympics edition!) and listened to Triple J Hottest 100 No. 6. My brother lives (a fair way) up the road. Another high school friends lives (a fair way) up another road. There’s Vegemite at Sainsbury’s. When I was cleaning the pictures in the pub yesterday I realised they were all old maps of the Melbourne Botanical Gardens. If I wanted to, I could spend my days watching ‘Home and Away’, ‘Masterchef Australia’, ‘Border Patrol’ and Australian real estate programs. Tim Minchin is EVERYWHERE.

Part of my brain is mounting a, lets admit it, fairly weak protest against all this blatant Aussie-ness. ‘No…’ it whines, ‘You should go meet British people and eat Eton Mess and Treacle Tart and Scotch eggs and watch Coronation Street whilst drinking warm beer or Pimms or the like.’ But, the other part of me is just so darn comfortable and happy that it can’t muster the required motivation to get off its arse and change the soundtrack from ‘The Whitlams’ to, I don’t know, ‘The Wombats’.

I think also, I’m becoming so used to being away from home that the myriad feelings of being an ex-pat are no longer as amusing, entertaining, upsetting, confusing or anxiety-inducing as they used to be. In short, I’ve calmed down a little bit, to everyone’s benefit, except perhaps, that of my poor little blog, who is feeling very neglected.

However, in the course of writing (and re-writing) this blog post, I have remembered various other things that I was meant to write about, so I will endeavour to do so in the next few days. In the meantime, I am going to continue my la-di-da comfy Australian/London existence by going and meeting some more Australians tomorrow night for a drink.

PS I don’t remember how I managed to elegantly segue from that last paragraph into my final comment of this blog (DAMN YOU WORDPRESS! In homage to Tenacious D, this post is now only a freakin’ TRIBUTE to the GREATEST BLOG POST IN THE WORLD), so I’m just going to have to whack it in at the end here and trust that you’ll understand that if it seems a little clunky, its genuinely not my fault or lack of skills as a writer. Trust that in the ORIGINAL blog post, this was the neatest and cleverest little tie-up that you ever had the benefit of reading on a blog.

Cue ending.

I will not, however, be risking a listen to Tim Minchin’s ‘White Wine in the Sun’, because that thing is just like Kryptonite at any time of the year.

Jenny out.

(SCREW YOU WORDPRESS)

Leave a comment

Filed under Introspection, London

Unemployed to Overemployed

I am currently sitting in Cafe Nero (not the one in Clapham Common – I do go other places!) having gone to two of my jobs today and taking a break before heading to my final job of the day. Two weeks ago, I barely had one job (in that, I had ‘work’, but it wasn’t paid), today I’m struggling to find enough hours to complete all the jobs I have (voluntary, paid and self-imposed), with all my bosses (including myself) slightly annoyed I’m not doing more hours for them and whilst also fending of other potential bosses who seem to be continuously ringing me to offer other jobs, and also… you know, sleep, eat and breathe. Apparently the reason its very difficult to find a job in London is because each person in London is allocated one particular fortnight period where they are offered ALL the jobs (even ones you haven’t applied for) and at no other point during the year will they be offered jobs. This last fortnight was MY fortnight (finally) and suddenly I have loads of jobs and am doing 13 hour days. Wheeeeeee.

Of course, as far as crises go, this is probably a much happier situation to be in than the one I was in two weeks ago (which was especially highlighted by the bank account statement received this morning…. 600 pounds in, 2600 pounds out. Eek). But, in true me-style, I’m turning molehills into mountains and spending some part of each day worrying that someone is going to ask me to do something that I can’t do because of all the other things the other people have asked me to do and then the delicate balance of jobs will suddenly come crashing down on my head, with many terrible consequences that I cannot think of right now, but rest assured they are terrible and generally involve being yelled at and people not liking me (incidentally, I met a lovely gentleman the other night, who also happened to be a magician, and he told me that he ‘turned mountains into molehills’, which is a turn of phrase I am particularly attached to and offer it to you here for your reading pleasure).

It certainly is interesting being back in paid work after having spent such a long time doing unpaid and voluntary work. It highlights a strange (and inconvenient) feeling of awkwardness that I have around being paid for doing work. Which may also explain the apparent inability I have turning any of the things that I do into money-making ventures. The minute I’m asking for payment for anything at all, I start to get uncomfortable and doubt whether or not what I am offering actually does provide value for money. This is particularly problematic around things that I enjoy doing (the eternal artist dilemma – to work or not work for free?) but seems also to be an issue around work that there is no way I would do without being paid at least minimum wage. So, at the charity call-centre, leaving each shift having received no donations for the charities, but having been paid however much for my shifts was pretty obviously *not* value for money as far as the charities were concerned. The constant analyzing of my calling technique by the managers (which was meant to assist me) made this anxious feeling even worse by highlighting all the ways I could potentially have gotten more money out of the pensioners and thereby made myself worthwhile as a charity call-centre worker and/or human being.

At the pub, things are much better, as apparently I have a ‘natural affinity’ for waitressing, meaning that I’m bubbly and smile a lot and laugh when the customers make jokes. Incidentally, this is actually all you need to be a waitress, surprisingly enough, its nothing to do with food and money and all that (ok, its a little bit about that, but the important thing is to be friendly and upbeat). I have been dubbed the ‘Mick Jagger of waitressing’, which I’m taking as a compliment, though really I suppose it could go either way. Nevertheless, my mood at the pub goes in swings and roundabouts depending very much on whether or not I’m feeling like I’m ‘value for money’ or, more importantly, whether or not my bosses feel I am ‘value for money’.

And this fixation on ‘value for money’, the constant calculating and re-calculating of my current ‘value’ on the employment market stems from a paranoia that if ‘they’ discover I am not ‘value for money’ then ‘they’ will fire me. Of course, as we have already established, I am currently overemployed in low-paid work, so it’d be alright if someone did actually fire me. So, what exactly is the problem here? Why do I continue to turn molehills into mountains?

Well, here we come to the absolute end of the line, the absolute crux of the matter, which is that if they fire me because I am not ‘value for money’, then that must mean they think I’m worthless and if someone, out there in the world, thinks I’m worthless (leaving aside what I myself think on the subject, leaving aside whether or not I actually think this person is worthwhile and is capable of making such a decision on my worth and/or worthlessness as a human being), then it might very well be true. Leaving aside whether or not I actually want or care about the job, leaving aside whether or not the job is making me happy, being fired from a job means someone doesn’t like me/thinks I’m stupid/unskilled/unqualified/not VALUE-FOR-MONEY and therefore expendable. And, for whatever reason (probably my deep-seated and cripplingly low self-esteem issues… JOKES) I have decided that, in my life, it IS, and MUST BE possible for EVERYONE I EVER COME IN CONTACT WITH to like and/or love me UNRESERVEDLY.

Ah, its fun being me sometimes.

I obviously don’t have this problem as a volunteer, because I have yet to make such a disaster of a voluntary situation that it entirely cancels out the benefit of me working for free (though, I suppose there’s still time and really, if I was ACTUALLY serious about being value-for-money I would be on the lookout for any possible ways I could also potentially screw volunteer things up, just to be on the safe side and really make my life a living hell).

Anyway, before you start sending conciliatory messages, I’m not feeling sad or awful, I am analyzing the situation from a distance, which is ever-so-healthy and amusing. Because, you’ll find, if you do this yourself, that once you trace your anxieties back to their source and pin-point exactly what it is that is making you upset or anxious, you’ll realise it is so ridiculous as to be laughable. And then, once you’re laughing at it, the problem becomes a lot smaller and less significant (a mountain into a mole-hill, if you will).

Its rather like getting rid of a Boggart in ‘Harry Potter’.

Alan Rickman as a Boggart in ‘Harry Potter’. Found at http://www.ugo.com/movies/harry-potter-spells?page=4

That JK Rowling really is a very clever lady. And the next time I’m feeling anxious at work, perhaps I will imagine Alan Rickman in a green dress and an over-sized eagle on his head.

Maybe I’ll just do that anyway.

I mean, Alan Rickman is pretty awesome.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Employment, Introspection, Unemployment

Things I Love About My New Job

1. The pub has been a part of Clapham Common since at least 1665.

2. Its named after an actual windmill. Not a fake one.

3. There are lots of lovely people working there, all from various parts of the world, including Spain, Poland, Malta, France, the Caribbean, Scotland, England, South Africa, and, of course, Australia. They make amusing jokes about me perhaps having especial trouble walking because I’m now in the Northern Hemisphere, and that must be confusing to me. Much more original than your standard, ‘Hide your purses!’ convict-Australian jokes.

4. One of my colleagues thought I was Irish. And also younger than herself (she’s 23).

5. I got to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ and bring chocolate cake with a candle in it to a man in the pub.

6. The pub allows kids up until 8pm, so every so often you’ll be going about your chores and you’ll look up and see a pair of saucer-shaped blue eyes staring at you in amazement. You never knew sweeping and collecting glasses could be so interesting.

7. The pub allows dogs on leads in the outside areas, so sometimes when you’re cleaning up, you’ll suddenly find a pair of soft, brown eyes staring up at you, begging to be patted, played with, or at the very least given a smidgen of the delicious smelling food that you are carrying oh-so-far out of reach.

8. There are many Australians around, both on the waitstaff and in the pub. And, contrary to how I generally react when I meet my fellow countrymen overseas, every time I heard that nasal drawl cutting through the general pub clatter, talking about ‘Adelaide’ and ‘Enmore Road’, my heart softened and resisting the urge to draw up a chair and ask them where they were from and what they were doing in London, I gave a rueful smile and headed back to the kitchen feeling a little bit more at home.

9. I get great pub meals for a ridiculously low price.

10. I’m getting paid.

11. After one 10 hour shift, my whole body aches. Every last bit of it. My toes ache. My toenails. The tips of my hair ache. But this is an amazing thing. It feels so good to come home from a seriously exhausting day’s work with your eyes slightly blurry from how exhausted you are. I’m reminded of Irina’s speech on work in Act One of ‘The Three Sisters’, and though we all know how that turned out (go read the Spark Notes if you don’t), I think she was actually on to something. Sure, after a few months of this I might be sick of coming home and feeling like I won’t be able to move for a week, but right now I am loving feeling like I have completely wrecked myself from actually using my body in the way that it was meant to be used (in that, it was active. I don’t imagine my prehistoric ancestors were running giant mammoth rib plates around cave restaurants. Except in ‘The Flinstones’, of course).

12. Everyone at the job seems to be really young and funky and fun. And even if my back feels like an old lady’s right now (currently being soothed by a hot water bottle as well….), I do somehow feel younger and cooler just because I have been deemed eligible to work at the same place as them.

That’s all I can think of right now. There was probably more that I thought of as I was doing endless rounds of the pub picking up glasses, but I can’t remember them anymore. Suffice it to say that I love the new job and I think I’m doing a reasonable ok job of it. They seem pretty happy – I had a ten hour shift today and am doing another ten hour shift tomorrow. Wheeeee!

Image
Actual Windmill. Not actual pub.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized