Temping and Loathing in London

After the South Kensington debacle, which you can read about in my previous post, the shit seriously hit the fan! “Lucy” and I were suddenly forced to live how real Londoners lived – in a flatshare. Boohoo! Hello,  council block on Caledonian Road!  We shared the flat with two guys – an IT consultant and a Doctor. Seriously though, if people with jobs like that couldn’t afford a decent place, what chances did I have in life?

I  submitted an ad on Gumtree.com about looking for work. I still fondly remember my first job offer. I received an email from a 60-year-old man who needed a nice young lady to come to his house few times a week to provide company.

With her hand(s).

To his ‘man thing’.

But on the plus side, he said it was allowed ‘look away’. What a gentleman!

I instantly filed the email under ‘ewwww’

Few days later, I received a phone call from a hot-shot City Boy type. The interview started off with the usual “blah blah blah, tell me about yourself”. He then cranked up the conversation by giving me few mental arithmetic tests. I felt 8-years-old again –  standing in front of the class, with the maths teacher staring at me like a fat angry bull, fuming that I didn’t know the answer to “How many litres of milk does a cow produce in a day?”

So anyway, I somehow managed to solve the mathematical riddles the City Boy threw at me and I was pretty pleased with myself BUT…there’s always a but, isn’t there?

Following happened:

City Boy: “The role pays £40,000…”

I was silently already planning my retirement and deciding which yacht to buy…until:

“… You will also be expected to wear short skirts to work.”

I instantly hung up and filed this under “what a little prick!”

After sending about million CVs,  an owner of a small estate agents called me, saying he needed an Administrator to start the next day. The office was near Harley Street and I assumed it was going to be super posh. I was wrong! It was a tiny little shit hole. The owner was a dodgy business man in his 50s, and I’m pretty sure he was sleeping with his trusty Secretary, a Polish lady aka the most miserable woman of all time. On my first day she actually taught me how to use the stapler correctly! I also once got reprimanded for laughing in the office. Seriously. The whole operation was a joke and I can’t even count how many complaints I received about our properties. Few weeks later I went to the Polish woman and said I wanted to leave.

And I was jobless again…

I later managed to get registered with the Office Angels recruitment agency and I spent the next few months temping the shit out London. Temping-life can be quite lonely. You go to companies for a few days, people don’t acknowledge your existence, you put wrong calls through to wrong people and you’re eating lunch on your own – outside in the rain because you couldn’t bare the awkwardness of going to the staff room.

I once had a temp-job where I spent the whole week shredding. Shredding, shredding and more shredding. I was then promoted to the person who puts sales letters inside envelopes! Progress! Hundreds and hundreds of envelopes. And guess who had to take the huge mail sacks to the Post Office? Yes, me! I was like Santa, dragging the bags along the streets of London Bridge, dodging the judgemental looks of passers-by.

I then applied for a Sales Co-ordinator role at a cool graphic design company. They loved me at the interview and I was pretty sure they would choose me but they decided to go for the other candidate because she had more experience. I was pretty upset about this and went back to the Temping-Land, until one day I got a call from that design company again. They said it didn’t work out with the other girl and asked if I were still interested and of course I said yesss! So after working there for almost three months, I took a few days holiday to go to a wedding in Florence, Italy. My boyfriend got the dates wrong and I missed a day of work. They weren’t amused and I got the sack! As you all know, those pesky designers obviously want everything in the office to be minimalistic and made of glass. So there I was, in the glass cube aka the meeting room, getting the sack for everyone to see.  Thanks a lot, God!!!

After shamefully getting the sack, I had no option but to find ANY job ASAP! The first job I found was making sandwiches at Pret in Sloane Square. I remember my teary phone call to my boyfriend, saying “ waaah life is not fair!” I lasted a day. I then got a bar job in Green Park, which I actually enjoyed, especially because the people around there tipped like friggin Jay Z. This guy once ordered two pints of pure gin. Seriously! It took him an hour to finish them and he was so drunk he gave me £50 tip. Finally the Universe was smiling at me!

And then I found my first “real” job. Legal PA/Admin role at a small legal services company just off Regents Street. My boss was borderline psychotic most of the time. I once got a call from a lady whose husband had hung himself on the morning of getting their house repossessed. She had no idea about his debt, so she was crying down the phone, asking if there was anything we could do. I mentioned this to my boss, to which he responded: “It’s not my fault she married an idiot! Hahaha”. I don’t think I need to say any more about working in that industry…The only reason I survived there for three years was thanks to my other colleagues whom I absolutely love!

Finding a meaningful job in London is hard! The job market is extremely competitive and I have no idea how I managed to stay so positive throughout the first 5 years.  But ever since I had my big epiphany about becoming a screenwriter, I feel free, confident and I’m now very much a ‘grab life by its balls’ kind of a gal.

London teaches you to be tough. You definitely need sense of irony and humour to succeed here. I also now believe that life is not about “finding yourself” , it’s about ‘creating yourself’! So my advice to anyone is – dream big, be persistent and never let anyone tell you can’t do something because you CAN! You’re awesome! (jeesh, I sound like a cheesy motivational speaker)

*The author is now happily in full time employment at a music college and loving it


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