Sunday, July 29, 2007

A tale of two interviews

Earlier this week I did an interview for an internship post with a big organisation. The post was to work alongside the education officer two days a week for three months and it's based close enough to Richmond to seem attractive, even without the big name... I almost managed to miss the deadline for applying for it as I hummed and hawed. I didn't get the post so it's hard to analyse it without wondering how much of it is trying to justify to myself that I didn't actually want it in the first place! :)

I went to the interview not knowing what I was going to say, and came out of it knowing I hadn't got it.

I did prepare and had talked myself into wanting the job, but a few days down the line I can't quite make myself believe I thought I was going to get it. During the interview I felt inarticulate and unable to get across what I thought. I also thought that they didn't ask the proper questions. By that I mean questions which made me excited about answering or felt I could answer, which even then made me sure I wasn't going to get the post. There was no opportunity for me to be me. And they kept asking me questions about the Wetlands Centre. Now I really value volunteering there and enjoy it a lot, but out of all the places I've volunteered or worked its the one I've been the least involved in (I show up and do as I'm told, although last Saturday I did get put in front of several young pond-dippers and told to talk...:), either in the delivery or the whole organisation. It was really strange and I feel as if I only got the interview on the basis that I volunteer at the Wetland Centre, which does actually annoy me a lot.

Today after my shift at the pub I caught a bus and showed up at the Crane Park Island Nature Reserve to talk to the woman who runs the place. They've received money and she is looking to employ someone else to help out with the educational side of things and generally get involved. We had an informal chat as she was in the bottom of the shot tower (part of an old gunpowder factory) which is open to the public once a month and then as we walked around the fantastically beautiful island. The chat was interwoven with disruptions from old neighbours and friends, people from the Art Picnic showing off their willow sculptures to us, organising the next work days, talking to the council's ecological officer, and some others in a lovely chaos that was far more informative of what happens at the nature reserve than any talk. I got a chance to talk about what I'm really passionate/excited about without feeling fake and got to hear enough about the vision for this post to make me want it properly. The post will need to be advertised so I haven't even been offered it, but what an absolute difference to the previous interview! I feel enthusiastic even just thinking about it - irrespective if I get the job or not. If I don't I'll volunteer there!

Job-seeking is a funny business.

Offensive music

Last Wednesday I did a day shift at the pub (which is fairly unusual) as there was a function going on upstairs over lunch and they wanted the bar open. What was going to be a fairly dull and predictable shift was made brighter when some of the employees brought along a busker from the high street to play some music on the balcony. The musician was a beautiful - and talented - young woman with a violin who played some really lovely classical music. It was absolutely delightful, not least because it was so unexpected. She played for about half an hour until the food was done and then went off again.

The Brit suffers from a neighbour who has inflicted severe restrictions on the pub's license by meticulously complaining to the pub and the council (the less charitable among us might point out that he is on the council himself) and did in fact complain to the licensing officer about the half an hour of beautiful music. I'm more sympathetic to his other complaints (even if it does mean sweltering in the function room with the door shut - although the fact that the air conditioning doesn't work isn't helpful) but this particular complaint is a bit hard to take. Now if he could've only complained about the awful karaoke I had to listen to that one time...

Monday, July 23, 2007

The book of the moment

On Friday we went to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and then went to The Lion and the Unicorn (a local independent children's bookshop) to join the queue for a midnight opening of the shop and a copy of HP & The Deathly Hallows. It felt like a fitting way to mark the latest and last installment of this particular saga. There were adults and children in various costumes and the shop staff walked the length of the queue offering snacks and a chance to write a spell into a spell book. Once the countdown had rung down the tiny alley way there was a rush forwards and lots of eagerness and excitment in the air.

The next morning I saw various people reading the book at the bus stop or trying to walk and read at the same time. On Saturday I was volunteering at the Wetland centre all day and then I had twenty minutes before having to go to the pub so it was actually 1 am before I had a chance to open my copy of the book and start reading for an hour before falling asleep... Torture in other words!!

It is a real page-turner so I did get it read before heading off to the pub again Sunday afternoon, and the long wait to find out what actually happened in the end is over. Don't worry...I'm not about to spoil it for those who haven't read it yet!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

I do mini-breaks too! (kind of...)

Last weekend I had my first Sunday off in a million years so I ran off! I took the 8:03am train to Swansea and went to see what would happen. Due to the Sunday engineering works we went to Temple Mead in Bristol and then the train changed directions, so I entered Wales backwards and just as it was starting to rain...

I had a whirlwind tour interlaced with long stretches of solitude on beaches or the Gower (most my friends have daytime jobs so I entertained myself). Of the four and a half days I was there I managed to eat only one meal by myself, even if I hadn't really planned it like that. I went to so many of my old favourite places as well as some entirely new places like Pennard Castle and the laundrette in Brynmill. I basked in all the sun walking from Mt Pleasant to Bracelet Bay and on the Gower and have returned with first an impressive red patch across my shoulders, which has turned into a nice tan. Even as I was waiting for the train back to london I came across a fabulous exhibition outside the Waterfront Museum called "Earth From the Air" which had amazing pictures, well, of the Earth.

Last time I had been away and come back (Iona) it felt like a lifetime had passed whereas this time round I hardly felt like I had been away. There is so much in the town that I respond too, recognise, have little bits of my life connected with, know the short cuts, and bump into people I know in town even after a six months absence that made me wonder if I had made the right choice to come to London after all. Having moved so much such a strong sense of identity bound up in with a place and its people is a precious thing that I cherish a lot, and so I was very relieved to rediscover it during my brief visit (that could have been so much longer visiting more people and places had I not had the pub to come back to). It all felt like a proper holiday that was adventurous, relaxing, and filled with good food and talks with friends!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Ken Livingston wants us to smile more!

This week in the Britannia I was behind the bar upstairs in the function room and had plenty of time to read the paper and do some sudoku (I'm ignoring Jaqui's dicdate of not reading "on duty" - at least when I don't work with her), and there was an article on how Ken wants London's bar and restaurant staff to start smiling more in preparation for the Olympics. He wants the legions who staff these venues to provide more smiles to the tourists who should be flocking in for 2012. Ken Livingston is proposing some accredited training so that employers know they can get employees who smile... I can't really imagine what the training would consist of.

When I shared this article with my co-workers the response invariably was: if they want us to smile more they'll need to pay us a decent amount. Apparently most countries do have accreditation programmes for bar workers, and consequently pay them more too.

Things in the pub are a little weird at the moment anyhow. We think that the pub has been bought by two men, but nobody seems to know anything for certain. If it is true, it means that our two current managers will lose their jobs, and the two of them and the chef who all live onsite will all lose their accomadation too. In theory I don't think my job is on the line at all, but with everything up in the air you can't really be certain.

On the whole though I do think Ken Livingston would approve of me as I do try to smile at all my customers - and at times I can't help it because life in the pub can be very bizarre and surreal.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A visit to Heathrow

Yesterday I stretched my arms about 5cm as I helped my brother lug his stuff to Heathrow. He was carrying a huge box that had his bike in it so I was left with the 16.5 kg suitcase that dates before the time humans had invented wheels. We were originally headed for Paddington and the Heathrow Express as the tube has restrictions on taking bikes on certain stretches of the underground, until we realised that that particular stipulation probably didn't concern us as his bike was tucked away in a box. So instead we tried to take up as little room as is possible when you are lugging around a gigantic box and took the Picadilly Line. It was a beautiful sight when we finally got to Heathrow aiport and saw a trolley!

I caught glimpses of the newest security measures as I saw police cars lined up along the road right outside the doors to terminal where the taxis and cars dropping people off used to line the pavement. And there were some police standing around or walking around with their terrifying guns. Posters asking for information about Madeline abounded on anything that was head height. But the basics were still there: uninspiring building, long queues, bored and tired people, indifferent food...

Flying wouldn't be so tedious if it wasn't for the airports.

Ursula K. Le Guin has written a great little book called "Changing Planes' about a technique that someone discovered by accident on how to go and visit other dimensions or planes, and meet other tourists (human and alien) or explore planets. The technique only works with humans when they are extremely bored and uncomfortable: ie when in airports waiting for a thrice delayed flight or when stuck in transit at an airport and with 6 hours before the connection... I think after reading that book anyone who is stuck at an airport would wish they could pass the time in as pleasant a manner as escaping to explore another place, peoples, and customs:)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Working outdoors

On the Monday and Tuesday of this week two of us from Richmond Environment Network, and two wonderful BTCV volunteers, headed off to a primary school to work with their 51 Year 6 (11-12yrs) pupils. We did all mannner of things including: creating a loggery, a path through a scrub land, created an outdoor class room, planted bits and bobs, did loads of weeding, a litter pick, and made 3 birdboxes. A fairly busy two days...

This is a project I had been working on for a few months now so it was really exciting to see it take fruition, if also slightly nerve wracking as we were, in fact, in charge. I did get referred to as an "environmental expert" which is, while inaccurate, rather nice:) REN hasn't led anything quite like this before so there was a lot of improvisation, especially on Monday as we were joined by some curious rainclouds.

I really did enjoy working with people who were (mostly) enthusiatic about what was going on and I learned that children this age seem to adore digging holes! At one point in despration, when my group of six had utterly lost interested in what I was trying to do with them, I sent them off to dig a hole. Once they had done that I told them to fill it up again... It worked and everyone was happy, except perhaps the earthworms which came under great scrutiny from the children who have not quite developed into the squeamish stage. Perhaps if we ever do a similar project we'll just dig and not bother with the rest of the activities?

The pupils had also been to visit the London Wetland Centre and gone to Crane Park Island which is a local nature reserve. One of the boys had complained that there was something in his wellies and on inspection it turned out he had managed to catch a fish in his welly! I hope the children managed to get something out of this project and at least vaguely understood why we were working on creating a wildlife area in their school... Plus I hope they had fun too. I did. Even if I was exhausted each night, I still had fun.