Bed Bugs and Beyond

I always thought the full moon was meant to make strange things happen but it appears to be the sun over here. For the first time it’s actually hot enough here for me to whinge about the temperature on occasion. I have my suspicions about the British heat based on the fact that nowhere has air con here and you’d be lucky to find a fan in most places. It’s uncomfortable in the way that Australia is in the middle of winter when people basically park themselves on top of the nearest heater. Here the dusty old fan that hasn’t been used since the mid 90’s is the equivalent. I have been retreating to the lounge room which I have worked out is the coolest spot in the house and I can often be found parked on the couch with my laptop on a hot night with the back doors open so I can breathe in the fragrant jasmine in our backyard as it wafts in. We often find ourselves venturing up to the rooftop to stare at awe at the beautiful midsummer sunsets and stare at the clouds. The change of season has brought about many other new beginnings. Roxanne said a final goodbye and left for Brisbane, it still feels as though she is just traveling around Europe and there are little reminders of her all over the house still.

Only a week after Glastonbury we were already missing it and arranged to meet with a few of our fellow Glastonbury family members at a bar at the end of the street which we found out was selling the same cider we had enjoyed at the cider bus. Glastonbury has left me with dare I say it – a bit of a tan. But on the downside my poor nose peeled for days and was constantly met with comments like ‘Oh look how sunburnt your nose is!’ as if I haven’t had a chance to look at myself in a mirror. The excesses of Glastonbury has left my skin and hair feeling yucky and my body tired and in need of some sort of detox for fear I had aged about 5 years in 5 days. Physically I was feeling pretty awful but mentally Glastonbury had given me the friendly shove I needed to go home and do something about it. In the spirit of transformation and change I have started trying to eat healthier, budget more and look after myself a bit better so I’m not as susceptible to sickness. In the midst of all of this amazing empowering self-improvement, one morning we were awoken by the news that a man had been sent by the landlord following many emails to investigate the cause of Jess’s itching at night which somehow had alluded me all this time. Before we knew it the mattresses were turned upside down and material was torn away and the words ‘You’ve got bed bugs’ were uttered from his lips, as apparently one had actually made a run for it after being exposed from underneath my bed base. We all gathered around forming a sort of witch hunt as we followed him from room to room as he made his grim discoveries. I was secretly excited to have the excuse to poke my nose into other housemates rooms whom I never normally enter.Luckily it turns out only the top floor and possibly the ground floor had signs of infestation – but he made it clear that a significant process was needed in order to rid the place of these vile things that had been nibbling us in our sleep. Step one was the removal of everything on our floor in our rooms and anything that we may ingest ie: toothbrushes, water bottles. Then he fumigated our rooms and came out of Andy’s room triumphantly with a dead one like the weird kid in school at show and tell. Then came the washing – the incessant washing of all of our clothes at 70 degrees before placing them in thick garbage bags and taping them up. So essentially – for the next month or so Jess and I are living out of garbage bags and I have moved into Andy’s room which was the worst affected. He was traveling so I was nominated to stay in there as bait for the bugs seeing as I don’t react to the bites.

Around about this time was the arrival of our two new housemates Megan and Tamara – since then the house has been turned upside down. Unlike our last room mates whom never left their room they are the exact opposite and are such a breath of fresh air. They have livened up the place and injected a new energy.With all the change overs in housemates, parties and friends of friends coming to stay in the warmer weather the house has gotten much more chaotic and messy, but also full of laughter and noise and commotion which is a welcome change.

And I’m enjoying having a room to myself even though it’s only temporary I have forgotten how nice it is to have your own space. The weather really does affect your mood! I don’t care what anyone says, I see the changes in people everywhere.

One such afternoon Merlin let us finish at 4pm to go down to the local cricket ground for a BBQ on the green. I said I’d stay for a drink and something to eat and leave – which never happened. As soon as we had a nice place sat on the grass sipping pimms and watching our fellow workmates play a game of rounds I got comfortable. Feeling oh so English as we tucked into a fully catered BBQ sun baking or (sunbathing as they say here) on lawn chairs playing crochet and eating strawberries and cream which is ‘the thing’ to do here in this weather. I had some great chats with fellow co-workers, trying to teach them to speak with an Australian accent and failing miserably! I had my first taste of Prosecco and first game of balls (That’s not innuendo!) As I soaked up the atmosphere and observed everyone I suddenly realised that Merlin was the English version of Luna Park for me. Beautiful people of all ages and backgrounds, great social nights, not too much responsibility, nice little job perks. Nice, but not what I came all the way here for, and although it’s been an awesome experience working there I have to keep reminding myself why I came here so as not to get stuck in a rut again. I came here to find work in TV and I cannot lose sight of that because if I do it means that I’ve learned nothing. So as the sun set and the alcohol kept flowing I made a phantom exit – so as to avoid being coerced by the drunks into staying as I had to be up early the next morning.

It was back to Le Plan B for me – looking for evening work so I can be free to complete work experience during the day. After staking out evening jobs in the area and getting no follow up after what I thought was a promising interview at a pub in Clapham I once again began researching clubs and bars in Tooting. After following up a past email I got an interview at Inferno’s with a surprisingly young, very shy polish bar supervisor which turned into a trial that Friday evening. Having already been rostered on to work in the call centre that weekend I pretty much did back to back shifts from Friday right through to  Sunday. They basically said it would only be two nights a week max – which wasn’t ideal as I wanted more hours close to home, but as my contract would be finishing by early Sept I thought it might be a good idea to grab this and get some bar work under my belt. Inferno’s is located on the high street of the popular clubbing and pubbing area of Clapham, and much closer to home.I had visited once before for Glen’s leaving do after Adventure bar fell through. It’s a disco 70’s and 80’s themed nightclub with mirrors and gaudy carpet, huge mirror balls and big fish tanks that make you feel as though you stepped into a 70’s porno. The place is huge too – there are four levels with more cheesy music than you can poke a stick at. But the atmosphere is fun and the staff seem pretty relaxed.

I was assigned to the piano bar for my trial and was being looked after by Polish bar supervisor Mariusz who is probably the closest person I’ve ever met to one of the lead characters I created in my sitcom script. He was fun and would laugh and dance the macarena with me behind the bar but the second I did something slightly wrong he would change back into a stern boss. One such embarrassing occasion he turned to me in the middle of serving someone and said over the loud music ‘5 Sols’ after seeing the confused look on his face when I got out 5 Sol beers from the fridge and opened one he starting yelling at me ‘My song! My Song!’ the combination of his thick European accent, loud music/timing made me mishear him. Nevertheless he was annoyed. Mostly though he was a good trainer and I learned a lot from him and spent an awful lot of time watching him serve people. Fortunately for me Sebastian came up at Midnight and asked how I was going then uttered something like ‘you can stay past 12..’ Which I later found out meant that I had passed the trial as I wouldn’t have made it past then otherwise. Unfortunately though I completed the WHOLE shift which meant we finished at 4am and we were once again let out into the night which had become the morning as the sun was already coming up at this stage. I carried my shoes and walked barefoot in the early light reminiscent of the walk of shame.I managed to crawl into bed at around 4:45 only to reawaken at 6am for my shift in the call centre. I managed to get some shuteye on the long bus trip to work, I ached all over – not used to working on my feet for sometime. That night I raced home and managed to have enough time to shower and get changed – feeling surprisingly refreshed after so little sleep I bounced down to Broadway on my way to my next shift at the club. I went into a convenience store to purchase an energy drink only to reach into my handbag to find my wallet was missing. I had been roaming around like a zombie at work that day and was falling asleep on the bus but I had my Oyster and wallet right up until the last bus ride home where I was standing. So I can only deduce that I either dropped it walking up the hill home or after I ran out of the house down to Broadway it somehow fell out. I raced back home in the hot afternoon sun sweat dripping down my back in a panic thinking I would be late for my second shift and the job would be history. I frantically rustled my sheets and emptied my handbag and started to break down when I realised I wouldn’t be able to get to work that night, and maybe not at all for another month? Exhausted from lack of sleep and back to back work hours, not to mention the stress of trying to live out of garbage bags and trying to stick to all the strict bedbug instructions I didn’t need this. Emma came in to try to calm me down slipping an oyster card and ten pounds into my hand which I am eternally grateful for as It saved my arse over the next few days. Not having much time to do anything before my shift I didn’t call up the bank until the next morning when I was on my way back to the call centre. I cancelled my Oyster and my debit card and naively put off doing anything about my Aussie credit card as I knew I would have to make a long distance phone call and muck around. That day I received a missed call with an automated message from Lloyd’s, thinking it was a voice mail from them from the other day when I was trying to reset my internet banking I ignored it until I got home and finally called the number back. I knew my cards were cancelled so wasn’t too concerned at this stage. It wasn’t until the automated message started listing all of these unknown transactions for me to authorize that my heart sank and my stomach lurched. All these things started running though my mind – is this some mastermind criminal? Are they going to be able steal my identity? Was I pick pocketed? Was this really the fraud department ringing me or some elaborate hoax to get even more account details off me? As I hung up the phone assured by them that they would investigate and refund the money back onto my account after so many working days my mind switched to the credit card.

I nervously rang them, knowing my card had reached its limit and hoping that, that would prevent them from being able to make any transactions. But no, this soulless person had raped my credit card of funds too. Sports equipment,takeaways, cabs around London, Best buy, Tmobile, some company in Leeds. The agent didn’t even read the entire list either that or I had zoned out her words becoming a blur while I tried to compose myself. I was overwhelmed with a sick feeling. Angry at myself for being too slow to do anything sooner. With only the smallest amount of cash I went into my bank hoping there would be a tiny amount left in there to tide me over until my Oyster arrived and they could refund me the money. There was nothing…granted there wasn’t a huge amount in there but there was a lot more than what would normally be in there as I had earned more money over the last month after working overtime. There was nothing the bank could do, nothing that they could do at the train station while waiting for my oyster to arrive – nothing. I had 5 pounds of Emma’s money to my name and the awful feeling that all those long hours, the budgeting and the struggle I had been going through to earn a few extra pound had literally been stolen from right under my nose from a complete stranger who has no concept of the idea that no money is free money. This person was spending my money on frivolous impulse items, if they had’ve been a low income earner or even a homeless person buying groceries or other much needed items it would’ve been some consolation. I think I’m more angry at myself for being so complacent. I hate asking for help too.

On the plus side though my trip to Manchester for the Channel 4 talent day had already been booked and although I had to borrow a fiver to pay the balance on the hostel,even this small amount made me feel bad. It felt good that I was finally doing something production related again after drifting away recently with everything that’s been happening. And it felt good to be getting out of London for a bit even though there’s no money for me to do any sort of sightseeing just the act of taking a packed bag along to work and waiting in the departures area of the Victoria coach station reawakened the excitement I get when travelling somewhere new. As buses pulled away departing for Amsterdam, Brussels and Ireland I Imagined myself jumping on one never to return. However the reality was the bus was an hour late and the depot was crammed with people dripping with sweat in the afternoon heat without the pleasure of air conditioning. I was in a jumper which was excruciating, and after debating it in my head for a while I made a swift costume change putting my nightie over my jumper and removing my jumper in front of the queue – no one batted an eyelid of course because it’s London. The bus finally set off into the sunset and my stress melted away. I found a nice quiet spot on the bus, plugged in my laptop and began to type away applying for jobs (nothing new) and snoozing at a few points. The bus arrived in Manchester late, and the streets were empty and quiet with only the occasional person coming out of the shadows. It was a little but unnerving as the map on my phone led me down dark alleyways on route to the hostel. Waking up in the early hours I left the hostel and a thick cloud of fog hung in the air. All that could be seen was the occasional business worker running about on their way to work. Armed with only a set of booking reference numbers and a couple of pounds I went to pick up my tram ticket from the kiosk and was prompted for my card which I didn’t have. So I gingerly approached one of the train guards pleading how I had, had my wallet stolen. He said there was nothing he could do to let me on, and as the realisation set in that I had come all this way and may have to go back to London my bottom lip began to tremble. Luckily like a child I muttered ‘But I pre booked my ticket’ before he realised that I had actually booked a ticket he thought I had been trying to travel for free.

I arrived in Wigan and was pleasantly surprised. It was a quaint little town with cobbled streets and very charming looking pubs and bakeries not at all what I imagined. I entered the youth centre early and sat in awkward silence with the other people who had arrived early like we were waiting to go into an interview with impossibly uncomfortable chairs. My silence was broken at the coffee machine and I ended up chatting to a few other girls. After receiving a little goody bag we headed in for our first industry talk. We then broke up into the workshops we had chosen to do with industry specialists.

I chose the green screen workshop as I had no previous experience and knowledge of it. No one in my group had any particular aspirations about getting in front of a camera so I volunteered. We were given a whole range of background scenes to choose from and we had to make a short story. We chose to do a news report about giant slugs taking over the world and I was randomly on location in the Swiss alps where these Swiss slugs had been spotted. As we edited and played around with chroma key everyone oohed and aahhed at the image but all I could think was how fat I looked on camera and whether I should’ve eaten that second pastry during morning tea. We had lunch and after completing our exercises had a Q and A with the professionals Donahue style where they passed the microphone to people in the audience – all in all I came out feeling really positive and inspired.

Being completely broke I had to wait around for a few hours for my bus in Manchester. When I booked the trip I envisioned having money and being able to do some sightseeing – not wandering the streets looking longingly into shop windows and sitting at a bus depot. Manchester is an interesting city, the buildings are a mix of shabby chic and ultra modern. Suited professionals, students and beggars abound. It was a Wednesday night so the streets were pretty quiet so you had to do a bit of a search to find the local bars and nightspots but there were lots of hidden gems around each street corner and I would love to go back on a Saturday night and explore further. I loved the idea that I could walk down one street and feel like I was in a quiet part of Sydney and walk down another and feel like I was  in New York back in the 60’s.

There’s art and music everywhere, the people are friendlier and more laid back and the whole vibe is different I was pleasantly surprised. The real fun didn’t start until after I got on the bus though. I booked my megabus to leave Manchester at 11:45 pm we piled onto the bus and it was full so I had to sit next to this guy watching movies on this huge laptop which in the small amount of space we were allocated was quite obnoxious and he tisked when I asked to use the power point to charge my phone. I closed my eyes and assumed the contortionist like position that was required to get any kind of sleep on this coach. The engine started and the lights went out and…nothing. The same procedure occurred again. The bus driver came upstairs and explained that the bus was stuck in park and that he would be calling engineers to look at it. Probably karma for him overreacting when he yelled at the guy that got on with hot chips. An hour later the engineers had put their hands up and said they couldn’t do anything so they were sending another bus from Preston. We left finally at 2am on the new bus which at first had trouble starting unbelievably. After nodding off at various intervals I awoke to an announcement that we had arrived in Kingston which was on my way to work – as I was working I hopped off thinking I could make better time seeing as the bus was running late. I got off half asleep and went to get onto a bus that was going to the station and went to pull out my Oyster and he said they don’t accept Oyster cards which I immediately thought was odd but shrugged it off. As I had no cash I asked how far it was to walk and they said 25mins. I thought I’m going to be late for work but I have no choice – I started walking in the direction that the bus driver pointed. As I walked along the main road I spotted a sign that said Milton Keynes. Then it dawned on me that I had left one of my bags on the bus, luckily it didn’t have any valuables inside. I rang up megabus to report I had lost my bag, I told the guy that the bus had dropped me off in Kingston and the guy on the phone automatically questioned why the bus had stopped there as it wasn’t the usual route. As I walked around what appeared to be an industrial estate and nothing like the Kingston I had come to know, I realised that I wasn’t as close to London as I had once thought. A frantic text to Sally revealed that I was in fact 3 hours out of London with only a few coins and an Oyster card that was useless. It was early in the morning so I had daylight on my side, I rang work and tried to explain my ridiculous predicament. I thought I could just walk all day and see how close I could get to London. Then I remembered that Glen said that I could ask the bank for an unplanned overdraft. So i thought I would focus on getting into town and find my bank. Luckily although I didn’t have my debit card i still had my passport in my bag from needing it the other night for Infernos. A guy came up to me while I was walking and gave me directions, then I explained what had happened he offered me money for the bus to get into the town. Then he asked for my number – I said I couldn’t remember it. Which was 50% true, I was grateful but also a little creeped out by him – interesting combo.

So I got the bus into the town, the centre was a maze of shopping centre and outdoor restaurants. Probably designed to confuse tourists like myself. It took me another half hour to find the Lloyds which i found with help from a lovely cleaner.I crossed my fingers as the teller looked up my account and much to my relief the part of the money that was stolen had been refunded! All of a sudden my helplessness had turned to absolute relief my tired sweaty smelly self could’ve hugged that woman behind the desk. My journey from that moment included Starbucks (awful soy mocha) – Bus to the station – Virgin high speed train to Euston – tube to Waterloo – overground train to Chessington South – bus to Chessington World of Adventures. And the exhausting walk in the heat to the call centre my thighs rubbing together like two turkey legs. My mouth dry from the heat sweaty and tired I felt like I just wanted to return home to Australia at that point. It felt as though England hated me and was trying to muscle me out.

There are times I have experienced here of pure exhaustion where it is such a feat of human strength just to walk up the hill to our house. In these times I always picture an invisible person behind me, pushing me along and whispering in my ear ‘Keep going Lucinda, you can do this, pump those legs, you’re nearly there, just look straight ahead’ this was one of those occasions. I burst into work sunburnt and exhausted from my journey. Only to find 5 calls on hold on the board. I smelt so bad and must’ve looked awful too, my feet stung but I was satisfied that I had made it to work miraculously by 1:30 in the afternoon.

Completely knackered after my crazy week Sally invited me to hers for drinks a few evenings later, I needed it after the atrocious luck I’d been having. We sat out in near her barbecue before being told off for being loud by her equally out of it neighbour. I learnt that Krisi doesn’t have a problem with cannibalism and would eat me if I died of natural causes which is somewhat flattering and a little unnerving. There was a raging party next door that were playing really loud music and as a drunken consensus we decided to try to gate crash. On the way there I discovered drunk skipping is really fun. We found the doorway with balloons and a sign that said ‘Come on in the party’s inside’ the others waited outside while Krisi and I walked inside bolstered by alcohol and the sign that we interpreted at the time as an open invitation to the public. As we walked in two young girls were walking out and gave me a weird look. I smiled and said ‘Hi’ they were closely followed by another girl who turned out to be the birthday girl who was turning 16. I wished her happy birthday and asked if she was drunk and she shook her head, and I asked ‘Do you wanna be?’ She explained that the party was winding down and promptly showed us out. I protested that I had come all the way from Australia just for the party but then gave up and left. On our way back to Sally’s we came across another backyard party and decided to investigate. I did my bit to perpetuate Australian stereotypes in the hopes that it would garner us an invitation by yelling out ‘G’day mates, can I come inside and have a Fosters?’  We climbed through the bushes and were greeted by a few guys and some girls that were giving us dirty looks. The guys introduced themselves as Jerome and Leon. It appeared this time we had crashed a black guys party. Being the only white people there we stuck out pretty badly as gatecrashers. They had a paddling pool that they were trying to talk us into christening. Afraid they might try to drown their intruder in a few inches of water i politely declined, tested the temp of the water and inched away. They were really friendly but we decided to made a quick exit happy with our adventures for the evening. I passed out on the couch at Sally’s only to reawaken not long after to chat about door knobs before falling asleep again. This morning after arriving home and going back to sleep again I was awoken by a phone call from a pub that i interviewed with just yesterday offering me a job. It seems like my luck is finally changing. This job will be the evening job I need to pursue work experience in production. It’s close to home and is flexible.I will also be heading to Cardiff by the looks in 9 days to visit David the producer on the set of Stella and to hopefully try to harness some of those networking skills I learnt at the channel 4 talk the other day which is great too. And maybe I’ll even get stuck into a new script for the sitcom. Jess hasn’t been getting bitten by the bed bugs lately so the process seems to be working for now at least so things are slowly falling back into place.

Tonight we celebrate our new housemate Tamara’s birthday and I can relax for now after my long crazy week. But my work here is far from done, it’s only just beginning.

4 views0 comments