When I graduated – with a first class degree I might add – I hadn’t really pictured myself working in a big corporate office. But neither had I intended to work full-time at an empty pub, spend several weeks on jobseeker’s allowance and attend a series of godawful interviews. But that’s life – you take the best you can get. So, this is what I got, and this is what I took.
Straight after my final term had ended, I decided I wasn’t ready to go home to Norwich. I would stay in Egham instead. (This had nothing to do with having a minor life crisis and initiating a bad break-up…) During the whole of July I worked at a pub near uni. I’m not going to criticise it too much, but it was one of those jobs in which you can learn everything there is to learn within a week (maybe two) and from there on in, you perfect your pint-pouring technique, watch a lot of tennis/golf/rugby and get the regulars’ drinks ready before they open their mouths. I had fun, at first, speaking to the few people that came to the pub – many of them arrived at the same time day in day out – but I soon felt crowded by their prejudices, ignorance and quite plainly boring conversation.
I distinctly remember one evening when a regular and his wife were talking to the guy’s brother at the bar; the couple had been on a cruise to Southeast Asia. Their description of the one-and-only Raffles Long Bar (Singapore), famously credited for the invention of the Singapore Sling, focused almost entirely on how disgusted they were at the peanut shells on the floor. This is a classic element of the Long Bar experience, emanating the 1920s. People go for a Singapore Sling expecting there to be peanut shells on the floor, in the attempt to live a little bit of the Raffles Hotel heyday. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I actually had to leave the room – and thus the bar, which is not-on for a bartender – to prevent myself either shouting to expose their ignorance, or crying at the futility of it all. The accumulation of moments like this is one of the reasons I left a lot sooner than I had originally told the Landlord. I realised why I had got the job in the first place – to avoid Norwich, not to stay in Egham – and I knew I had had my fill of this level of having a ‘real’ job. I hadn’t got another job, but telling the Landlord I had was the easiest way out of it, if not the wisest or most honest. I hadn’t got a contract and I wasn’t being paid properly – I should say legally – so I didn’t feel too guilty about it.
I then spent an utterly exhilarating, frantic, exhausting – the adjectives go on – month or so in Edinburgh. I had a few days with my coolest friend, Nadia and her Mom, who had come over from Canada for a whistle-stop tour of the UK.
I felt pretty privileged to get to see them to be honest, they were so rushed! The Fringe itself was a hotch-potch of wildness and tiredness and watching a huge amount of good – and a little bit of bad – theatre, dance, music and comedy. Though I haven’t really set those experiences down here, the Fringe was a highlight of my year… and they deserve to be written about when I’ve got the time to do them justice. Which, given the circumstances of the two-and-a-half months since, still isn’t quite yet. Oops.
We all left our Edinburgh house on the morning of Wednesday 21st August. I had a horrible journey home, waiting over an hour after a missed connection. But at least Vicky, Bella and I had got the train together – the vast majority of the others had got the Megabus together. The three of us had it pretty cushty in comparison! We even met a nice older lady, who took this photo and wished us the best in all our future endeavours. It was very sweet really.
After two days at home, the misery had hit. I remember bursting into tears at various mealtimes for absolutely no reason. The Edinburgh blues had hit. I was suddenly miles away from the fourteen people I had lived and laughed with for almost a month. It was made so much worse by being exhausted, poor and without purpose. But I picked myself back up, swallowed my pride, and applied for jobseeker’s.
My job-seeking days were pretty good – it took longer for me to get my CV in order than to find things I felt I wanted to do, for a little while at least. After a rather harrowing job interview experience (that was so bad I have written it it’s own dedicated post), I ended up signing a contract with a recruitment agency. That was on a Friday. The following Tuesday I had an interview, was offered the job on the Wednesday, and began my new job on the Monday. It was a pretty swift process, but clearly they had liked me a lot in the interview.
I had never thought I would take a job answering customers’ queries about the London Gazette and selling printed copies of government legislation and Driving Standards Agency literature. But, alas, I spent several weeks doing just that. I had a fun four weeks at The Stationery Office – I learned a lot, I met some interesting people and it was a great stop gap. I was living at home, not paying rent and getting paid a nice chunk every week, so I felt great about refunding my rather stretched overdraft. However, as my Mum said to my boss-to-be over the phone, this was ‘a job, not THE job’.
THE job was yet to come.