I am writing this post sitting in my bunk bed in my hostel in Earls court, my possessions strewn around me in a messy fashion. My first week in London has not been an easy one. I checked into my hostel in Earls court which looks fine until you get down to basement level where my room is, shared with 5 other bunk beds. Each of us have items all around the room as the space is tiny but we are all in the same boat so it is quite comforting to know I’m not the only one. The first night I made friends with two Swedish girls and the German girl Lucie who were in my room. Lucie did much the same as me; she left her home in Germany to come here in search of furthering her career and the Swedish girls both friends have moved here to help improve their English. They are already employed in a pub down the road and apart from being slightly ill seem to have luck on their side.
The shower is one big room that floods very easily and if we want to go to the TV room we first have to go outside and into another building. My most hated part of this place is the toilet that is usually sopping wet on the floor and covered in hair and it smells like a mixture of urine and cigarette smoke and makes me think that I am living with animals and I cringe every time I try to get changed in there and have people trying to open the door on me. I am pretty sure a drug addict was in their before me one morning. That and there seems to be an obnoxious group of Italian guys who smoke weed in the window outside who have no regard for people who may be trying to sleep. I had a guy in our room shine his torch in my eyes the very first night when he was looking for his stuff, and people randomly walk in your room and turn the light on when you are trying to sleep. I don’t know how people can live in hostels for long periods. I try to imagine I’m at some school camp and try to make it exciting for myself in that regard. The first night I went and bought a drink from the supermarket with Lucie who had never tried cider before – proud to be the first to introduce her to it we sat on the stairs inside the hostel and realized we couldn’t open the bottle so ended up cracking open the bottle on the underside of one of the stairs which resulted in the alcohol spilling everywhere. That was a nice moment, and I am sad to say the only drink I have consumed since being back in London on my own due to being so cautious now with funds.
The agency that is helping me find an apartment gave me the impression that it would only take a few days to find a property but unfortunately nothing seems to be available right away and the money that I had saved for bond is slowly being spent on this hostel, my transport and uniform that I must buy for work.
I had training the other day for the events job which is basically through a job agency and they send you to hotels around London to work in the events and banqueting department. The training was great because I got to meet a few more people here and I ended up being adopted by a group of young black girls from Ealing who were lovely but who talked so fast that I couldn’t keep up with the conversations.Unfortunately for this job I am doing you have to purchase the uniform yourself and go to all these stores to source items which is a pain in the arse and meant that I was hurriedly running around Marble Arch like a maniac trying to find a place that sold grandma shoes right before my shift as the completely specific shoes that I needed to get were not in my size at the three Primarks I had to go to. That was an awful day because it meant that I was exhausted even before my very first shift at the Four Seasons had started. Eager to please at my first shift I literally bent over backwards and pulled my back out so I find it very difficult to bend forward as the pain is palpable. The Four seasons on the other hand was beautiful and the staff were quite supportive. It ended up being a 9 hour shift working a gourmet buffet for a group of older Americans with the most elaborate looking feast I have ever bared witness to. They had an ice sculpture set up in the shape of the London skyline baring all sorts of beautiful fresh seafood that barely got eaten but was completely ripped into afterwards by the grateful staff members. The Four seasons have beautiful fresh flower arrangements all through the hotel and these black marble floors with golden Japanese artworks. Everything went pretty smoothly until an American woman called me over saying ‘Excuse me – did you pour this drink?” it was a red wine. To which I replied yes, ‘Well see how you spilt some, well it went on my $300 cashmere shawl and now it’s ruined” I had no idea what to say at this point and just panicked a little. I apologized but there wasn’t much I could do. To show how great The Four Seasons are I saw one of my colleagues talking to the woman and about 10 minutes later my boss presenting her with her newly cleaned shawl much to my relief but I was worried that her complaint would lead to my not being sent back there which would be a shame as it really is a lovely hotel. They didn’t even notice the fact that I hadn’t found granny shoes for the shift, which I was paranoid about the entire night and kept covering my feet all the time because the agency had put so much fear into us about that very thing during the training. By the end of the shift my back ached my feet burned and I was well and truly exhausted and contemplating whether or not I could put myself through that pain all over again tomorrow. But with no other paid work at this point I am forced to simply suck it up and get on with it. I have no problem interacting with guests during these evenings it’s the waitery stuff that I am terrible at like pouring wine without spilling a drop and carrying three plates at once. I know these things will improve with time but each hotel does things differently which means you have no idea exactly how strict they are going to be until you get there or what the people will be like that you have to work with. Like the other night at Riverbank Plaza the kitchen porter got so annoyed with me when I didn’t know where to put plates and cups and as he couldn’t speak English very well would just grunt and grab things off me and roll his eyes, I don’t know how I am expected to just know my way around when everything is new. That is the most stressful part, and each uniform is different too and so you have to be told what to wear to everything which is annoying. I have already done two shifts so far and my next one is two nights away as I have a meeting at Soho with a producer tomorrow about a top secret project that they would like me to work on two days a week, however it is unpaid for now, they said if all goes well down the track I will get paid, but until then I will be working in the hotels five days a week and the other two days working on the project. Living in a hostel is starting to get me down though; I cannot wait to find somewhere to live. Today I looked at a share house in south London which is a little bit out of town but a nice area only problem is a lot of other people are looking for housing and these places get snapped up so quickly. I am also looking at a place tomorrow night closer to the city but I suspect the area is not very good and the rent is higher as I am not sharing a room, and there’s also another place that I am yet to see but need to make an appointment tomorrow morning. Time is running out, my money is running out. Even with the job I can feel the money slipping away and I am starting to get anxious now. Especially as the two Swedish girls have found a place down the road to live and will be moving out shortly and Lucie will be moving to Oxford to stay with her friend which will leave me in this room full of strangers yet again and with the closest thing I have to friends here leaving my morale isn’t good. Even with a job I am worried that I won’t have enough bond money and I find myself feeling really guilty whenever I eat anything. I have been living off bread and cheese and occasional McDonald’s visits down the road. I knew this would be hard but not this bad. I hope that after tomorrow I will have some sort of idea about where I will be living but the anxious part of me questions whether these places will even be available in the morning as they have been going that quickly.
So I got a text message about the place closer to the city and he wanted me to wait another day before viewing, so anxious I decided to just go ahead and take the room in Chillerton Road. It’s a lovely big house with three floors and about 7 bedrooms. The closest tube is Tooting Bec and is about a 30min train ride into the centre of the city. Also the people in the house seem really friendly and not too party crazy. It is a beautiful leafy quiet street with a few churches and a schools close by and a small Sainsbury’s. There is another housing estate called the Gunnesbury mansions run by the same people in Acton town and is notorious for being party central as a lot of the people that are in my programme all stay there together – it sounds an awful lot like uni and doesn’t really suit me at this stage of my life at all. I am here to have fun and do a little bit of travelling but my main goal is to find work within production and I can’t imagine coming home from a long shift at the office to a raging party.
My meeting in Soho went great, I met the team in a funky little café as I sat down by myself I got a text saying that the producer was sitting upstairs and it turned out we had been sitting next to each other the entire time. They are a young team and it’s an exciting project so I am keen to get started. I told them I would try and get bits and bobs done during the week but it has been too difficult on the days that I am working, even though I don’t start until late afternoon I usually don’t finish until 1 or 2:30 even in the morning so far, So will have to focus on the project on my days off. I’ve done the Ernst and Young Black network party which was really fun, I also did a teachers association awards night and two weddings, and a wine tasting. All different 5 star hotels all different uniforms, personalities and experiences. There are times when my feet are so sore they feel like they are going to fall off, I’ve encountered some absolute arseholes have been yelled at and have been close to tears and frustrated at myself but have also some really nice fun people from all different backgrounds. A wedding I did two nights ago one of the guests was my boss from an internship I did many years ago at DDB and she recognized me which was amazing. The thing about London is it’s an exciting and scary place all at once.
On my day off I wandered around the riverbank and ended up at Victoria station at peak hour and the sheer amount of people going here there and everywhere all at once was bewildering. I just sat there admiring the craziness and beauty of it all the thousands of people all with different lives going in different directions all at once.
Sometimes I have a great day, and feel lucky and happy to be here – but it’s one of those places where if you’re not careful just as quickly the tide can change too. One day you are up – the next day you’re down again. I was speaking to a girl that had just arrived and was feeling the way I initially felt. Frightened and anxious, it’s a huge city and everything is so expensive and she had gotten a shock as she had just arrived from a European holiday where everything was so cheap and she was carefree and was starting to panic about her situation here in London. As I was trying to convince her why she needs to give the place a chance I realized that I really do love it here. It’s so different to anything I’ve ever known. I feel like two big doors have opened up here for me. I am writing this sitting from a hostel in Putney Bridge hoping that I will soon be moving into my house and I know that this little adventure of mine won’t be easy, but I know I’m going to get a lot out of it. For the first time in a long time I feel as though I am exactly where I am meant to be at this point in my life. I haven’t made any firm friends yet, I kind of hate the hotel work and will be looking for other work as soon as I get a day off. And I haven’t been out once since I arrived, but it’s early days and I know that will all change. I start working on the project as of this week, I move out of the hostel and I have a phone meeting with the producer from Cardiff this week – not to mention in about another week or two I have a week’s work experience on the sitcom ‘Not going out’ which should be a really interesting experience. Watch this space!
Well tonight I am sitting in my new room inside my new home in Tooting which is South London and about a 15 minute tube ride to Tower bridge station in central London. It is a massive 6 bedroom house with a decent kitchen huge patio and garden and about three floors. I’m right up the top sharing with another Aussie girl and there is a bedroom next door to us with an Aussie guy and we have our own bathroom away from the rest of the house. The street is quiet and leafy with beautiful older style British family homes and a park and churches nearby and lots of neighborhood cats. I even saw a fox on the way home and a few squirrels too.
Not far from us is Tooting Broadway which is bustling with markets, pubs and restaurants not to mention cafe’s and of course Primark! I am going to hand in my resume to a few local pubs and businesses tomorrow as the agency I work for is so unreliable and I want a more stable job closer to where I live so tomorrow I am on a mission! It is so amazing to be unpacked to be able to do washing and have a shower whenever I feel like it. And the people here seem really friendly too, so far I’m loving it. I just need to get the casual work sorted as I have bits and pieces of production stuff happening which is great. Cant wait to go grocery shopping tomorrow and cook for myself for the first time in ages too. Ahh life’s little pleasures.