Saturday, December 17, 2011

Finding a Job in London: Part II

I once rambled about the difficulties of finding a job in London. So many months on, the scene hasn’t changed. I have changed though, in the sense that I’m now a beaten down, sorrowful and ego-less version of myself.

That’s what three weeks of unemployment did to me. And I know that in this day and economic climate, three weeks is nothing. A drop in a pan that is crowded with fresh-faced graduates and seasoned professionals alike.

While endlessly refreshing Twitter – I mean Guardian jobs - I commented to my housemate (equal parts applying for post-doctoral fellowships and procrastinating) that it was apparently the worst unemployment in the UK since WWII. I had taken great comfort in this fact, and used it to counteract my mamma’s suggestion that I walk door-to-door offering my CV (I’m looking for a job in media or publishing mum. Not a summer scooping icecream cones. And besides, it’s not my fault, it’s the worst unemployment levels since WWII. She correctly told me I was a lazy sot).

Housemate, in his fearfully intellectual way, said that my shiny little fact just wasn’t true. That we can’t measure unemployment so simply. That these days most people will spend a certain amount of their lives unemployed, added up over a career, while job hunting or something else. That in WWII time, people mostly worked one job for 70 years, dying with their hands on the tiller or whatever. He said a whole lot of other things too, but I mostly tuned them out, preferring to cling to my little fact (quoted from a friend, and apparently sourced from The Independent) because it justified my Kardashian-watching, Twitter-refreshing, icecream-for-breakfast existence while being one of those ‘unemployed’.

I did not deal well with the silent rejection from numerous job applications. I dealt slightly better with politely worded rejection, as it at least indicated that my CVs weren’t covered in anthrax.
I was offered a few temp roles in my three weeks of circling the drain. I let them go, as I was determined to hang in there for the proper job. The real job. The one that would get me some experience in London, preparing me for the kind of stellar job that would be so fabulous I wouldn’t mind the fact that I was back in Australia, my visa at an end.


As I watched my pounds dribble into pence, I decided I’d take the next role offered, no matter if it was for the most boring company. Which is what I have pretty much done. I am in a PA role in a financial company in Canary Wharf-ish area. And I have found out what is second worse to being unemployed.

It’s being underemployed.

Here I am with my smug degree. I’ve studied hard, and worked hard. I know that I’m quick, learn new systems easily, and have a whole bunch of creative energy that I’m dying to put into some kind of collaborative team effort. I get a kick out of doing a job well. Out of sending ideas out there to become a reality. Of pushing deadlines, and juggling commitments. Of being utilised. Of having my opinion count for something.

Instead, I am currently babysitting someone else’s Outlook calendar. I manage meeting requests. I take coffee orders. I bind things and I print things. I get lunch for those who are in back-to-back meetings from 8 am til 6 pm. I arrive at 9 and am ready to leave by 11, but wait until 5. I feel like I do so little that I don’t deserve to take home the hourly rate that I do.

I hate it. I hate coming home and answering the ‘How was your day?’ question with ‘Meh, nothing.’
I hate it because I realised I am not content with being underemployed, and also that it appears that I am actually kind of a job-snob.

Scene: Trendy gallery in Old Street, clutching cans of Red Stripe.
New interesting people that are friends of my friend (the kind that either live in lofts, or know models and photographers that live in lofts and regularly hang out there): ‘So, what do you do?’
Me: ‘Ummm, I … er… well, I’m temping at the moment. So I mean, I’m looking for a job. I mean, I guess I’m working as a PA, but it’s not what I want to do. But as a PA I don’t really do anything. But I want to work in publishing. Or the media. Or anything creative. But ummm … I’ve done a lot of travelling, so hence the temping. But unemployment, you know? And I like typing? And umm… yeah, no, I’m working as a PA. Sort of.’

I felt too inadequate to string a sentence together. Was it possible my brain was now mushy peas from being underused? My stammering and stuttering, my inability to proudly say what I was doing clearly pointed out two things: Firstly, I must be a massive snob. Secondly, that my sense of identity was tied very closely to what I did, rather than who I was.

PA’s work bloody hard. They have to be intuitive and reliable, and downright manipulative when it comes to organising meetings with 12 people. Every single PA I’ve met has been absolutely lovely – they are caring, fun, and clever people. But I don’t want to be a PA. I want to have a PA. I want to be the one coming up with ideas, not the one printing them out and binding them. And because of this ambition, I don’t want to be identified as ‘just a PA’. Cue shame over job snobbery.

And this secondly thing? My sense of identity? I felt that if I said I was a PA, I’d be immediately put into a PA shaped box (an outline that features heavily on the drapey cardigan, coffee in one hand, and pen in the other). And I feel like I don’t belong there. That these new people must not put me in that box. That I am so much more than can fit into that damn box, and that circumstance is shoving me in there.

I don’t know whether it is a good thing or a bad thing, this resistance to being defined by my current underemployment status. It’s prickly, and hence pushing me to continue with job applications, which is an excellent thing. But it’s also teaching me to not put other people in boxes. That people are so incredibly multifaceted that they cannot be defined by what they do in their day. I’m learning to watch for how people actively choose to define themselves. For some, it is their job. For others it’s their friends, or live music, travelling.

Or clothes. There’s one girl here at this workplace who wears spangly tights and stripper shoes so she’s definitely defining herself as outside this corporate-dress-code financial box.

Just found this gem of a blog: Ivy Leagued and Unemployed
This was an especially interesting post - though I'm still undecided about whether having no job is better than having a shitty one. I've been trying the shitty job thing for nearly two years now and I'm well over it. I do like drinking though. Hence the shitty job. It's the ciiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiircle of liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiife, right?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Lana Del Ray: Born To Die


The makeup. Those blue flowers. The lyrics! The freaking tigers. Chapel ceilings, old cars, fog and dirty messy kisses.
(see her other clip here)

Looking Back

Marvelling at my ability to only ever land at the gate furthest from the arrivals lounge, I shoulder my hand luggage a little more securely and keep trudging. Slightly sweating, I curse my current state of overheating as I trundle along in my thick jacket, gloves and scarf in preparation for the imminent icy blast when I do eventually find the exit.

Snaking my way around Heathrow airport after a mini weekend in Hamburg I think ahead to the long tube ride home, and wonder what the odds are on finding a ladder-free and clean pair of stockings that will service for work the next day. I pass one of those vending machines selling international SIMcards to weary travellers, and am instantly thrown back to my own first arrival in London, nearly 18 months ago...

Laden down with laptops and overcoats (I’d left a Sydney winter), having lost my deodorant to security, I had two hours in Heathrow before jetting off immediately to the Greek Islands. Intermittent emails to Jess, who had already set up her sunbed on Santorini and prepared me for the wonders of Homer, our shirtless pool-cleaning villa owner, led me to believe that she would most likely be dancing on a bar when I arrived. An international SIM card was therefore a necessity if I was ever to hunt her and Homer (and thus my bed) down. Sadly taking out my Australian SIM on my gaffa-taped old phone, I put my new international SIM in, ready and excited to begin my overseas adventures.

After a nonstop transit (Sydney-Bangkok-Heathrow-Athens-Santorini AND NO DEODORANT), I finally arrived in Santorini. And the rest is a blur of sunshine, sunscreen, new friends, and entire nights dancing.

Before I knew it I was in Paris and scrambling around Versailles.

Then landing in London in all the deliciousness of sweet summer twilights, before driving off to Oxford for a wedding that included kilts and ceileidhs.

Between drinking and working in cafes and studying the tube maps, I popped over to Paris to write dreamy musings while sitting on the steps of Le Sacre Couer and in the Shakespeare & Co. bookshop. Onto underground pubs and wishing on bridges in Prague. Then I was faced with my first Christmas alone without my family, replaced with my first Christmas running around Trafalgar Square and drinking cocktails that had been set on fire at the Aldwych Hotel instead. I lived through my first snow, and I had a NYE that started with fireworks from London Bridge and ended with vogue-ing to Madonna at 8 in the morning in someone else’s loungeroom.

I got a job, made new friends. Caught the night bus to Paris for picnics under the Eiffel Tower and shopping in the Marais.

I explored Bath and Brighton and Edinburgh. Bacon butties, duvets, and pants-are-not-trousers conundrums expanded my vocab. I moved house and occasionally wrote in my blog. I read lots of books, and went to crazy bars and spent too much on wine, and raced constantly for the last tube home.

There was two weeks locked in a car with my bestie from home, partying around Ireland and Berlin.

Before I knew it I was driving an old VW onto a ferry that dropped my sister and I, and some friends, in France, where a TomTom and a good 80s mixtape guided us through the heat of Barcelona, the lavender fields of Provence, and the rolling hills of Tuscany. Mozzarella balls, lemoncello, fireworks and fiestas came alongside painting an old apartment in Italy.

The wonders of Rome, the Biennale in Venice, a quick transit through Milan flew by.

I had everything important to me stolen.

I went home for a wedding, and somehow came back.

These and seventy bajillion other million things more have happened since I first bought that international SIM card, way back in July 2010. I look back on that girl – overloaded, brazenly not-nervous but perhaps slightly anxious, both terrified and impatient for adventure. And I think how much she has grown, that big-little Australian girl. And I marvel that she is me, and that I know all sorts of things now that she didn’t know then.

And I feel sad that I don’t have it all in front of me to do again.

Except for maybe piling on the pounds and getting all my shit stolen. And struggling to find a job. And sometimes being so lonely I thought my jaw might break from the tension of crying.

But perhaps, even then.

Friday, December 9, 2011


Listening… Well, not much really. This Lana Del Ray song, which i swear I do just to make myself cry.
Reading… A book called The Radleys (weird vampire fiction posing as normal fiction). I've just finished some ace medieval fantasy series such as The Kingkiller Chronicles and A Song of Ice And Fire (aka Game of Thrones). Spent a few minutes discussing The Slap the other day (the day of Byron and Harrow). Re-read Jane Eyre, as I do every year. I'm so grateful that I can re-read my favourite books. There are certain ones I re-read ever year, and it is such a gift to give myself. 
Watching… Anything that has a Kardashian in it. X Factor. ZOMG Downton Abbey. Didn't sleep for a few days while getting through the second series.

Buying… A watch. I did it before I was unemployed, and it has been sitting at customs since then. I now have a job, and it is redeemed, and will arrive tomorrow. Holla!

Wearing... Pencil skirts and improbable heels, as per 'corporate' dress code. When not Dolly Parton-ing (aka 9-5) it's something leopard print, be that purple Roberto Cavalli jeans, a vintage button up shirt, a headscarf, or a furry blanket on the couch.

Wanting… A job. A real one. Replies to my job applications. Not to have to answer 'I'm a PA' to the 'What do you do?' question. Especially when talking to anyone smart/funny/goodlooking/talented.
Trying… To shake myself up and out of this lethargy. I think I'm getting there.

Loving… The feeling that I'm falling back in love with London. I teetered away for a minute there, when for a second (or a bit longer) I thought that maybe I couldn't do it. That I wouldn't do it. That I would go home, in defeat and failure. I'm holding on for a little longer though.

Writing… Whatever.
Inspired by… Friendship. Here's to @tomosushi @josie_says et al for keeping me here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

MY own shadow stretches out before me, legs long and fearless. I have lit a cigarette, and take three drags before I pull off my glove, unwilling even for the cold, to ruin the leather. I miss you, and I'm listening to music that makes me miss you. I've talked about you tonight, in a way that I often talk about you: as something tangible and real. Even though I am going home to a cold and empty bed, and you are very far away. My heel strikes against an uneven stone - or likely strikes against nothing at all, my irregular clumsiness pulling through the mists of this cold London night - and the drag of it makes me pause in my confidence that we are something. Most likely we are nothing. Most likely we are not. Whatever the likeliness, we are not anything right now. But these songs that I choose to listen to say something else, and I miss you.

I've laughed tonight. I've flicked my head, and pulled my hair off my face, twisting and twirling it in rhythm with the conversation around me. I've handed out my number like it's a business card, knowing full well I don't want to hear from anyone.
I had at least seven good thoughts, in this walk home from the tube. Even the cold couldn't touch me. But now I'm inside, and this sounds like a letter I would never send, even though I itch to press publish. Which I will, because I'm daring myself to.

Maybe you are this: 


After successfully managing not to fall down the stairs at the best-themed party of the year (Lash N Tash/Ugly Christmas Sweaters. Guys in moustaches, girls in fake lashes, and the spanglier the sweater the better) at Camden Lock, I woke up too late to bake a cake, and rather scrambled over to Harrow-on-the-Hill to talk and laugh with old friends and new friends.
The divine Elise (whose commiseration is of the kind that floats clouds in coffee ) lives right near Harrow-on-the-Hill, and we tripped along a path that crested through a hill and we passed Harrow, where Byron went to school. While we didn't have time to hunt out the plaque (there was tea to be had. Tea and laughter), we were on those hills where Byron had sported.

On A Distant View Of Harrow

Ye scenes of my childhood, whose lov'd recollection
Embitters the present, compar'd with the past;
Where science first dawn'd on the powers of reflection,
And friendships were form'd, too romantic to last;

Where fancy, yet, joys to retrace the resemblance
Of comrades, in friendship and mischief allied;
How welcome to me your ne'er fading remembrance,
Which rests in the bosom, though hope is deny'd!

Again I revisit the hills where we sported,
The streams where we swam, and the fields where we fought;
The school where, loud warn'd by the bell, we resorted,
To pore o'er the precepts by Pedagogues taught.

Again I behold where for hours I have ponder'd,
As reclining, at eve, on yon tombstone I lay;
Or round the steep brow of the churchyard I wander'd,
To catch the last gleam of the sun's setting ray.

I once more view the room, with spectators surrounded,
Where, as Zanga, I trod on Alonzo o'erthrown;
While, to swell my young pride, such applauses resounded,
I fancied that Mossop himself was outshone.

Or, as Lear, I pour'd forth the deep imprecation,
By my daughters, of kingdom and reason depriv'd;
Till, fir'd by loud plaudits and self-adulation,
I regarded myself as a Garrick reviv'd.

Ye dreams of my boyhood, how much I regret you!
Unfaded your memory dwells in my breast;
Though sad and deserted, I ne'er can forget you:
Your pleasures may still be in fancy possest.

To Ida full oft may remembrance restore me,
While Fate shall the shades of the future unroll!
Since Darkness o'ershadows the prospect before me,
More dear is the beam of the past to my soul!

But if, through the course of the years which await me,
Some new scene of pleasure should open to view,
I will say, while with rapture the thought shall elate me,
Oh! such were the days which my infancy knew. 

Lord Byron

ENGLAND you steal my heart, again and again and again.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hampstead Christmas Markets

So clearly the only way to recover from Rebel Bingo is to stroll around the crisp streets of Hampstead for their family friendly Christmas fair. It was while wandering around, marvelling at the lightness of my hangover, that I realised I've been having some sneaky bits of fun in London, amidst by unemployed days of bluuuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh that just seemed so never-ending.

SO, I present the twee of a London Christmas fair. To wit:
An organ-playing, 17th century fun carriage that promises to 'Enchant thine ear', which it probably does as long as you time your loiter for onlya few minutes at a time.
 Organic, local tea. Tea of many leaves. So much tea. And then more.
 Mmmmm, produce.
Don't let those fairy wings fool you. She was hitting her stylish sister (nice gilet babes) with that hammer.
 Pale ecru skies, bare trees, a red phone box.
 Windswept stairs, keeping hold of those last few autumn leaves.
 Yummmmmmmmmm. Delicious and keeps your hands warm.
Curving brown facades, pale skies, antiquarian book stores, and inside jokes.
And shop windows that are begging for squidged noses and clouds of excited breaths.

Underground Rebel Bingo

'So it's bingo?'
 'For rebels?'
Yes. Yes it is. Invited I was, and so I went. And boy, is it ever underground. And rebellious. And though all signs might point to an evening promoted to learning correct social etiquette, trust me, that is just a ruse to keep secret the fact that bingo is indeed played. With a rude, fucked up vengeance.

Underground Rebel Fucking Bingo.

The rules are simple:
No old people.
No boring people.
No wankers.
No office parties.
No hen parties.
No stag parties.
No work suits.
No customer service.
Dress Code: Undercover on your way there, dangerous once you’re inside

The premise is generally that hot, young, depraved bingo players will gather in secret to play the glorious game in between chugging beer out of plastic cups, drawing on each other's faces, and dancing like motherflippers on crack. The prizes included a KIGU for God's sakes (I think he got the chicken. Well jelly) and BEER (cases of it) and a PARTY PANDA (Party. Panda.) that is a giant panda who wants to be your friend and help you party. Who doesn't want a party panda?

It's sweaty and pushy. The bingo calls are rude and obscene, made by babes of ladies dressed in burlesque. I don't want to quote some of their choicer morsels because I think sometimes my mum reads my blog, and I'm still scarred from having to hold a tablespoon of mustard in my mouth when I was five, probably for saying 'shit' or something. My mamma be feisty.

For a much funnier history of the URBC than I could invent, see here courtesy of the ever bangin' Sabotage Times. Also here you can read some of the rude words, don't tell my mum I told you. 

Underground Rebel Bingo Club - You won't see us but we're everywhere. You won't hear us but we're right behind you. We're everywhere and nowhere, but wherever we are we're playing dirty secret hardcore Rebel Bingo on the down low. 

And not that you can really see, but I wore jeans from French Connection, a Sass & Bide top, vintage shearling jacket, and vintage hat (that was continuously stolen). And my new hair (This self indulgent pic is for you Tracey!)
 Accessories couresy of the below two, who are evidence of what happens when nice people play underground rebel bingo.

Sorry for the quality of pictures, I am still mourning my camera. Anyone want to buy me a replacement? Damn tumbleweeds...