Working in a Winter Wonderland

I am officially in the red now. Doesn’t feel great as everything else seems to be going okay. Have been having to resort to the evil credit card to pay for the rent and other items of late. It all started after the monopoly pub crawl. I really didn’t have the money to go out that weekend but I was determined so I took the weekend off work and went out knowing I couldn’t afford the rent that week. I had grown tired of being responsible and figured that even if I didn’t go out that weekend I’d still be too poor to cover the rent so fuck it. I may as well have a good time, which I did. We started out meeting at Elephant and Castle tube station with the first pub on the board being Old Kent Road, unfortunately for us we ended up walking around for an hour before alcohol even touched our lips, we resigned ourselves to the fact that we weren’t going to see all 26 destinations on the monopoly board even if we did start at 11am. So after a quick half pint we were on the bus headed for Fenchurch Street Station unfortunately for some reason the pub we were meant to visit on the list was closed despite being a Saturday at lunchtime what the? Luckily the alternative pub on the list at the station was open, it was really dead inside and funnily enough once we got in there we saw another group doing the exact same crawl as us. As we pushed on more and more people were joining our little group. Next stop was Whitechapel where we walked in to find a bustling pub full of blokes watching football and being rowdy – was quite difficult coaxing the gents into the next pub once we had gotten in there. Then onto a funky little pub with a theatre on top can’t remember which stop that one was (started to lose track after the first few pints) Then had a cider up the road from the theatre pub as it was walking distance between those two stops. Then it was off to Liverpool street station and the pub was huge and right outside, the kind of place you would never normally notice it had a big bar menu and high ornate ceilings. We couldn’t find the exact pub at Kings Cross Station for the following stop so just went into a random one. By the time we reached the pub at Marylebone Station we were actually not so much drunk but tired – so we kind of made an unspoken agreement to find another pub for a feed and call it quits. I ended up chatting to a girl from the hotel job who had come along that evening and found out that she was over here for virtually the same reason as I was (looking for production work etc) and we traded stories. She was down because with the strange hours that she was working with the hotels it was very difficult for her to apply for internships or even do internships as they are unpaid.

Afterwards her and her flatmates invited me back to theirs as they were across the road from the infamous ‘mansions’ in Acton Town. I say infamous because they are an estate run by the working holiday mob that helped me get set up over here and are a block of apartments that are only populated by Aussies and kiwi’s in the program and they notoriously have a lot of parties. I was almost going to look at an available room there but changed my mind after hearing tales of housemates coming home at 2 or 3am from a hotel shift only to find a huge party in their house. I was determined to see what the parties were like and also had made friends with a girl on the pub crawl that said she would meet me there later as she randomly had to look at flats to live in halfway through the crawl. So anyway, not much to say about Acton town. The place that Cassie lives in (that’s the girl who is looking for production work) is smaller than our place in Tooting and sits above an indian restaurant – however they are a nice group of people and the place is close to the station which is a bonus. I sat on a mattress in the middle of their lounge room while we waited to cross the road to the mansions and we listened to Fleetwood Mac, Don McLean and enjoyed the repertoire of 4 out of the 10 songs one of the guys knew how to play on their guitar. *Please note I would use names more but people stop introducing themselves/asking for names after a while as it becomes awkward after you’ve worked with them half a dozen times and you should probably know their names by now but you don’t so you carry on hoping you don’t get anyone asking you questions about specific people. It felt like we were there for ages, not that I wasn’t enjoying myself but I was anxious to see what these mansion parties are all about. We rocked up to the mansions and I could see quite a few familiar faces there was a huge amount of people drinking outside the mansions as it was so packed inside that it simply wasn’t comfortable. The block itself wasn’t as bad as I had imagined it would be, it was pretty plain but livable. The most off-putting thing about the party was the fact that supervisors from the hotels were there, one tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘You were late for your shift today’ at which point I panicked for a second as he started drunkenly laughing as I hadn’t even worked that day. Next thing the Italian guy from the pub crawl was trying to pick me up but his English was so bad that I could barely understand him and was far too sober to feel comfortable. I caught up with Laura who was the girl hunting for flats outside and she introduced me to her two Canadian friends she had met at her hostel and they told me about being stuck at some pub job in a remote town in countryside England and how they felt as though they were prisoners and would plan their escape each night. They also told me about couch surfing, which to the uninitiated is a worldwide community of people who let travelers sleep on their couch and are reviewed online. I was skeptical but they swore that it was safe and after looking at the website it’s a properly established company that’s been going for a long time now. We ended up sharing a toilet inside the flats Lauren, Canadian girl (so sorry can’t remember her name!) and I naturally had a poke through their medicine cabinet as if expecting to find vibrators or a giant tube of lube as they are this mad party house and do nothing but have crazy sex parties.

Got home around 2am after my first night out. I enjoyed myself but the verdict is – need more money next time as had to stop drinking halfway through the night.

So the assessment day for the job I mentioned briefly in the last blog was for Sealife which is the aquarium in London and by assessment day they mean silly group exercises and an awful role play with your would be future boss where he gets to play the angry customer and you get to deal with him in front of the entire crowd of interview hopefuls quite possibly the most awkward interview setting I’ve seen myself in and I’ve been in a few. And then if you make it through that day you have another interview and shadowing day before you even get offered a job which seems like an awful lot to me for an entry level job. On the plus side I got to see the entire aquarium for free afterwards (it’s quite expensive to visit) on the downside I never heard back from them which was a shame as the people going for the job there seemed genuinely nice and we all had a photo on a penguin together (blue screen penguin just to clarify we didn’t straddle an actual penguin after the interviews)

Work on the production front is going really well though. We did a test shoot for the project the other day which was great experience but very tiring. We filmed in studio’s famous for recording acts like Queen in fact Freddie Mercury’s actual piano was still there. I was basically a dogs body on the day running around getting tea and coffee and co – ordinating the talent as they arrived onset. We started at 8am and didn’t finish until about 10 that evening. I honestly felt like I had worked so hard that day I barely sat down – every time someone saw me I would be asked to do something and when I wasn’t asked I was trying to see what needed doing and just do things wherever possible. I felt exhausted by the end of it, but happy because I felt like I had really helped that day. Only bad side was I lost my iPhone that day and my house key shortly after – wasn’t the best week for that stuff. Luckily the iPhone was found a few days later and the key well I just got another one cut.

I have had a few interesting shifts with the hotels recently. Haven’t been working nearly as much as I should be lately and I know that’s bad but I really hate it a lot. They booked me in for two ‘VIP’ shifts last week and reiterated how important they were by sending out quite a few texts to the degree of ‘Your grooming has to be impeccable’ lalala don’t be late lalalala. When we got there we found out the event was to be at the embassy which had  us all oohing and aahing wondering who might be there Harry? Will? the Queen? and to add insult to injury the embassy was right across the road from the BBC so a few of us thought we we’re doing some sort of celebrity gig at the BBC (ah no make that we were working at the opening of the Algerian embassy)- that’s right Algerian no one knows anything about Algeria or really cares to be honest – needless to say it was a boring event where I was forced to walk around with the same tray of canape’s that simply weren’t being eaten a thousand times. Luckily (as is usually the case at these gatherings) there’s always one or two fatties at these things that always take your canape’s and you work out quite quickly who they are and make a beeline for them, they seem grateful because it looks as though you’re going out of your way to look after them when really your arm has gone dead and you are desperate for someone to eat the fucking canapes you’ve been trying to palm off for the last half hour and they are a sure thing.

The second VIP event was much more amusing, it was to be held at The Connaught. I hate this hotel because they make you wear court shoes and the shifts are almost always long which is good for your pocket but your feet are in agony by that stage. In the past girls have had bruised feet and one girl even vomited from the pain one evening. So anyway when we got there we found out that The Connaught were holding a fake wedding and inviting all their most important clients to showcase what The Connaught can do in regards to putting on lavish events. They didn’t tell the clients they would be attending a wedding, they also didn’t tell them that the entire bridal party were paid actors who were scripted. These actors were hilarious and no expense was spared in making this a lavish evening. I had a feeling it was going to be a funny evening when on my way there my underwear that was holding up my stockings started falling down and I had to try to hold it up while walking with the whole group which was difficult as I was wearing a skirt. I thought I’d gotten away with it until the girls started laughing behind me as we were lining up inside the hotel and right in front of my boss the undies had managed to slide down my legs! I blame him because while I was signing in he made me move up in the queue as I was holding the folder I couldn’t hold my skirt as I did this and that was the end of it. To make matters worse I found a ladder in my stockings and hitched them up higher which only made them rip to the point of ridiculousness and the supervisor had to buy me another pair. The event was quite fun though, the actors were definitely theatre actors as they looked like they had all graduated from the school of overacting and kept going around to the guests saying things like ‘oh I’m the bridesmaid isn’t this a wonderful hotel” I was talking to the groom and I offered him a canape and as he was in ‘character’ he declined saying he was too nervous and then whispered to me jokingly that he thought he might have ‘shat his pants’ knowing full well that I would have to keep a straight face. There were these guests that were hilarious with their commentary on the evening, they had cottoned on that it was a fake wedding and started getting pissed and having fun. One of the guests had the most ridiculous moustache and when the toastmaster came in and invited everyone to go to the mayfair room for the ceremony he turned to me and said in a fake posh voice ‘oh the mayfair room!’ before putting on a posh laugh that made us both giggle, then he made a crack about how I’d better check my visa before I can go into the mayfair room before trotting off with the rest of the guests. It felt as though we were in the middle of some sort of farcical play where everyone was in on it expect the guests. Even the speeches at the fake reception were scripted and of course plugged The Connaught ‘I still remember when my daughter was 13 and she said that for her birthday she wanted me to take her to the Connaught for afternoon tea ..etc.

The funniest part of the evening though was that outside the hotel they were selling roasted chestnuts and mulled wine to the public who were gathered in the cold to watch the Christmas lights in Mayfair being switched on. An older couple managed to make their way into our function from the street thinking that everyone inside was watching the lights through the window from inside the hotel.  They were served free french champagne and Michelin star chef canapes without anyone noticing anything was afoot. The funnier part was that they followed everyone into the ‘ceremony’ and then were found later in the evening enjoying more food and free alcohol at the reception which begs the question at what point did they not realize that perhaps this was in fact a private ceremony and wouldn’t you work out that this was perhaps a wedding and not a public event? Long story short someone asked them whether they knew the bride or the groom to which they replied they were there to see the lights before they were asked to leave the hotel where they had been served for the past three hours for free. So fake wedding and a few fake guests – what an interesting evening that was.

A few days later I finally got in touch with that Producer from Cardiff as his PA had informed me he was in London again. We met in the lobby of his hotel and sat and drank coffee while he asked me all these questions about what it is I was here for and why I had applied to be a runner when he thought I should be writing. The whole time he kind of had one eye darting around the room – apparently he was in London doing PR for their latest show and there had been a journalist behind us listening to our entire conversation. Towards the  end of our chat it was cut off abruptly when he realized she was from The mirror and he got up and walked off so i followed not quite knowing what to do at that point. We got into the lift and he explained what had happened and he was worried that what we had discussed may be reported on, not so much about him but his wife is quite a prominent actor/producer and he was discussing bits and pieces about her but luckily all was good as he informed me later. Great news is he is interested in my writing and has told me that they are looking for a half hour sitcom and would be interested in investing in me if I could write a sitcom that they liked. So basically ever since I have started writing again and developing characters for an original show whenever and wherever I get the chance. I am basically developing characters and scenarios and a whole world really from scratch but it is starting to write itself at this point which is exciting because it gets into this state where the pen almost takes over a bit ( i am writing material short hand) I haven’t shown him anything yet but I am still working on a first draft but it’s incredibly therapeutic. I go into an almost meditative state when I sit down to write and cannot believe someone has taken a genuine interest in my writing. That very same day I met up with Georgia who I used to work with at Luna park years ago as we had both worked out on Facebook that we are both here on working visa’s, she had only been in London for two weeks and is still living in a hostel in Kings Cross and looking for work. I dragged her along that very afternoon to an interview with Winter wonderland and without even handing in her CV she and I both got jobs working in the box offices at the famous Winter wonderland in Hyde Park – small world.

I have worked two shifts so far there as I desperately need to save money, the only problem is that they pay monthly so that’s why I haven’t had the money for rent the last few weeks so i am hoping that I will be back on track once I get my first pay from them as I am working 10 hour shifts and am hoping to work most days during the period from now right through til Jan as I have made myself available. For the first time I am actually working with real English people which is exciting and the job itself is really easy, although Winter Wonderland does get packed we get pretty good support from the team. It is so beautiful at night there, Hyde park lights up and all over the festival you hear Christmas songs both old and new traditional and pop versions, and also just normal pop songs mixed with great old songs. There’s live bands dotted all over the place and people dressed up all christmassy, the smell of hot chocolate roasted chestnuts and mulled wine fills the air. I can’t quite describe it but it really puts you in a great mood when you walk around the place. They have some great attractions too like a circus that runs all day, a huge ice sculpture kingdom, an outdoor ice rink and lots of rides both Christmas themed and normal. Like Santa land which has all Santa themed rides like the ghosts of Christmas past train and Santa in his grotto that the kids get photo’s with. They also have German style Christmas markets there where you can buy presents and Christmas decorations and knick knacks. They have a Bavarian village with open fires and pretzels and bratwurst and a huge beer hall with live bands and people dancing along to the chicken dance til all hours. I cannot wait for Christmas eve where apparently there’s a staff party and one of the many bars after hours will be even more magical when it snows there. I shared a booth a night or so ago with a lovely Italian woman by the name of Antonella and just had the best shift talking and laughing and sharing our travel stories. She’s the kind of person who really enjoys life and makes the most of every situation and she taught me to think positive and positive things will always happen to you, she said she often prays to the angels if she wants something and concentrates and thinks about it hard and it happens. We were talking like old friends by the end of our shift together and managed to get to one of the bars in the park right before it shut on our way out to have a cup of mulled wine together as we had been smelling it all evening and it was so amazingly warming out there in the cold night air.

I walked home feeling really happy and that all was right with the world. Then my housemates and I sat up and made crepe’s with nutella until 1:30 am talking and laughing and experimenting with liqueurs and fruits and just enjoying ourselves. Was a great couple of weeks. Michelle’s aunt Dede who lives in London has also been lovely and although we haven’t met in person yet has been introducing me to people via Facebook slowly. It’s hard to go out at the moment though as I work all the time and I’m really broke right now. But it feels like the grey matter around me is slowly forming into particles. I am starting piece by piece fibre by fibre to make small connections with people around me. It’s slowly starting to make sense like learning a new language and the words that didn’t mean anything at first are being sewn into meaningful sentences for the first time – I guess it’s like starting anything new and discovering things for the first time again and again. That’s what it’s been like here for me. As the weather gets colder and colder and the days get incredibly short and darker it’s becoming more apparent that I really am worlds away from where I was back in Sydney, in more ways than one.

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